After a two-year legal battle, Canadian psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson has said his licence is “as good as gone” after a higher court in Canada ruled that the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO) can compel him to attend what he has called “political re-education classes”.
The punishment was meted out in the wake of a series of social media posts that allegedly violated the CPO’s code of ethics include Tweets in which Peterson called Canadian PM Trudeau a “puppet”, described Trudeau’s former senior aide, Gerald Butts, as a “stunningly corrupt and incendiary fool” and a “pr**k”, and clips from Peterson’s appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast in which he claimed that acceptance of radical gender theory is a sign of “civilisation collapsing”, and that climate change models are unreliable.
In other words, it’s perfectly lawful speech, which is all that should concern a professional licensing body. As the Wall Street Journal put it at the time, “professional bodies are supposed to ensure that practitioners are competent, not enforce political orthodoxies or act as language police outside the office”.
Last year, Peterson filed for a judicial review, arguing that political commentary does not fall under CPO’s purview and that its decision violates freedom of speech at its most basic level.
However, an Ontario court ruled unanimously against Dr Peterson, upholding the previous decision of the CPO – a government-regulated licensing body for practicing clinical psychologists – that ordered the bestselling author to undergo professional communication re-education due to a series of allegedly “degrading” and “unprofessional” tweets that offended marginalized social justice groups.
The Ontario Court of Appeal has now doubled down on that ruling, declaring that the CPO has the right to send him for mandatory ‘social-media training’. If he refuses, Peterson will lose his licence to practice clinical psychology.
Commenting on the consequences of the court’s decision to allow a professional to be completed to attend “re-education classes” he said, “professionals in this country can say goodbye to their right to express themselves, politically or otherwise, politically or professionally.”
Peterson said that censorship of freedom of speech in Canada would likely render professional psychologists unable to ask critical questions of clients presenting with gender dysphoria which he said he regarded his remarks as a “professional obligation,”
Writing for Spiked, Thomas Osborne says that the court’s ruling ought to worry anyone who cares about freedom of speech. Although Peterson himself has built up enough wealth to be able to challenge the college in the courts, a psychologist wholly dependent on his or her clinical salary would not be so fortunate.
Dr Peterson’s experience highlights the changing role of professional organisations in regulating the behaviour – and speech – of their members.
Where once these bodies would restrict themselves to upholding professional standards in the workplace, they now seem intent on collapsing entirely the distinction between occupational and private life.
In Canada alone, the Law Society of Ontario has been pushing for a mandatory diversity pledge for all lawyers, while the province of British Columbia recently passed a law that can result in doctors being jailed for up to two years if they are found to have spread certain types of “false or misleading information”, e.g. face masks don’t prevent transmission of Covid-19.
Similarly, over in the UK the FSU has had a glut of recent cases in which employees from a wide range of occupational backgrounds have got into trouble with their professional associations simply for expressing their entirely lawful beliefs outside the workplace.
Barrister Sarah Phillimore was investigated by the Bar Standards Board over a period of two years over complaints that she had caused ‘offence’ by tweeting about her gender critical beliefs – thanks, in part, to our help those allegations have now been dismissed.
Then there’s James Esses, a former barrister who we’ve helped in the past.
James launched an employment tribunal claim against the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), and recently reached a settlement with the regulator, over allegations it instructed the Metanoia Institute in London, where he was studying, to have him thrown off his Masters course in psychotherapy for expressing ‘gender critical’ views.
As well as settling out of court with James, UKCP issued a statement that it was a “valid” professional opinion that children questioning their gender should receive counselling rather than being put on a pathway to medical treatment.