Dr. Jordan Peterson must undergo 'mandatory' social media training, says courts

The College of Psychologists of Ontario argued that Dr. Jordan Peterson must complete an 'education program' for 'inappropriate' public statements on politics, a decision that the Ontario Divisional Court agreed with last August.

Dr. Jordan Peterson must undergo 'mandatory' social media training, says courts
The Canadian Press / Jason Franson
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The Ontario Court of Appeals has ruled against former psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, who must now undergo remedial social media training to maintain his clinical practice.

The College of Psychologists of Ontario argued that Peterson made 'inappropriate' public statements on social media, even though they did not relate to the practice of psychology. Those statements related to his opinion on politics, public figures, the Freedom Convoy and climate change. 

In January 2023, Peterson posted a document online detailing the complaints against him.

According to the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), the complaints came from the public rather than the psychologist's former patients. 

Regardless, the college said his social media posts constituted an ethics violation — a dereliction of the Standards of Professional Conduct. They ordered Peterson to complete an 'education program' to address issues regarding professionalism in public statements. 

In August, the Ontario Divisional Court agreed with the college. 

"Requiring coaching following apparently unheeded advice seems a reasonable next step, proportionately balancing statutory objectives against Charter rights which are minimally impaired, if they are impaired at all," reads the 18-page court decision.

"When individuals join a regulated profession … they take on obligations and must abide by the rules of their regulatory body that may limit their freedom of expression," it says.

However, the former practicing psychologist refused to participate in their "re-education program."

"I have already undertaken the remediation of my actions in a manner very much akin to what has been suggested by the [Inquiries, Complains and Reports Committee] and have done so in an exceptionally thorough and equally exceptionally public and transparent manner," Peterson wrote to the college.

He contends those comments did not contravene Canadian law.

But on Tuesday, three Ontario judges dismissed Peterson’s motion for leave to appeal the decision without reason, reported the National Post, effectively ending a tumultuous legal battle which spanned two years.

"I think it’s going to be a licence to regulatory bodies to be more aggressive," said Howard Levitt, Peterson’s legal counsel, in shock over the courts not weighing on professional regulatory bodies policing its members' speech.

"Is there free speech in Canada?" he posed. "To what extent are the limits on free speech in Canada, to free speech … not a violation of any law? To what extent are regulated professionals and regulated trades impacted [by] what they can say in public?" said Levitt. 

"These are important issues and Canada has been castigated broadly for the decision of the divisional court," he added.

In 2017, the University of Toronto professor emeritus of psychology put his practice on hold but remains a licensed psychologist.

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