Access to Information
I would like to know if an engineer has been the object of disciplanry measures. Can I obtain such information by contacting the Office of the Syndic?
No. Any request to know if an engineer has been the object of disciplinary measures must be submitted to the Order’s Disciplinary Council. Disciplinary decisions have been made public since August 1988.
I would like to know if an engineer is under inquiry. Can I obtain such information by contacting the Office of the Syndic?
No. Such a request for information may be submitted in writing to the syndic of the Order. The syndic however has full discretionary powers to deny any request, to refuse sharing information or a document that may bring to light the content of an inquiry or affect a current or upcoming inquiry or one that may be reopened.
Can disciplinary offences be cleared over time?
No. A disciplinary complaint is indefeasible. A disciplinary complaint may be lodged at any time against anyone who committed an offense while a member of the Order. Time lapse may however affect the complainant’s capacity to build a clear and convincing case and that of the respondent to make "full answer and defence” under natural justice rules. For example, a disciplinary inquiry may be launched regarding a file that has been destroyed by an engineer after the prescribed ten-year retention period. It may however be more difficult to build a case. Why is a disciplinary complaint indefeasible? The disciplinary proceeding is of a public nature. Lodging a complaint against an engineer and imposing penalties aims to protect the public at large, to discourage the guilty engineer from reoffending as well as discouraging any other trade member who may aspire to commit similar wrongful acts.
Must an engineer comply with the Code of Ethics wherever he or she practices?
Yes. Each member of the Order is individually liable for complying with the Code of Ethics, wherever he or she may be practicing. Any engineer who carries out professional acts outside of the Province of Québec must comply with ethical obligations. Acts committed outside of Québec shall not lessen any prejudice. Where an act has been committed does not in any way affect the capacity of the Disciplinary Committee to hear and assess a complaint. The Code of Ethics applies to professional conduct not to a specific territory or limited public. By joining the Order, an engineer agrees to be under the control of his or her professional order wherever he or she practices.
May I anonymously report an engineer's professional misconduct?
Yes, you may anonymously report to the Office of the Syndic any professional misconduct by an engineer. You may do so in person, by phone or by email. The individual who makes such a report is deemed an informer. Such a report must include enough relevant and personal information so that the syndic may undertake an inquiry. The individual who submits an official inquiry request to the Office of the Syndic may ask, once clearly identified in said request, to remain anonymous. Anonymity cannot however be guaranteed should a disciplinary complaint be lodged with the Disciplinary Council. Identity of the requestor may be disclosed should failure to do so adversely affect the right of the engineer to a full answer and defence.
Dissatisfaction with the services of an engineer
The engineer that I hired has not completed his assignment and I want him to refund the money that I already paid to him. What should I do?
Contact the General Department of the Order to request account mediation within 60 days of the date the account is received.
What are the required conditions for the syndic to launch an inquiry?
1. The syndic can only inquire about an offense committed by an individual who was then a member of the Order, whether or not said individual remained a member of the Order after the fact.
2. The syndic cannot “go on a fishing expedition” based on vague or summary allegations that prevent it from identifying and investigating a potential offense and individual under its jurisdiction. An inquiry request must therefore include enough information so that the syndic may conduct an inquiry.
3. In principle, any conduct targeted by an inquiry request must be associated with professional activities. Acts of a private matter, to the extent that they are closely linked to the profession and are the source of a scandal that could compromise the honour or dignity of said profession, may exceptionally be investigated by the syndic. An inquiry request may therefore be rejected if not linked in any way to professional activities or capacity.
Will I, upon conclusion of disciplinary proceedings, recover for damages sustained or be reimbursed for paid fees?
The purpose of disciplinary proceedings is to remedy professional misconduct not to compensate an individual who requested an inquiry or a third party. Any individual who wishes to be compensated for damages sustained or to be reimbursed must file an application with civil courts. There are however three exceptions to that general rule. The Disciplinary Council may order an engineer to give an entitled individual the sum held or that should have been held by the engineer for said individual. Similarly, conciliation of an account may be requested within 45 days of a decision rendered by the Disciplinary Council, which challenges the quality or relevancy of a professional act billed therein, as long as said account has not been previously subject to mediation or arbitration under Regulation respecting the conciliation and arbitration procedure for the accounts of engineers. Finally, the Disciplinary Council may recommend that the Order’s Board of Directors rule that a penalty imposed on the engineer be paid in full or in part by the Order to the individual who has paid monies to lodge a disciplinary complaint or to the victim of sexual misconduct pertaining to the cost of therapeutic care resulting from such misconduct.
What kind of follow-up may I expect after requesting an inquiry by the Office of the Syndic?
The Office of the Syndic acknowledges receipt of an inquiry request within days of said request. The file is then assigned to the syndic or an assistant syndic who is responsible for this inquiry. Conducting an inquiry requires time, sometimes months. You will be informed in writing, through a progress report, if a syndic fails to conclude its inquiry within 90 days of receiving the request. The syndic will then issue a new progress report every 60 days. The syndic will not however report progress to an individual of informer status or one who simply reported an event.
Why should the syndic wish to meet with me?
A syndic conducts an investigation after receiving an inquiry request or relevant information. The purpose of this inquiry is to determine if an individual, who was a member of the Order at the time of the event, has violated, once or on several occasions, the Professional Code, the Engineers Act or related regulations. The syndic tries and confirms the validity of stated allegations or reported information. Any individual who might help the syndic learn facts or assess the overall situation, through relevant information or documents, may be met during such an inquiry.
Is the syndic under the obligation to inform a member of the Order of the motives for requesting a meeting?
No, there is no provision that requires informing an engineer of reasons why a syndic wishes to meet him or her or informing the engineer of the source of the allegations or information obtained. Furthermore, there is no provision requiring that an engineer be informed that he or she is the subject of an inquiry or that the inquiry relates to a specific file or files. Finally, the syndic does not have to inform the engineer of the date that they will meet at the engineer’s office or elsewhere. However, the syndic may, at its discretion and only if it does not hamper the inquiry, make an appointment with the engineer and briefly inform him or her of the motives of such meeting or inquiry.
A syndic wants to meet with me. How long will that meeting last?
A meeting may last half an hour or several hours. It may even take place over several days. Each case is different and the duration will vary based on complexity of the issue and of the inquiry, on the level of collaboration of the individual met, questions asked, organization, etc.
Can other individuals be present during my meeting with a syndic?
Not usually, including for reasons of confidentiality. The syndic shall decide. A lawyer, a second syndic, an expert or any other individual may however assist the syndic (Prof. C. 121.2).
Can my lawyer be present during my meeting with a syndic?
Under Article 122.2 of the Professional Code, the individual who requests that an inquiry be conducted may be assisted by another individual, at any step of said inquiry. The Professional Code grants that right to no one else that the syndic may wish to meet with during the inquiry. Needless to say, anyone may consult a lawyer to learn about his or her rights and obligations in regards to inquiry proceedings.
I am not a member of the Order. Am I under obligation to answer the syndic's questions?
Yes. Under Section 122 of the Professional Code and as demonstrated by jurisprudence, a syndic may demand that a given individual provide any and all information or document relating to the inquiry. As for any individual who is not a member of the Order and who refuses to collaborate, the syndic may use an injunction to compel said individual to provide information or documents. In order to fill its public protection mandate, a syndic is granted extensive authority to obtain confidential information or information pertaining to the private life of individuals met.
A syndic is asking me for documents. Am I under the obligation to provide them?
Yes. The Professional Code states that a syndic may demand any and all information or documents relating to the inquiry. The syndic may examine them or require their production and make a copy of such documents (Prof. C. S. 114, 122, 192).
Is an engineer committing an offense by disclosing confidential information?
No. Section 192 of the Professional Code explicitly states that a professional may not invoke his obligation to ensure professional secrecy as a reason for refusing to answer a syndic’s request.
I have recently met with a syndic. What are the next steps?
The syndic will conduct his inquiry. In so doing, the syndic shall meet as many people or collect as many documents as he sees fit. He may therefore contact you to get specifics or ask to meet with you again. The syndic will then examine all collected information before rendering a decision. The syndic may, based on circumstances an data collected, decide to lodge a complaint before the Disciplinary Council, to forward the request to the Professional Inspection Committee or recommend conciliation. The syndic shall inform the person who requested the holding of an inquiry of his decision. The syndic will also, in general and although not required to do so, inform the engineer who is the object of the inquiry (Prof. C. S. 123).
The engineer that I have hired to do some work failed to provide me with the expected documents within the time limit and does not return my calls. What can I do?
An engineer must show reasonable availability and diligence in the practice of his profession (Code of Ethics of Engineers, Section 3.03.01). A client dissatisfied by an engineer’s lack of diligence may send the engineer a letter asking him to provide the required documents or to communicate with him, within a reasonable period of time that should be specified. If still not satisfied, the client may ask the syndic of the Order to investigate the engineer’s behavior. A syndic could possibly try and resolve the dispute through conciliation. A syndic cannot however order a member to act in a specific way: only the courts or the Disciplinary Council can do so, in the latter case after completion of disciplinary proceedings.
The engineer that I have hired did not inform me of the approximate cost of his services and I deem unreasonable the amount billed for these services. What can I do?
There are several remedies including some that may be exercised concurrently:
1. you can lodge an inquiry request with the Office of the syndic. The engineer was bound by his Code of Ethics to inform you of the extent and terms and conditions of the mandate that you have given him and to obtain your agreement in that respect (Section 3.02.03), to inform you of the approximate cost of his services and of the terms and conditions of payment (Section 3.08.03) and of any changes in this respect. The engineer must also charge and accept fair and reasonable fees (Section 3.08.01 and 3.08.02) and must give you all the necessary explanations for understanding his statement of fees (Section 3.08.04).
2. You may request in writing the conciliation of the bill of costs within sixty (60) days of receiving the bill, even if said bill was paid in part or in full, in accordance with Regulation respecting the conciliation and arbitration procedure for the accounts of engineers. Conciliation could also be requested should a disciplinary decision expressly calls into question the quality or relevance of a professional act charged for (Prof. Code, Section 88)
3. You may also assert your rights under the Québec Civil Code or other applicable law. This remedy is not however under the control of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec.
4. You may make reference to conciliation, mediation or arbitration provisions under your contract with the engineer, if any. This remedy is not however under the control of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec.
Can an engineer cease to act for the account of a client for no reason?
No. In this regard, Section 3.03.04 of the Code of Ethics clearly states that “an engineer may not cease to act for the account of a client unless he has just and reasonable grounds for so doing. The following shall, in particular, constitute just and reasonable grounds:
a) the fact that the engineer is placed in a situation of conflict of interest or in a circumstance whereby his professional independence could be called in question;
b) inducement by the client to illegal, unfair or fraudulent acts;
c) the fact that the client ignores the engineer’s advice.“
Can an engineer refuse to provide a notice of compliance?
Yes. An engineer cannot be forced to issue and shall not issue a notice or certificate of compliance if he deems that the work does not comply or that compliance cannot be established to his satisfaction, including when work does not comply with applicable laws or rules or with plans or specifications signed and sealed by an engineer, or when information is insufficient to knowingly issue such a notice, a frequent occurrence when the engineer did not supervise the work. It must be specified that only the acting engineer can personally issue such a notice.
Can an engineer hold on to documents or items provided by the client if said client fails to pay the engineer's fees?
No. Under Section 3.07.06 of the Code of Ethics of Engineers, the engineer must act with diligence on any written request made by the client to retrieve a document or item which the client has left him. Furthermore, Section 3.07.06 of the Code of Ethics states that the engineer must indicate in that client’s record, as the case may be, the reasons for the client’s request. Section 2.05 of the Regulation respecting the keeping of records and consulting offices by engineers states that where a client withdraws a document from the record which concerns him, the engineer must file a note in the client’s record, signed either by the client or himself, indicating the nature of the document and the date of the withdrawal.
Can an engineer hold on to client-related documents (other than those prepared by him) that are part of his record if the client fails to pay his professional fees?
In principle no. Where documents not prepared by the engineer are concerned (and not provided by the client), such as a construction permit or letter from the city, the engineer must allow the client to take cognizance of their content and provide him with a copy upon request within the period specified under Section 3.07.01 of the Code of Ethics of Engineers. In this respect, the engineer may charge the client reasonable fees not exceeding the cost of sending, transcribing or copying a document. Whenever the client requests such a copy, the engineer may hold on to it until the client has paid said transmission, transcription or reproduction fees. The engineer must however provide the client with a copy once the client has paid copying fees, even if this client has not yet fully paid the due professional services fees.
Can an engineer sued for damages by a client be the object of a disciplinary complaint for the same facts?
Yes. Civil liability remedy and a disciplinary complaint are two distinct remedies.
Can I personally file a disciplinary complaint against an engineer?
Yes. You have two choices. You can ask the syndic of the Order to investigate an engineer or you can directly lodge your complaint with the Order's Disciplinary Council.