Professionals should not go up against their regulator alone

The College of Optometrists of Ontario is the regulator for optometrists in Ontario.  They:

  • decide who has a certificate to practice as an optometrist.
  • handle complaints against optometrists.

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 an optometrist’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 optometrists with matters including:

  • Advising optometrists on compliance with relevant legislation and standards
  • Responding to complaints and investigations at the College of Optometrists
  • Representing optometrists at the Fitness to Practise Committee
  • Defending optometrists in hearings before the College’s Discipline Committee
  • Advocating for optometrists to resolve matters through the College’s complaint resolution process
  • Representing optometrists in appeals before the Divisional Court of Ontario
College of Optometrists of Ontario Discipline Committee Fitness to Practise Committee ICRC Alternative Dispute Resolution Registration


Optometrists who wish to practice in Ontario are required to register with the College, but the process to do so can be rather complex. 

The registration process differs depending on whether or not an applicant is a graduate of an optometry school accredited by the Accreditation Council of Optometric Education (ACOE). 

ACOE applicants must:

  • Meet the academic requirement of having successfully completed a recognized/approved academic program
  • Successfully complete a College approved entry-to-practice exam
  • Complete the Ontario Optometric Jurisprudence Seminar and Examination
  • Submit additional documents

Non-ACOE applicants must:

  • Meet the academic requirements and have their credentials successfully assessed
  • Complete the International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP
  • Provide proof of registration if you are registered with an equivalent Certificate of Registration in another province
  • Successfully complete a College approved entry-to-practice exam
  • Complete the Ontario Optometric Jurisprudence Seminar and Examination
  • Submit additional documents

Once an application is submitted, the Registrar may:

  • Issue a Certificate of Registration if the Registrar is satisfied that all of the requirements have been met OR
  • Refer the application to the Registration Committee if the Registrar has doubts about the application and intends to refuse or attach terms, conditions or limitations on the Certificate

Our office can help you prepare this information and offer legal advice on concerns you may have. If you are planning to apply for a certificate from the College of Optometrists of Ontario, contact us today. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The College of Optometrists of Ontario will sometimes offer members an opportunity to participate in Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”).  

This is a great opportunity for optometrists to resolve issues before they become formal complaints.  The ADR process usually involves the optometrist entering a written agreement.  

We believe it is very important that members receive legal advice in relation to these documents.  Without experienced legal advice members may not appreciate the full consequences of these documents and the impact on their practices.  If you have heard from your College, contact us today. 


The College of Optometrists of Ontario receives complaints from:

  • members of the public
  • clients of optometrists
  • employers of optometrists
  • other optometrists

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. 

The first step of the complaint process is at the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee, often referred to as the “ICRC”.

The ICRC is a written process – the complainant, the College and the member exchange a series of documents:

  1. A complaint against a member is made
  2. The College provides the member with an official acknowledgement of the complaint 
  3. The member has an opportunity to file a written response to the complaint
  4. The ICRC will issue a decision 

The potential outcomes of a decision include:

  • A decision to take no further action
  • Issue advice or caution a member
  • Require a member to attend a continuing education or remediation program
  • Refer a 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 CPO, please contact us today.

Fitness to Practise Committee

The Fitness to Practise Committee is a specialized Committee dealing with cases where a member’s conduct was impacted by an ongoing medical physical or mental health condition.  

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

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, require to consider a referral to Fitness to Practise.  If there is a complaint against you, 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 for the member to pay some or all of the costs of a trial

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