Controversial psychologist and author Jordan Peterson has failed to overturn a ruling that requires him to undergo social media training or risk losing his licence to practise in Ontario. The Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed his request to challenge the order issued by the College of Psychologists of Ontario, which regulates the profession in the province.
The order and the complaints
The order was made by the college’s complaints committee in November 2023, after it received numerous complaints about Peterson’s online posts and statements on various topics, such as gender identity, climate change, and a plus-sized model. The committee found that some of his comments posed a moderate risk of harm to the public and undermined public trust in the profession of psychology.
The order directed Peterson to complete a coaching program on professionalism in public statements, at his own expense, within six months. The order also warned him that failure to comply could result in disciplinary action, including the suspension or revocation of his licence to practise.
The court ruling and the arguments
Peterson, who is a retired professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and a bestselling author, filed for a judicial review of the order, arguing that it violated his freedom of expression and that his political commentary was not under the college’s jurisdiction. He claimed that his online posts were his “off-duty opinions” and that he was not functioning as a clinical psychologist in the public space.
However, the Ontario Divisional Court rejected his arguments and upheld the order in August 2023. The court ruled that the order was within the college’s mandate to regulate the profession in the public interest and that it did not prevent Peterson from expressing himself on controversial topics. The court also noted that Peterson had acknowledged that he was speaking as a member of the regulated profession and that he had a large and influential audience.
Peterson then sought leave to appeal the divisional court ruling to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, but his request was denied on Tuesday. The court did not provide reasons for its decision, which is final and cannot be appealed further.
Peterson’s reaction and the college’s response
Peterson expressed his disappointment and frustration with the court’s decision on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. He said that he would take the training and broadcast it, but he also accused the college of trying to “undermine” his reputation and remove his licence. He demanded that the college’s staff publicly apologize and resign.
The college, on the other hand, welcomed the court’s decision and said that it was pleased that the matter was resolved. The college’s spokesperson said that the order was not disciplinary and that it was intended to help Peterson maintain the standards of the profession and protect the public interest.