Professionals should not go up against their regulator alone

The College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (“COTO”) is the regulator for occupational therapists in Ontario.  They:

  • decide who has a certificate to practise as an occupational therapist (“OT”)
  • handle complaints against occupational therapists

But your College does not work for you.  In fact, the College can:

  • deny applicant’s applications for a certificate to practice or
  • suspend, revoke or place terms, conditions, or limitations on occupational therapist’s certificate to practice

If you plan to apply to the College or have received notice of complaint it is important that you have representation to protect your interests and defend your rights.  

Our team of experienced lawyers can assist occupational therapists with matters including:

  • Advising occupational therapists on compliance with relevant legislation and standards
  • Responding to complaints and investigations at the College
  • Representing occupational therapists at the Fitness to Practise Committee
  • Defending occupational therapists in hearings before the College’s Discipline Committee
  • Advocating for occupational therapists to resolve matters through the College’s complaint resolution process
  • Representing occupational therapists in appeals before the Divisional Court of Ontario
College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario Appeals Fitness to Practise Committee Discipline Committee Complaints Process Registration


Applying for a Certificate of Registration at the College can be a rather complex process.

The COTO offers three types of registration 

  1. General Registration for applicants who meet all requirements and are able to practice without restriction
  2. Provisional Registration which may be issued to applicants waiting to write the Certification Examination 
  3. Temporary Registration which is intended for occupational therapists who are registered in another province or country and need to practice as a consultant or educator/instructor on a temporary basis

Applicants are expected to meet the following requirements:

  • Successfully completed post-secondary education in the field that is either recognized by the College, considered equivalent, or reviewed by the Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy Regulatory Organizations (ACOTRO)
  • Successful completion of 1000 hours of fieldwork or clinical practicum
  • Graduated within the last 18 months, completion of 600 hours of practice within the last 3 years, OR the successful completion of a College approved Refresher Program within the last 18 months
  • Successful completion of the Certification Examination

Submitted applications are reviewed by the Registrar who may decide to:

  • Issue a certificate if all requirements have been met and all documents submitted
  • Refer the application to the Registration Committee for further review

Once reviewed, the Registration Committee will make one of the following decisions:

  • Issue a certificate of registration
  • Issue a certificate of registration with terms, conditions, and limitations
  • Issue a certificate of registration if the applicant completed specified training or additional exams
  • Refuse to issue a certificate of registration

Our office can help you complete an application and offer legal advice concerns on you may have. If you are planning to apply for a certificate from the COTO, contact us today.

Complaint Process

The College of Occupational Therapists (COTO) receives complaints from:

  • Members of the public
  • Clients of occupational therapists
  • Employers of occupational therapists
  • Other occupational therapists

Members of the College are required to file a complaint, if during their practice they have obtained reasonable grounds to believe that another member of the same or different College has sexually abused a patient, is incompetent or is incapacitated.

The Complaint Process includes the following steps:

  1. A complaint is filed via writing, audio, or video recording
  2. The Complaint is received and reviewed by the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC)
  3. The College will notify the occupational therapist (“OT”) of the complaint
  4. The OT will have 30 days to respond in writing.
  5. The ICRC then reviews the material and utilizes a risk assessment framework to assess the complaint
  6. The ICRC issues a decision

Based on the Risk Assessment Framework, decisions of the ICRC may include:

  • Taking no further action
  • Providing advice/guidance to the OT to prevent similar issues in the future
  • Requiring the OT to attend a Continuing Education or Remediation Program
  • Cautioning the member
  • Referring the matter to the Discipline or Fitness to Practise Committee

These outcomes can have very serious financial and personal impacts on members. If you have received a complaint from the COTO, please contact us today.

Discipline Committee

If the ICRC considers a complaint to be “high risk” it can be referred to the Discipline Committee.

Before a matter progresses to a hearing at the Discipline Committee a pre-hearing may occur.  A pre-hearing is an opportunity for the College and the member to present their case in an informal manner.  

In our experience a pre-hearing at a college can be used to:

  • Reduce the allegations against a member
  • Reduce the penalty being sought by a member
  • Raise important legal issues before trial

At the Discipline Committee a trial may take place where witnesses are called, and evidence is heard.

Outcomes at the Discipline Committee can include:

  • Revocation of the member’s certificate
  • Suspension of the member’s certificate
  • Terms, conditions, and limitations on the member’s certificate
  • Orders to reimburse the College for the College’s legal, investigation and hearing costs and expenses

These are extremely serious public outcomes.  If your matter has or could be referred to the Discipline Committee, please contact us today.

Fitness to Practise Committee

Matters may be referred by the ICRC to the Fitness to Practise Committee if the complaint may include information where a member’s conduct was impacted by an ongoing physical or mental medical condition – often referred to as “incapacity”.

In our experience, a referral to the Fitness to Practise Committee can offer a number of benefits to members, because:

  • Complaints are generally resolved in a more private manner
  • The goal of the process is ensuring the health of the member through rehabilitative measures

Once an investigation and hearing are conducted at the Fitness to Practise Committee, they may impose some or all of the following:

  • Restrictions on an OT’s registration
  • Suspension or revocation of an OT’s registration

However, it is unusual for members to be referred to Fitness to Practise Committees without legal representation.  It takes experienced and detailed representation to present the evidence screening Committees, like the ICRC, want to see to consider a referral to Fitness to Practise.  If there is a complaint against you, please contact us today.


Decisions of the:

  • ICRC, and
  • Registration Committee

can be appealed to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (“HPARB”).

Decisions of the:

  • Discipline Committee, and
  • Fitness to Practise Committee,

can be appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court. 

Unfortunately, self-represented individuals are very rarely successful in appeals.  We have unique expertise in appeals from regulatory colleges.  If you are considering an appeal, please contact us today.