The “Good Character” Requirement in CPSO Registration

The Medicine Act, 1991 and its regulations set out the requirements which every physician applicant must meet in order to receive a certificate of registration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (“CPSO”).

Many of the requirements are clear and unambiguous, such as education and training standards and successful completion of the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination.

However, one requirement – known as the “non-exemptible requirement” – is more general and non-specific. According to section 2(1)(b) of O. Reg. 865/93, prior to issuing a certificate of registration in any class, the Registrar must be satisfied that the applicant’s past and present conduct affords reasonable grounds to believe that he or she will practice medicine “with decency, integrity and honesty and in accordance with the law.” This is the “good character” requirement of CPSO registration.

Upon reviewing the application for a certificate of registration, College staff may flag a concern about whether the applicant meets the “good character” requirement of registration. This typically prompts a referral of the matter to the Registration Committee, which ultimately decides whether the requirement has been met. The MD seeking a certificate of registration will have an opportunity to make submissions to the Registration Committee.

Any number of past or present incidents can raise this kind of concern, including:

  • Prior criminal charges or convictions, even if dated or unrelated to the practice of medicine;
  • Ongoing criminal charges, even if unrelated to the practice of medicine;
  • Certain civil or regulatory convictions;
  • Complaints, investigations, or discipline findings while a member of another regulated profession;
  • Complaints, investigations, or discipline findings while practicing medicine in another jurisdiction;
  • Academic misconduct;
  • Certain social media or other public comments.

The above is not an exhaustive list, and any situation which calls into question the physician’s overall “good character” – however long ago or unrelated to medicine – could potentially trigger a registration problem.

An MD applicant who is concerned about meeting the “good character” requirement of registration should take particular care in filling out the registration application and submitting documents to the CPSO. In such situations, proactive steps and legal advice can go a long way in minimizing or eliminating potential issues and ensuring that the MD is able to commence practicing as quickly as possible.