What Funeral Directors Need to Know About the Bereavement Authority of Ontario’s Discipline Committee
Funeral directors will soon be open to prosecution before the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (“Bereavement Authority”) Discipline Committee for breaches of the Code of Ethics. While the Discipline Committee and the Code of Ethics were established by regulation several years ago, the Discipline Committee is not currently operational. However, in February 2021, the Bereavement Authority announced a call for nominations for tribunal members and indicated that members of the Discipline Committee would be appointed by July 2021. With the Discipline Committee likely up and running by the end of 2021, funeral directors can now be prosecuted for breaches of the Code of Ethics and should be aware of their new regulatory obligations and potential liability.
A funeral director can find themselves before the Discipline Committee where it is alleged that they have failed to comply with the Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics does not prescribe specific ethical standards for funeral directors. Rather, it states that funeral directors shall not engage in conduct that could have led to a finding of professional misconduct or incompetence under the Board of Funeral Services Act and its general regulation, both of which were repealed in April 2016. This means that funeral directors can once again be disciplined for a wide range of professional misconduct. Section 16(2) of the Board of Funeral Services Act makes it an act of professional misconduct to be found guilty of an offence relevant to suitability to practice and section 8 of the general regulation prescribes 21 separate types of conduct that are considered professional misconduct. Funeral directors should review these provisions to ensure that they are aware of the types of conduct that could result in disciplinary action.
Once allegations are before the Discipline Committee, the Bereavement Authority bears the onus of proving those allegations at a hearing. If a funeral director contests the allegations, they will be able to make submissions, call witnesses, and cross-examine the Bereavement Authority’s witnesses. If the Discipline Committee finds that a funeral director has breached the Code of Ethics, the Discipline Committee can order the funeral director to complete a specified educational program, pay a fine up to a maximum of $25,000, and/or pay costs. Further, the decision of the Discipline Committee will be made public, potentially impacting a funeral director’s professional reputation and job prospects.
A funeral director found guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence before the Discipline Committee has a right of appeal to the Appeal Committee. The Appeal Committee can overturn, affirm, or modify the order of the Discipline Committee and may make any order that the Discipline Committee can make.
The Discipline Committee is a new regulatory enforcement tool of the Bereavement Authority that funeral directors will be subject to shortly. Funeral directors should review their obligations under the Code of Ethics to ensure that they do not unknowingly commit acts of misconduct that could result in disciplinary action. If you are a funeral director who is alleged to have breached the Code of Ethics, you should consider consulting a lawyer to discuss how best to navigate the Bereavement Authority’s disciplinary process.
GlickLaw is a boutique law firm focused on professional and industry regulation, complaints, investigations, and discipline. If you have received notice of a complaint, investigation, or hearing and would like to speak to a lawyer, please contact us.