Dr. Jordan Peterson has lost his free speech court battle against the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
The Ontario Divisional Court released its decision on Wednesday after deliberating over Peterson’s right to free speech versus the right of the Ontario College of Psychologists to regulate what licensed psychologists can say in public.
Initially, the College requested Peterson’s voluntary participation to receive social media training in response to public complaints about his online conduct. Peterson declined.
The College subsequently ordered Peterson to undergo the training, and mandated that he finance it.
Peterson took the issue to court, arguing that his Charter right to freedom of expression had been violated.
But the judge determined otherwise.
“When individuals join a regulated profession, they do not lose their Charter right to freedom of expression. At the same time, however, they take on obligations and must abide by the rules of their regulatory body that may limit their freedom of expression,” Justice Schabas stated.
Schabas added, “The Decision of the [Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (“ICRC”) adequately and reasonably considered Dr. Peterson’s statements in the context of the College’s statutory mandate to regulate the profession in the public interest.”
Peterson is able to appeal the decision.
College argued Peterson violated its code of conduct
The ICRC is responsible for handling and evaluating inquiries, complaints, and reports related to the conduct and practice of psychologists in Ontario.
The ICRC had argued that “the manner and tone in which Dr. Peterson espouses his public statements may reflect poorly on the profession of psychology.”
The decision was highly anticipated in Canada and internationally as a landmark decision over the power that institutions have over regulating individuals’ speech.
Who made the complaints?
Anyone in the world is capable of making a complaint to the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
Peterson says none of the complaints came from his past or present patients or their acquaintances.
What were the complaints?
In January, Peterson revealed all the College of Psychologists of Ontario’s complaints against him.
Peterson said the College mandated him to attend a “coaching session” for social media or risk losing his clinical license.
One complaint was for Peterson’s comments on The Joe Rogan podcast on Covid-19 vaccines.
“He is operating outside the domain of expertise, using title as psychologist as a means of conveying information which is harmful to public,” read the complaint.
The same individual complained about Peterson’s social media usage “directed at the prime minister using language that is unprofessional and embarrassing to the profession,” while also saying an exchange Peterson had with former Trudeau advisor Gerald Butts was “threatening, abusive and harassing.”
Another complaint states, “Peterson encouraged people to commit suicide on Twitter.” The complaint pertains to a response Peterson sent to someone claiming the world is overpopulated.
“You’re free to leave anytime,” Peterson replied.
Another complaint took issue with Peterson for appearing “to call Catherine McKenney, an Ottawa City Councillor who uses they/them pronouns a ‘thing.’”
More complaints are over alleged “hate speech” against transgender people. One such tweet saw Peterson’s Twitter account suspended indefinitely. It wasn’t restored until Elon Musk purchased Twitter.
In the tweet that got him suspended, Peterson addressed transgender actor Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page. Peterson said Page “had her breasts removed by a criminal physician.”
Several other complaints were over a tweet Peterson made where he criticized Sports Illustrated for giving a plus-sized woman the front cover.
“Sorry, not beautiful,” Peterson tweeted. “And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.”
The College mandated Peterson undergo social media training
In light of these complaints, the College mandated Peterson “acknowledge and undertake” the coaching session until deemed complete by a “coach.”
“Go ahead and investigate. Take whatever steps you deem necessary,” Peterson said in January.
“I am simply not going to spend the hours and days required to undergo the unbelievably stressful process necessary to respond to this formally because one of the millions of people who follow me on social media took offense to one thing I said at one point,” he said.