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Is a Toronto herbalist continuing to use title of naturopath after college said to stop?

Click to play video: 'Was herbalist calling himself a doctor?' Was herbalist calling himself a doctor?
WATCH: A year after Ontario naturopaths became a regulated health profession, one Toronto holistic practitioner is under fire amid allegations he lied about his qualifications. As Sean O’Shea reports, Antonio Medeiros says he has done nothing wrong, even despite a Global News investigation that shows his staff told prospective clients he was a naturopath – Aug 10, 2016

The store is a familiar fixture in Toronto’s Little Portugal. Clients emerge from the Ervanaria Victoria clinic, frequently carrying shopping bags weighed down with vitamins and herbal concoctions worth hundreds of dollars. The man recommending the remedies is Antonio Medeiros, the owner. Many of his clients sing his praises.

“He’s an amazing naturopath!” says one woman heading into the clinic early on a Saturday morning, crediting Medeiros with detecting stomach cancer in her father weeks before doctors did. She says Medeiros saved her father’s life.

But Medeiros, referred to in advertisements in Portuguese-Canadian publications as a “doctor of natural medicine” and on YouTube videos as a “naturopata,” isn’t a naturopath at all — even though clients calling to inquire about his credentials or speaking to Medeiros in person might be led to believe otherwise.

“I wouldn’t doubt that he’s a doctor, the way he presents himself, the illusion is he’s a doctor,” said Tara Wilson, a woman who booked an appointment with Medeiros for herself and her son.

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Wilson says she was skeptical about Medeiros’s credentials, doubting he was registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario, which he is not.

But when Wilson called the Ervanaria Victoria office to book an appointment and pointedly asked whether Medeiros “is a naturopath” she got a direct answer from the person scheduling his appointments.

“Yes he is, yes he is,” said the receptionist in English, reminding Wilson that the cost of the initial visit to see Medeiros is $30 cash, per patient.

Medeiros came to Toronto from Portugal and started the corner clinic 30 years ago, according to marketing materials. He also sees patients in Brampton and Cambridge.

Global News began looking into Medeiros last May after Wilson complained that Medeiros is misleading consumers about his qualifications.

While Medeiros often wears a white lab coat and has a stethoscope draped around his neck, he is not registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario, which regulates the profession in the province.

Last year, the college threatened legal action against Medeiros. In a cease-and-desist letter to him, registrar Andrew Parr wrote: “The College has recently received information that you are advertising, practicing, and otherwise holding yourself out to be a naturopath or naturopathic doctor…you are not permitted to practice naturopathy in Ontario or to use the restricted titles.”

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In September 2015, Medeiros signed a confirmation letter agreeing that he would not claim to be a naturopath.

But in May of this year, a Global News staff member and a Global News intern made appointments with Medeiros at offices in Toronto, Brampton and Cambridge. In making the calls, they each asked his scheduler: “Is he a naturopath?”

On three occasions, they were told he is.

Medeiros’s business card included the letters “DNM” after his name, referring to Doctor of Natural Medicine, or Doctorate of Natural Medicine. The title is bestowed on members of the Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners (EBNMP), Canada Association, according to Robert Tarantino, a lawyer representing Medeiros. However, Medeiros has now changed his business card, which now refers to him as a holistic practitioner.

Tarantino told Global News in a letter that Medeiros “does not practice, provide services to the public or represent himself as a Naturopath or Naturopathic Doctor in Ontario.”

Tarantino said Medeiros “is legally entitled to use and advertise his certification in Ontario regardless of the College’s interpretation of its enabling legislation.”

The College of Naturopaths of Ontario disagrees with that view. It told Mederios he cannot use the title “naturopath or a variation/abbreviation such as Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine”.

Initially contacted for comment, Medeiros denied any wrongdoing.

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“I do this for 30 years, I’m a herbalist. Everyone knows I am not a naturopath,” he said.

Medeiros originally agreed to meet Global News for an on-camera interview, then declined. Several attempts to speak to him outside his office and at a television studio, where is a guest on a weekly phone-in show, were unsuccessful.

The College of Naturopaths of Ontario looked into Medeiros’s conduct in June of this year, shortly after the Global News investigation began. The college’s own investigation in June “produced no evidence that Mr. Medeiros is holding himself out as a Naturopathic Doctor.”

“It would seem the College’s investigative efforts came on the heels of your investigation — which likely tipped off Mr. Medeiros,” said Elissa Freeman, a media relations representative for the College, in an email.

“However, should you and/or your staff be willing to turn over all relevant information from your investigation and sign affidavits as to the validity of same, the College could find merit in re-opening an investigation and/or seeking an injunction,” she wrote.

Naturopaths have been regulated by the college since July 1, 2015.

Read the letter sent by Antonio Medeiros’ lawyer here:

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