Jordan Peterson says Ontario psychologist licence may be suspended over public statements

RELATED: Other coverage of Jordan Peterson

Controversial author and public figure Jordan Peterson has been told to undergo a mandatory “coaching program” by the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO) due to public statements he has made.

Peterson, however, said all of the complaints at issue are political and don’t have anything to do with his past or present clients as a psychologist.

“I am to take a course of such training, with reports documenting my ‘progress,’ or face an in-person tribunal and suspension of my right to operate as a licensed clinical psychologist,” Peterson wrote on Twitter.

Peterson, who has frequently made headlines for controversial views and is celebrated by the right-wing, said he won’t comply.

Story continues below advertisement

Peterson first courted controversy for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns while teaching at the University of Toronto. He has gone on to international fame with sold-out lectures and bestselling books.

The CPO is the governing body for psychologists in Ontario, with a mandate to “protect the public interest by monitoring and regulating the practice of psychology,” according to its website.

“About a dozen people from all over the world submitted complaints about my public statements on Twitter and (Joe) Rogan over a four-year period (out of the 15 million who follow me on social media) claiming that I had ‘harmed’ people (not them) with my views,” Peterson said.

He said the CPO could have viewed the complaints as vexatious, but decided to pursue them.

“I have been accused of harming people, although none of the complainants involved in the current action were clients of mine, past or present, or were even acquainted with any of my clients,” he said.

Peterson said many of those who submitted complaints claimed that they were his clients, despite that not being true.

Among the concerns are Peterson having expressed support for federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Peterson alleges. It’s not clear exactly what comments are of concern to the CPO — the organization didn’t say in a statement to Global News citing confidentiality regulations.

Story continues below advertisement

Peterson has said that he intends to make public the allegations when possible while following legal and ethical restrictions.

In a column written by Peterson in the National Post Wednesday, Peterson added that he was accused of being “sexist, transphobic, incapable of the requisite body positivity in relationship to morbid obesity and, unforgivably of all, a climate change denialist.”

“Every single one of these accusations (and now accepted evidence of my professional misconduct) is independent of my clinical practice — which, by the way, has been suspended since 2017, when my rising notoriety or fame made continuing as a private therapist practically and ethically impossible,” Peterson wrote.

The National Post reported, however, that in 2018 Peterson agreed to a plan to improve his clinical practice. The newspaper said there are few details of what constituted professional misconduct in that instance, but the complaint had to do with the way he communicates with patients, the quality of his service, and psychologist/patient boundaries.

According to a document posted on Twitter by Peterson Wednesday morning from the CPO, its complaints committee said in a report that it is concerned that he “lacked professionalism in public statements made on social media and during a Jan. 25, 2022 podcast appearance.”

In turn, the CPO said Peterson must undergo a coaching program at his expense “to review, reflect on, and ameliorate (his) professionalism in public statements.”

Story continues below advertisement

If he doesn’t undergo the program and the coach doesn’t provide a report indicating that the concerns have been “appropriately remediated in the public interest,” it may constitute professional misconduct and result in an investigation, the document says.

Peterson said that the situation shines a light on wider concerns in Canadian society, where professionals “fear to tell you the truth.”

In its statement to Global News, the CPO said, “The College is not authorized to discuss this matter as per the confidentiality provisions of section 36 of Ontario’s Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991.”

The CPO provided a link to the publicly available information regarding Peterson.

Story continues below advertisement

Under the “discipline & other proceedings” tab of his profile, it confirms that Peterson is being required to take part in a “Specified Continuing Education or Remedial Program” regarding his “professionalism” in public statements.

It also says that Peterson has filed a Notice of Application for Judicial Review with the Ontario Divisional Court. Peterson said he is mounting a constitutional challenge.

In a follow-up email, Global News asked the college what conduct standards it has for licenced individuals in regards to their public behaviour not directly related to their practice, but did not receive a response.

The CPO’s professional standards regarding public statements largely refer to advertising of services, though there is a section regarding providing “information, advice, or comment to the public via any medium.”

The CPO standards state that members must ensure that, among other things, “The statements are accurate and supportable based on current professional literature or research” and “the statements are consistent with the professional standards, policies and ethics currently adopted by the College.”

It’s not clear what professional standards may be of concern to the college regarding the matter with Peterson.

Peterson’s posts on Twitter regarding the CPO have garnered plenty of attention, including from Elon Musk.

Story continues below advertisement

Musk appeared to encouraged Peterson to livestream any possible disciplinary hearing.

“I will make sure the disciplinary hearing, if and when it occurs, is made accessible on my YouTube channel,” Peterson said in response.

“And Twitter spaces, which I don’t know how to use yet.”

— With files from Andrew Russell


Sponsored content