The College recognizes that reporting and discussing allegations of sexual misconduct can be very difficult. We want you to understand our investigation and discipline processes, know what to expect and how the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario can support you.
What is the RCDSO?
We protect the public’s right to quality dental services by providing leadership to the dental profession in regulation. All dentists in the province of Ontario must be registered with us in order to practice dentistry. While our name has the word “College” in it, we are not a teaching facility; we are a regulator.
Patient sexual abuse and the law
Sexual abuse is a breach of professional boundaries between patient and dentist and is a misuse of power. The patient-dentist relationship is based on trust. Sexual abuse by a dentist violates that trust and is never acceptable. Sexual abuse includes comments and touching of a sexual nature, as well as sexual intercourse and other specific sex acts. Under provincial law, dentists cannot engage in any sort of sexual relations with a patient except if that patient is their spouse, as defined by the Family Law Act. Even the most casual of dating behaviour could be considered sexual abuse under the statute.
In order to protect patients, we rely on them to tell us when things aren’t right. While everyone has their own reasons for contacting the College, many contact us because they don’t want others to have the same experience they had. Also, by bringing your concerns to us for investigation, it may help to bring you some closure and assist you in moving forward.
Who do I contact if I want to report concerns about a dentist?
The College’s Patient Relations and Boundaries team investigates allegations of sexual misconduct by a dentist. If you are considering reporting sexual abuse, contact the College at 416-961-6555 (toll free in Canada 1-800-565- 4591) to speak with someone on the PRB team or email us at email@example.com. We can meet in person, by phone or video call to explain your options and answer your questions.
What happens during an investigation?When the College receives either a complaint or a report, an investigator will gather information on behalf of the College’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee, which is made up of both dentists and members of the public appointed by the government. This is the Committee that will make a decision in this matter.
- Typically, you will be interviewed and will be asked to submit documents or things you have to support your concerns (i.e. emails, text messages, social media posts, photos, etc).
- Your complaint will be acknowledged and you’ll be sent information about the various support programs
- We’ll notify the dentist and ask for a response and your records
- We’ll interview other witnesses and gather other records as necessary
- The investigator is available to answer your questions at any time
- Notes of relevant calls, copies of emails/letters and records will typically be shared with both you and the dentist.
- You and the dentist may choose to have someone act on your behalf during this process, such as a lawyer, but it is almost all complainants and most dentists that represent themselves.
How do we support you during the investigation process?
Support person program
The College offers a private, confidential, no- cost support service to anyone making allegations of sexual abuse or boundary violations of a sexual nature. This support is provided by a regulated health professional who is completely separate from the complaints process. Patients and staff can contact the support person at any time during the process: Support for Victims of Sexual Abuse (rcdso.org).
Funding for therapy and counselling
Patients may be eligible for funding for therapy and counselling if they are alleging sexual abuse by their dentist. Sexual abuse is broadly defined in the legislation and includes comments and touching of a sexual nature, as well as sexual intercourse and other sex acts. The funding application forms will be sent to you along with the acknowledgement of your complaint. You can apply at any time. Copies are available here: Funding for Therapy and Counselling (rcdso.org)
The decision-making process
The Inquiries, Complaints and Reports (ICR) Committee will make a decision about your complaint. The Committee is made up of dentists and members of the public appointed by the government. They sit in panels of three and meet every 4-6 weeks.
The panel has broad decision-making options. It can:
- Take no action
- Provide advice and recommendations
- Require the dentist to attend for a caution
- Require the dentist to take certain upgrading courses
- Refer the matter for incapacity proceeding
If the panel has very serious concerns, they can refer the matter for a hearing before a Discipline Committee.
The purpose of the hearing is to prove whether the dentist committed an act of professional misconduct. The hearing is much like a court process in that the College will present its evidence and you may be asked to testify.
The dentist will have an opportunity to present a defense. If we require your testimony, the College’s prosecutor will help prepare you in advance so you know what to expect. After the hearing, a copy of the decision is sent to you and the dentist.
If you are unhappy with the panel's decision, you’ll have the right to request a review by the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board. We’ll give you information about these rights when we send you the decision.
How do we support you during the discipline hearing process?
- We have a dedicated team available to answer your questions and help you access supports
- Again, we have a confidential Support Person Program you can access at any stage in the process to talk about your concerns and facilitate your ability to participate in the College’s regulatory process Support for Victims of Sexual Abuse (rcdso.org). Patients alleging sexual abuse by their dentist may be eligible for funding for therapy and counselling Funding for Therapy and Counselling (rcdso.org)
- If your testimony is required, you can apply for funding for independent legal advice to help with your testimony at the hearing: Legal Support for Victims of Sexual Abuse (rcdso.org)
- You can bring a support person with you to the hearing
- We have a separate space for you to wait outside the hearing room
- We’ll pay for your travel and accommodation
- We’ll meet with you prior to the hearing to explain the process so you’ll know what to expect
- The College’s lawyer can request a publication ban to protect your privacy and can request that you testify behind a screen so you don’t have to see the other hearing participants
- The College’s lawyer can also request that if the dentist is self-represented, they not be permitted to cross- examine you and that only a lawyer can ask you questions
With thanks for content assistance from the College of Nurses of Ontario.