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2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)

LAW SOCIETY HEARING PANEL

Citation: Peter Paul Vincent v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2010 ONLSHP 0051
Date: May 14, 2010
Docket: 2008-00107
File No.: PLC12/08

BETWEEN:

Peter Paul Vincent, Applicant


of the City of Mississauga

v.

The Law Society of Upper Canada, Respondent

Before: Thomas G. Conway (chair)


Abdul A. Chahbar
Stephen H. Parker

Heard: August 5, 2009, and January 15, 2010, in Toronto, Ontario

Counsel: Gary M. Caplan and Andrew J. Stainer, for the Applicant, for the applicant
Susan Heakes, for the respondent

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Summary:
Application under s. 27 of the Law Society Act for a Class P1 licence as a “grandfathered”
paralegal dismissed as good character of applicant not established.

Applicant provided false information on application.

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


Applicant’s intention or state of mind is irrelevant under Section 8(2) of By-Law 4 whereby false
statement deems applicant not to be of good character. No “good faith” exception is made for
“any false or misleading representation or declaration on or in connection with an application
for a licence” under subsection 8(2) of By-Law 4.

REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1] Thomas G. Conway (for the Panel):– The applicant, Peter Vincent, has made an
application under s. 27 of the Law Society Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. L.8 (the “Law Society
Act” or the “Act”) for a Class P1 licence as a “grandfathered” paralegal. Under
subsection 27(2) of the Act, it is a requirement for the issuance of every licence that the
applicant be of good character.

[2] The respondent, The Law Society of Upper Canada (the “Society”), says it is concerned
that Mr. Vincent does not meet the good character requirement and does not qualify for a
P1 licence. Mr. Vincent disagrees, but does concede that the matters disclosed on his
application for a licence, and in the Society’s subsequent investigation, raise questions
about his good character. He accepts that in this application, he has the burden of
proving that he is presently of good character. If the Hearing Panel is not satisfied on the
evidence that he is presently of good character, the Hearing Panel must refuse his
application.1

AGREED STATEMENT OF FACTS AND DOCUMENTARY EXHIBITS

[3] The parties agree on many of the facts, which they have reduced to writing in an Agreed
Statement of Facts.2 They also agreed to enter into the record of this proceeding
documentary evidence contained in two volumes, marked as Exhibits 2 and 4.

LICENSING OF PARALEGALS

[4] The licensing process for paralegal licensees of the Society requires a candidate seeking a
P1 licence to complete a Paralegal Registration and Application Form prescribed by the
Society. The application form requires an applicant to disclose detailed, personal
information about the applicant’s history and background. The Society seeks specific
information about the applicant’s educational and employment history, employment

1
Subsection 27 (4), Law Society Act.
2
Exhibit 1.

2
status, involvement in professional organizations, and the business structure through
which the applicant proposes to provide legal services as a licensed paralegal. An
applicant is also required to provide a minimum of two references.

[5] An entire section of the application form is devoted to eliciting information about the
candidate’s character. The questions asked in this section seek disclosure from the

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


candidate of previous criminal convictions, quasi-criminal convictions, civil judgments,
findings involving fraud or dishonesty, dismissal from employment for cause,
disciplinary proceedings by other professional organizations and similar information.
Each of the 16 questions posed in this section of the application requires a candidate to
provide full particulars wherever a positive response is given to the question.

[6] This section ends with the following admonition:

You must inform The Law Society of Upper Canada, Paralegal Services in
writing if your answer to any of the questions above changes at any time during
the licensing process, providing the correct and current answer to the questions
above. You must swear or affirm the changes before a Commissioner for Taking
Affidavits in and for the Courts in Ontario.

[7] The next section of the application requires the candidate to provide a detailed and sworn
declaration, in which the applicant:

a. declares under oath or solemnly affirms that the information in the application is
current, complete and correct;

b. undertakes to file all required supporting documents;

c. authorizes the Society to investigate anything mentioned in the applicant’s


responses under the good character section; and

d. authorizes the Society to make inquiries and requests for information related to
the applicant’s application for a P1 licence.

[8] The application form is designed to extract all information that the Society considers
relevant in determining whether the applicant is competent and of good character. The
intent of this design should be apparent to anyone who reads it.

[9] The reason for the detailed application and the requirement that the information
submitted be supported by oath or solemn affirmation is simple and obvious: the Society
does not have the resources to conduct a detailed investigation of every applicant who
applies for a licence. The Society instead relies on the applicant to be candid and honest
in his or her responses and relies on the application for the completeness and truthfulness
of the information disclosed in the application. In order to ensure that the information is
complete and truthful, the Society requires the information to be given under oath or
affirmed. It also warns the candidate that untruthful or incomplete answers may
themselves form the basis for the application to be refused.

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[10] The application also makes clear, however, that the disclosure of information, however
unflattering or damaging the candidate may believe that information to be, does not mean
that the candidate’s application will be rejected without a hearing. Each candidate is
given an opportunity to be heard, if the information disclosed suggests that there may be
reason to question whether the candidate is of good character. The entire process is

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designed to encourage, and to insist on, full disclosure of the candidate’s background,
warts and all.

[11] When the applicant discloses information on the application form that raises a concern
about an applicant’s character, the Society makes further inquiries, which usually include
personal interviews of the applicant and his references and investigation of other sources
of information by Society investigators.

[12] The Application form and the information accompanying the Application form are such
that applicants are deemed to appreciate the importance that the Society places on full,
candid and truthful disclosure of the information sought by the Society in the Application
form.

[13] The determination of the relevant and material criteria for the assessment of good
character is the purview of the Society under its statutory function to ensure that all
persons who provide legal services meet standards of professional conduct that are
appropriate for the legal services they provide.3 The Hearing Panel presumes that the
information sought by the Society about a candidate’s good character is material to the
discharge of this statutory function and that any omission or misrepresentation with
respect to the information sought should be regarded as a presumptive ground for
rejection of the application.

[14] The language used in subsection 8(2) of By-Law 4 makes it very clear that the Society
insists on full, complete and truthful information from all applicants. Subsection 8(2) is a
strong warning to all applicants that if they give any false or misleading information on
an application for a licence, they do so at their own peril. Subsection 8(2) states:

An applicant who makes any false or misleading representation or declaration on


or in connection with an application for a licence, by commission or omission, is
deemed thereafter not to meet, and not to have met, the requirements for the
issuance of any licence under the Act. [Emphasis added]

MR. VINCENT’S APPLICATION

[15] Mr. Vincent’s criminal record search, submitted with his original application form,
disclosed three criminal matters in 1969 and a criminal conviction in 2004:

a. December 23, 1969, a conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile


resulting in a one-year suspended sentence and $150 in costs;

b. September 15, 1969, a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile


3
Section 4.1(a), Law Society Act.

4
resulting in a stay of proceedings;

c. December 23, 1969, a charge of indecent assault on a female and gross indecency,
resulting in a stay of proceedings;

d. October 6, 2004, a conviction of fraud over $5,000, contrary to s. 380 of the

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Criminal Code and resulting in a fine of $3,000 and probation of 12 months.4

The 1969 Conviction

[16] In a letter that accompanied his application, Mr. Vincent stated that the 1969 incident
“grew out of a youthful sexual indiscretion.”5

[17] In a subsequent letter to the Society, dated December 6, 2007, Mr. Vincent provided a
further description of the 1969 conviction and his recollection of the events. From the
description, Mr. Vincent minimized the significance of the matter:

This small sexual incident happened almost 40 years ago when I was young and
single in Winnipeg. I had just started my very first job out of school. I do not
recall all the details after all this time. To my best recollection it was more of a
misunderstanding than a crime. I wanted to plead not guilty and fight the charge,
as it was a borderline consensual case with no violence or force used.
Unfortunately the legal costs to do so would have been far greater than the slap on
the wrist that I got. From the fact that I was given a fine of only $150 you can see
that the Crown did not feel it was a big deal even then.6 [Emphasis added.]

[18] On August 22, 2008, a Society investigator conducted an interview of Mr. Vincent.
During that interview, Mr. Vincent again minimized the significance of the conviction,
almost to the point of trivializing it:

You know it’s been so long ago that I almost had forgotten about it and I had
assumed that it was removed from the books ….

And then a couple of years on and nobody ever complained but I was told at the
time that in five years that would disappear because it was such a minor charge,
$100.00 fine, no incarceration, no nothing. It was a very small incident, more of a
misunderstanding than anything else and you know I just don’t remember all the
details. It was so long ago. But it was, it’s so minor, well you can guess a
$100.00 fine is not even a slap on the wrist ... it’s basically saying naughty-
naughty and so the fact that it’s still on the books, I mean if I had known I would
have asked for a pardon twenty, thirty years ago. Never, never occurred to me

4
Paragraph 17, Agreed Statement of Facts; tab 1, Exhibit 2. We note that the parties agreed that the three matters in
1969 related to only one incident, which did not involve a female, and that the police record for the 1969 conviction
is not entirely accurate for this reason.
5
Paragraph 19, Agreed Statement of Facts; tab 1, Exhibit 2.
6
Paragraph 22, Agreed Statement of Facts; tab 3, Exhibit 2.

5
and so it, this came as a total surprise to me when it came up that oh by the way
you have a criminal record, I said oh I do, I thought it was – at the time I thought
it was so minor that it disappeared so I, you know, I’m not sure why it’s even an
issue today.7 I’m certain that nothing has come up of anything, similar in nature
of the intervening forty years so that should tell you, you know I don’t have a

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problem with sexual impropriety with (unintelligible). I don’t – I don’t remember
all the details any more. I mean, gosh, I don’t know if you recall what you did
forty years ago but at the time it was not considered serious. I, and for a $100.00
fine it’s kind of like you got a parking ticket or a traffic ticket forty years ago, do
you remember the details? I, you know, I saw the listing on what the police did,
the check and contributing to the delinquency of a minor female and I do recall
there was something, there was a complaint lodged and the police investigated
and said we have to charge you at that eventually.8 They said $100.00 fine, go
away and that was the end of it and never, ever has any follow up been done, I’ve
never asked about it since, I just put it out of my mind and went on with my life.9

[19] The Society determined that it required further information about the 1969 conviction.
On October 3, 2008, the Society’s investigator, Spencer Dennis, contacted Mr. Vincent
by telephone. He asked Mr. Vincent to sign an authorization permitting the Society to
obtain the police records of the Winnipeg Police Service. Mr. Vincent refused, saying
that the charges were over 40 years old and that they had nothing to do with his paralegal
licence application, in his opinion.

[20] Mr. Dennis followed up his verbal request with a letter, dated October 3, 2008. He
reminded Mr. Vincent of his obligation as an applicant to co-operate in the Society’s
investigation of anything mentioned in response to the questions about his good
character. He enclosed an authorization form for the release of the records of the
Winnipeg Police Service.10

[21] Instead of signing the authorization form and returning it to the Society, Mr. Vincent
maintained his refusal. By letter, dated October 9, 2008, Mr. Vincent stated to Mr.
Dennis:

... As I stated during our brief telephone conversation I can see no relevance of my
very minor conviction in 1969 to the assessment of my good character and fitness
for registration as a Licensed paralegal today.

7
The Hearing Panel finds this part of his statement to the investigator troubling in light of other evidence showing
that he was reminded of the conviction on at least one subsequent occasion in 2004 when he appeared in court for
sentencing on a guilty plea of fraud over $5000.
8
This passage from his statement suggests that there may have been another incident involving a minor female, but
given the express agreement between the parties that there was only one conviction entered in 1969 and that the
police records are not accurate in disclosing an incident involving a female, we conclude that Mr. Vincent’s
statement that he recalled “there was something” involving a minor female was simply an error on his part. When
asked about it in his testimony, he denied that there was ever an incident involving a minor female in 1969. We
accept his evidence on this point.
9
Paragraph 27, Agreed Statement of Facts; tab 7, Exhibit 2.
10
Exhibit 2, tab 8.

6
In 1969 I made a small error in judgment and was convicted of the sex related
charge of Contributing the Delinquency [sic] of a minor. I paid the court imposed
minimum fine of $100. This shows how minor the crime was. Most traffic
offences carry a higher fine and the Law Society does not care about traffic
offences in assessing good character....

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


... I cannot see how my youthful sexual escapade from 1969 can have any bearing
on the assessment of my current good character. I am sorry to state that it seems
to me that whoever is so curious about the details of this very minor incident is
not assessing my good character but rather is exhibiting his own prurient sexual
curiosity at my expense. I consider it an invasion of privacy.11 [Emphasis
added.]

[22] In early January 2009, Mr. Vincent provided the authorization, apparently after he
consulted his lawyer. It is not necessary for the purposes of these reasons to recite in
detail what the records of the Winnipeg Police Service disclosed. It is sufficient for these
reasons to observe that the written report prepared in 1969 discloses that Mr. Vincent had
physical contact of a sexual nature with a 10-year old boy who was delivering
newspapers in Mr. Vincent’s apartment block. Although Mr. Vincent did not admit to all
of the allegations made at the time, he admitted enough of what happened so that the
incident can fairly be described as a sexual assault on a minor. The facts to which Mr.
Vincent admitted at the time do not support his description of them in 2008 as a “minor
sexual indiscretion” or a “sexual escapade.”

[23] Indeed, in 1969, Mr. Vincent himself considered the events to have been very serious.
The Winnipeg Police Service report states Mr. Vincent requested that he undergo a
psychiatric examination as he felt that he needed treatment. In our view, if Mr. Vincent
asked that he undergo a psychiatric assessment in 1969, we doubt that Mr. Vincent had
“almost forgotten”, even after 40 years. He could only have “forgotten” the incident if he
had suffered some psychological trauma that caused him to suppress the incident from his
memory.12 The Hearing Panel received no evidence to support such a conclusion. Mr.
Vincent also admitted in his testimony before the Hearing Panel that this statement was
not truthful.

[24] Mr. Vincent confirmed in his testimony before the Hearing Panel that, far from being a
minor incident, it had fundamentally affected the course of his life since that time. We
reproduce the following exchange in the hearing between Mr. Vincent and his counsel:

A. Although it wasn’t a part of the requirement from the court, I voluntarily


sought psychiatric assistance and for a period of approximately three months I
attended on a weekly basis with a psychiatrist to work through how I could do
something as horrible as I did.
...

11
Paragraph 30, Agreed Statement of Facts; Exhibit 2, tab 8.
12
Mr. Vincent did not call any expert evidence to support a theory that he suffered some underlying psychiatric
condition that caused him to suppress the events of 1969 from his memory.

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…As part of that, at the psychiatrist’s suggestion - at that point I was still a
practising Catholic - he suggested that I should attend church and confess my sins,
and I have to tell you it was very, very difficult for me to do so. I did go to church,
the largest Catholic Church in Winnipeg, and I spent approximately three or four
hours, twice, and did not go into the confession [sic]. And then the third time, I

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


steeled myself and went to the confessional and confessed my sins and was
relieved at the reaction that the priest, in effect, gave me absolution and serious
steps for penance, and I walked out of there resolved to never, ever do anything
like that again. And I have not.
...
…I learned to realize very early in the psychiatric [sic] the damage, the
psychological damage I probably did to this poor pre-teen, and I am heartily
sorry. There is a few things [sic] in my life I am very sorry for, and this is
probably the worst. And I have no way of atoning for it so I built this wall around
this. I was deathly afraid of anybody finding out about it. I didn’t want to talk
about it. I put it out of my mind, as much as I could do. I have been walking
around for 40 years with this cloud hanging over my head that I desperately
wanted to forget about and lead a good and honest life, and I believe I did so.
...
Q. ... I want to ask how you coped or how you dealt with the 1969
conviction–

A. I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it to myself.


...

Q. When you applied for your P1 licence, you disclosed the conviction?

A. I did.
...
Q. …“The incident grew out of a youthful sexual indiscretion.” Why did you
use those words, Mr. Vincent? Tell the panel what you were thinking.

A. Panel members, I now realize that I should not have done so. What I was
trying to do was to minimize in the eyes of the Law Society the severity of the
crime. The charge and the fine that the court imposed were very minor and I
wanted to leave it at that. I didn’t want to lead the Society into seeing it as a big
deal because the fine and the nature of the charge don’t appear to be very serious.
That is what the court decision told me, that the court felt it was not very serious.
...
Q. ... But you never told the Law Society that you had sexually abused a 10-
year-old boy, did you?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Why didn’t you tell that to the Law Society in this letter?

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A. Because it was so very painful to me to even talk about those details. You
have to understand it is a 40-year-old deep dark secret that I buried in my soul,
that I had suppressed. Nobody on earth except the courts in Winnipeg knew
anything about this. I didn’t know, didn’t want to know anything about this. I
certainly didn’t -- wanted to minimize it in the eyes of the Law Society.

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


Q. Ms. Heakes has already shown to the panel that when you made your
application, you swore an oath that you would be forthcoming and candid with the
Law Society, and it appears, if I am hearing you correctly, you were not. Is that
right?

A. Unfortunately you are right, Mr. Caplan, and I admit it and I am very
sorry for it. If I had gone into the details, then in effect the genie would be out of
the bottle, and I felt my standing in the community, among my peers and my
friends, if they found out, that I would be ostracized and made a pariah in my own
community. I was afraid I would lose my spouse and my children and this would
be such a horrible exposure that I was trying desperately for the Law Society to
just forget about this 40-year-old conviction.... I now know that I shouldn’t have
done that and I am very sorry about that. Certainly had I to do it over again, I
would have gotten the police report from Winnipeg myself and made full
disclosure of front.13

[25] The version of the events that Mr. Vincent described in his testimony before the Hearing
Panel, and his feelings about those events, are undoubtedly accurate and truthful. On the
other hand, his description to the Law Society in the application process of those same
events and their significance is equally inaccurate and untruthful.

[26] We accept that Mr. Vincent was highly reluctant to divulge details about the 1969
conviction, which he described as his “deep dark secret.” We accept that he wanted to
bury the incident because he was highly embarrassed by it, and that all the evidence
suggests this was an isolated incident. We have some sympathy for his predicament
when he was confronted about the nature of the incident by the Society’s investigator.
This sentiment, however, must be set against the overriding principle that an applicant for
a P1 licence must make full, complete and truthful disclosure of the information
requested by the Society during the application process. There is nothing in the Act or
the jurisprudence that gives a hearing panel the discretion to excuse the application of this
principle to the facts of this case. So while we have an appreciation of why Mr. Vincent
was reluctant to divulge the details of his 1969 conviction, as he has admitted himself, he
was not forthcoming or candid in his answers to the Society.

[27] As Mr. Vincent has himself observed, if he had been forthright in his responses about the
1969 conviction, the Society may have been satisfied that he had been truthful in his
disclosure of a painful and regrettable chapter in his life. To be clear, the Society says it
is not the 1969 conviction per se that has raised a question about Mr. Vincent’s good
character; rather, it is his lack of candour about the incident in the application process that

13
Transcript of Hearing (the evidence of Peter Paul Vincent), July 13, 2009, pp. 11-20.

9
has created the problem.

[28] Mr. Vincent refused to provide the Law Society with any further details of the 1969
conviction until after he consulted legal counsel.14 His counsel gave him the correct
advice. Mr. Vincent is to be commended for following that advice. But Mr. Vincent’s
failure to appreciate his obligation to be truthful and candid with the Society during the

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


application process is troublesome for the Hearing Panel. Individuals who seek
admission to the legal professions in Ontario must, at a minimum, understand the
significance of the obligations of truthfulness and full disclosure in a process that requires
them to certify by oath or solemn declaration the accuracy of the information they
disclose. The significance and importance of an oath or solemn declaration cannot be
undervalued or downplayed. It is one of the bedrock foundations on which our system of
justice operates. Every applicant for admission to the Society should know this.

[29] Applicants for admission to the Society should not need legal counsel to inform them of
their obligation to provide the information required by the Society and to be truthful
when they do it. If the Society requires all applicants to be truthful, candid, forthright
and complete in the licensing application process, but a hearing panel then excuses an
applicant from meeting that standard because the applicant was ashamed of the
information that he or she attempted to conceal from the Society, future applicants will
not feel compelled to take the obligation or the licensing process seriously. The efficacy
of the application process will be eroded and seriously undermined. Soon the public will
lose confidence in the Society’s ability to discharge its statutory duty and will
legitimately question whether the licensing process truly ensures that the Society’s
licensees are of good character.

[30] In cross-examination, Mr. Vincent effectively admitted that he had deliberately misled
the Society with respect to the nature of the 1969 conviction and its impact on both his
life and the life of his victim. In reviewing his evidence on cross-examination, the
Hearing Panel is left with the impression that even though he admitted that he
deliberately misled the Society during the application process, he was still not entirely
forthcoming about his reasons for doing so. The following passage from his cross-
examination illustrates our concern:15

Q. At the time that you provided your application to the Law Society, you
were aware that the 1969 convictions were more than a youthful sexual
indiscretion?

A. Yes, I was aware of that.

Q. And in your testimony earlier this afternoon, you indicated that you had
blocked out the conviction and the incidents surrounding the conviction. You put
it out of your mind.

14
Transcript, p. 21.
15
Transcript, pp. 96-103.

10
A. That’s correct.

Q. But it’s not your evidence today that you blocked it out at the time that
you filled out your application to the Law Society. In other words, you were well
aware of the conviction and the underlying issues in the conviction when you

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


filled out your application for the Law Society?

A. You are correct. I did know more than that it was a youthful
indiscretion....

…My memory was very dim. I did recall the nature of the incident, but I didn’t, I
remember hurting a little boy emotionally, but I didn’t remember all the details
until I read that Winnipeg police report which kind of ripped open the wound. I
really wasn’t able to enunciate exactly what I had done. There was a dim memory
of it, and was doing my level best to suppress that memory.

...

Q. You said today that you minimized the events when you were
corresponding with the Law Society and when you were interviewed by Mr.
Dennis?

A. That’s correct.

Q. You’d agree with me that you lied to the Law Society?

A. It can be characterized like that.... I don’t think it was a lie. I was


minimizing it because the crown minimized it.

Q. When on December 4, 2007 you wrote to the Law Society and you said
that this incident involved more of a misunderstanding than a crime, you’re telling
me that that wasn’t a lie?

A. It was. It was. I agree with you and I am heartily sorry for it. And in
retrospect, I should never have done that.

...

Q. What I am troubled by, sir, is your language today and with the Law
Society that you have minimized these events, but a borderline consensual case
involving a ten-year-old boy, it confounds -- confounds me. I don’t understand.
In my submission, that would be a lie. You’re saying it was a –

11
A. And I agree with you. It was, and I am sorry I did it. I wish I didn’t do it.
You understand my reasons for doing it. If I was asked to answer those same
questions today - I have already answered them - I would be completely open and
forthright. I was trying to minimize it so that it wouldn’t be of much interest to
anybody.

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Q. If you look at the letter that we have turned up on October 16th, 2007, you
also tell the Law Society in the third sentence:

“I did not know that there were two” -- convictions, I imagine -- “until I
received the enclosed report.”

Indicating that you were unaware that the 1969 conviction was still on the books
and records.

A. No, that is not true. What I said was there was more than one charge
shown on the report. If you turn back one page, I am talking about those two
things on the bottom. I was referring to the fact that I thought there was just the
one contributing to juvenile delinquency, and I didn’t realize what these other two
were even … instead of stay of proceedings, I thought they were dropped. In fact,
I thought everything was dropped five years after this. But that is what I am
referring to.

Q. And yet, you say you thought everything was dropped five years after that,
but in 2004, when you were at the hearing in front of Mr. Justice Wright, you are
reminded that the ’69 conviction was still out there.

A. That’s where -- it is from that point onward that I know that it is not
dropped. But up to that point, I thought it had been dropped.

Q. So –

A. So as of 2004, I was aware that no, a record existed.

Q. In all of your correspondence and dealings with the Law Society, you
were aware that the matter had not been dropped?

A. That’s correct....

[31] Ms. Heakes’ reference to the hearing before Justice Wright is a reference to the hearing
that took place on October 6, 2005, during which Mr. Vincent entered a plea of guilty to
one count of fraud over $5,000. Mr. Vincent was present during the hearing and heard
the Crown state to Justice Wright:16

16
Exhibit 2, Document Book, tab11, page 4; Exhibit 4, Document Brief of Peter Vincent, tab “G.”, page 4.

12
MR. MCCALLUM: There is a – essentially the gentleman doesn’t have a
criminal record. I believe he has a one – one count for a juvenile record back in
1969, so I am not concerned with that.

[32] In his testimony before the Hearing Panel, Mr. Vincent appeared to be suggesting that he

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


had forgotten about the convictions and had thought “everything was dropped five years
after this.” Admittedly, “after this” is ambiguous. In cross-examination by Ms. Heakes,
Mr. Vincent may have been referring to the 1969 conviction or the 2005 conviction, but
in either event, his explanation does not square with his answer a few lines later in the
transcript when he said that it was from the date of his 2004 conviction that he realized
that “it had not been dropped.”

[33] We find it difficult to believe that Mr. Vincent could have forgotten about, or suppressed
the memory of, the 1969 conviction and the nature of the offence to which he admitted
guilt when he completed his application and in his subsequent communications with the
Society’s investigator. Considering all of the evidence concerning his application and his
subsequent dealings with the Society’s investigator, Mr. Vincent made statements on and
in connection with his application, which were false and misleading, and he intended
them to be so.

[34] Section 8(2) of By-Law 4 states:

An applicant who makes any false or misleading representation or declaration on


or in connection with an application for a licence, by commission or omission, is
deemed thereafter not to meet, and not to have met, the requirements for the
issuance of any licence under the Act.

[35] The Hearing Panel reconvened the hearing of this application, at Mr. Vincent’s request,
to consider the application of the reasoning of another hearing panel in the decision of
Howard Steven Levenson v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2009 ONLSHP 98 (CanLII).
The hearing panel in Levenson said this about s. 8(2) of By-Law 4:

[91] Some false or misleading representations can be made in good faith.


Indeed, s. 14(3) of the By-Law specifically contemplates that scenario in
connection with a different stage of the licensing process, namely an application
to write the examinations. It follows that, in some circumstances, a licensing
application may contain a false or misleading representation made inadvertently
or in good faith.

[92] In our view, s. 8(2) cannot be interpreted so as to automatically disqualify


an applicant from being issued a licence when his or her application is, in some
respect, inaccurate, regardless of whether the inaccuracy is inadvertent. That
would be fundamentally unfair in the extreme. Nor does its plain meaning
compel such an interpretation.

[93] This subsection is designed to capture those situations in which an


applicant is deliberately misleading in his or her application or in connection with

13
it. An applicant is expected to self-report events that might bear upon his or her
character. While the Society has the power to investigate any applicant, there is
no doubt that in a self-reporting regime, the Society is heavily reliant on the
candour of an applicant. Moreover, even if the Society is aware of an applicant’s
history or can easily ascertain it, candour in the application process is also an

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


important badge of an applicant’s good character. Conversely, deliberate
suppression of information in the application process is an obvious indication of a
lack of good character.

[94] A purposive interpretation of section 8(2) means that deliberately false or


misleading representations or declarations in the application process, by
commission or omission, if so found by the hearing panel, should be
determinative. Frankly, this is a common sense proposition, even if s. 8(2) did not
exist. Its presence underlines the importance of full and frank disclosure.

[95] This is not a case to decide the precise parameters of s. 8(2). It is arguable
that it extends not only to deliberate misleading, but recklessness or willful
blindness as to the representations contained in the application. But that is to be
decided when it properly arises on the facts. At the very least, recklessness or
willful blindness as to the representations contained in the application tell against
the applicant’s success at a s. 27 hearing.

[36] With the greatest of respect, this Hearing Panel is not convinced that the hearing panel in
Levenson has interpreted section 8(2) correctly. This Hearing Panel is of the view that
the hearing panel in Levenson has misconstrued s. 8(2) of By-Law 4 by introducing the
notion of the applicant’s intention or state of mind into the interpretation and application
of that section.

[37] By-Law 417 deals with licensing of lawyers and paralegals. The good character
requirement of By-Law 4 is found under the heading of "General Requirements" in
subsection (8)(1). Subsection 8(2) deems an applicant who makes any false or
misleading representation or declaration on or in connection with an application for a
licence not to meet the requirements for the issuance of the licence. Subsection 8(2),
unlike subsection 14(2), is not qualified.

[38] Subsection 14(2) of By-Law 4 is found under the heading of "Licensing Examinations".
It states:

A person who makes any false or misleading representation or declaration on or


in connection with an examination application, by commission or omission, is
deemed thereafter not to meet, and not to have met, the requirements for taking a
licensing examination and, subject to subsection (3), the successful completion of
any licensing examination taken by the person is deemed thereafter to be void.

[39] Subsection (3) of section 14 states:

17
The current version of By-Law 4 was amended on June 25, 2009.

14
Where the false or misleading representation mentioned in subsection (2) relates
to meeting the requirement of paragraph 1 of subsection 9 (1) or paragraph 1 of
section 14 and was made by the person in good faith, the person is deemed not to
meet, and not to have met, the requirements for taking a licensing examination,
and the successful completion of any licensing examination taken by the person is

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


deemed to be void, if the person does not meet the requirement of paragraph 1 of
subsection 9 (1) or paragraph 1 of section 14, as the case may be, by the end of
the licensing cycle in which the person registered with the Society to be eligible to
take the applicable licensing examination.

[40] Paragraph 1 of subsection 9(1) sets out one of the requirements for a Class L1 licence,
namely a common law degree from an accredited law school or its equivalent.

[41] With respect to the reference in subsection 14(3) to “paragraph 1 of section 14,” this
appears to be a reference to an earlier version of By-Law 4, which was not corrected
when By-Law 4 underwent several editorial changes after it was originally passed by
Convocation in May 2007. A review of the by-law’s history shows that By-Law 4 was
amended on June 28, 2007. Section 11 of the May 2007 version of By-Law 4 was
deleted. The sections following old section 11 were renumbered, but the reference to
“paragraph 1 of section 14” was not changed to reflect the changes in the numbering of
the other sections of the By-Law. It would appear that the reference should have been
changed to “paragraph 1 of section 13.” Section 13 was subsequently amended on May
22, 2008. Section 13 became subsection 13(1). Again, it would appear that the reference
in subsection 14(3) to “paragraph 1 of section 14” should have been changed to
“paragraph 1 of subsection 13 (1),” but it was not changed.

[42] “Paragraph 1 of section 14” does not exist in the current version of By-Law 4. In the
original version of By-Law 4, however, subsection 15(3) was identical to subsection 14
(3) of the current version of By-Law 4. “Paragraph 1 of section 14” of the original
version of the by-law referred to the requirements for the issuance of a Class P1 licence.
It required that an applicant, applying after June 30, 2010, “must have graduated from a
legal services program in Ontario that was, at the time the applicant graduated from the
program, an accredited program.”

[43] Obviously, Convocation intended to create a “good faith” exception to the general rule
that a licensing examination taken by a person who makes any false or misleading
representation in an examination application is deemed to be void. The “good faith”
exception applies with respect to statements on an examination application relating to the
applicant’s academic qualifications. It seems this exception was created for those limited
circumstances in which a law student or paralegal student makes an application for a
licensing examination, anticipating that he or she will be receiving an accredited law
degree, or its equivalent, or will have graduated from a legal services program in Ontario,
takes the licensing examination and passes, but then subsequently becomes ineligible to
take the licensing examination because, for example, the student has not successfully
completed one or more of the courses in his or her program of study. Subsection 3 defers
the voiding of the licensing examination results in those circumstances to give the
applicant the opportunity to rectify the problem without having to resubmit a licensing

15
examination application and take the licensing examination again.

[44] In any event, it is clear that subsection 14(3) carves out a “good faith” exception in
limited circumstances with respect to only one of the representations in an examination
application. The excepted representation relates to the applicant’s academic
qualifications. The “good faith” exception does not apply to any of the other

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


representations or declarations of an examination application.

[45] What is also clear is that no “good faith” exception is made for “any false or misleading
representation or declaration on or in connection with an application for a licence” under
subsection 8(2) of By-Law 4.

[46] In the view of this Hearing Panel, the “good faith” exception in subsection 14(3) of By-
Law 4 should not be incorporated into the interpretation of subsection 8(2) or, for that
matter, into the interpretation of subsection 14(2) as it applies to any false or misleading
representations or declarations in an examination application to which subsection 14(3)
does not apply.

[47] On the contrary, the creation of a specific “good faith” exception for a false or misleading
representation or declaration in subsection 14(3) strongly suggests that the drafters of By-
Law 4 addressed their minds specifically to the question of whether “good faith” false or
misleading representations or declarations should be excused generally, and intended to
limit the “good faith exception” to only one category of representation or declaration in
the licensing process. In this context, the maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius
applies to prevent the general application of the “good faith” exception created by
subsection 14(3).

[48] In the view of this Hearing Panel, the “purpose” of the provisions of By-Law 4 is to
ensure that the Society can place reasonable reliance upon the veracity and accuracy of
the information that is provided to it by applicants for either a licence or a licensing
examination. It achieves this purpose by requiring a high standard of disclosure in which
the applicant must warrant the accuracy and the truthfulness of the information
submitted. Reading into subsections 8(2) and 14(3) a “good faith” exception of broad
application to the interpretation of By-Law 4 defeats this purpose and, more generally,
defeats the legislative intent set out in section 4.2 4. of the Act, requiring the Society to
act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

[49] In Claude Hyman Armstrong v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2010 ONLSPHP 2
(CanLII), the majority of that hearing panel had occasion to comment on the apparent
misperception of some that an applicant in the licensing process need only disclose what
he or she feels is relevant and disclose only what is necessary to complete the application
process. The application process prescribed by By-Law 4 requires full, frank and truthful
disclosure by the applicant. Anything short of that standard should not be encouraged or
endorsed. Every applicant should be disabused of any notion that less than full, frank and
truthful disclosure will suffice. This Hearing Panel endorses the view expressed in
Armstrong at paragraph 3:

16
While the majority agrees that it is the obligation of the Society to explore issues
raised in each application, it is also the clear responsibility of each Applicant to
fully and completely set out any misconduct which might give rise to the
subsequent inquiries of the Society. The Society should not be required to
embark on a game of ‘catch me if you can.’

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


[50] In this case, Mr. Vincent effectively admitted in cross-examination that he deliberately
misled the Society in the application process. In Levenson, the application was
inaccurate, but the misleading was considered to be unintentional. It should be noted that
the final outcome of Mr. Levenson’s application has not yet been determined, as the
hearing panel in Levenson ultimately determined that the application should be adjourned
to allow for further expert testimony.18

[51] While this Hearing Panel agrees with the hearing panel in Levenson that “deliberate
misleading” in the application process must certainly mean that the applicant does not
qualify for the issuance of a P1 licence and that this is a “common sense proposition,”
this Hearing Panel does not endorse the view that the focus of a hearing panel’s
deliberation should be on the applicant’s state of mind or his intention at the time she or
he made the application. With respect, to say that the precise parameters of s. 8(2) might
lead future panels to consider whether an applicant was “reckless” or “willfully blind” as
to her or his representations is not an appropriate approach to what remains essentially an
administrative proceeding, albeit one that requires the Society to give the applicant a
hearing.

[52] Concepts of “recklessness” and “willful blindness” are derived from the criminal law, in
cases involving the liberty of the subject. In an administrative law context, such as this, a
hearing panel must balance the right of the applicant to a fair hearing against the equally
compelling interests of timeliness, openness, predictability and efficiency in the
administrative function of the Society. The focus of the inquiry should not be on what
the applicant had or did not have in his or her mind when he or she made the application,
because that inquiry in this context is one that must nearly always resolve itself to some
extent on whether a hearing panel believes, on a subjective basis, the applicant’s
supplication that the misrepresentation, however serious or material, was merely
inadvertent and not deliberate or reckless.

[53] Moreover, it is to be remembered that representations and declarations made by an


applicant in the application process are made under oath or by solemn declaration. As
such, no serious consideration should be given to whether such statements were made
“recklessly” or with “willful blindness” as to their truth. To do so trivializes and renders
meaningless the requirement of an oath or solemn declaration.

[54] Indeed, in this case, Mr. Vincent admits that he made deliberate misrepresentations in the
application process, but asks the Hearing Panel to excuse them because essentially he
“built a wall around his dirty little secret.”19 and suppressed his memory of the events for

18
Levenson, paragraph 105.
19
To quote Mr. Caplan’s submission.

17
over 40 years. If the Hearing Panel accedes to this request, we will have effectively
denuded s. 8(2) of its purpose on the erroneous ground that a hearing panel has the
discretion to inquire into Mr. Vincent’s state of mind and excuse the misrepresentation
for a subjective reason referable only to the applicant’s state of mind and not to an
objective standard applicable to all applications and to all applicants. Such an approach

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


would make it very difficult for the Society and applicants alike to predict with any
confidence when a hearing panel will accept an applicant’s explanation for making a
material misrepresentation on an application for a licence. Personal sympathy for the
applicant’s predicament or a desire to forgive the applicant’s misrepresentation is not a
reasoned or predictive approach, especially when it is cloaked in concepts of
“deliberateness,” “recklessness” and “willful blindness.” The oft-quoted passage in
Preyra relating to the good character test is apposite in this context also:

It is important not to confuse the good character requirement for admission with
notions about forgiveness or about giving an applicant a second chance. The
admissions panel is not in the forgiveness business, the test to be applied is clear,
and the admissions panel is to determine if the applicant is of good character
today. The Law Society Act does not permit an admissions panel to apply any test
other than that relating to the applicant’s good character at the time of the
hearing.20

[55] The appropriate test, in the view of this Hearing Panel, is not whether the applicant made
a misrepresentation deliberately, inadvertently, recklessly or with willful blindness. The
appropriate test is whether the misrepresentation is material to the Society’s consideration
of the application. A standard of materiality, as opposed to one involving the applicant’s
intention or his or her state of mind, is an objective standard, a standard that makes the
result of an application more predictable and one that permits a hearing panel to give an
applicant a fair hearing without compromising the Society’s obligation to discharge its
statutory administrative function in a “timely, open and efficient manner.”21

[56] As the Hearing Panel stated at the outset of these reasons, the Hearing Panel presumes
that the information sought by the Society is material to its consideration of the
application. Any material misrepresentation will be fatal to the application, whether it is
deliberate or not. This may at first gloss appear to some as being too stringent, but when
one considers that an applicant must make an oath or solemn declaration when submitting
the application and must therefore reflect carefully and fully on the contents of the
application before submitting it for the Society’s consideration, this is an entirely
appropriate and fair standard for the Hearing Panel to apply.

[57] In this case, Mr. Vincent described the nature of the 1969 conviction as “more of
misunderstanding than a crime” and a mere “youthful indiscretion.” Clearly this was a
material misrepresentation of the nature of the 1969 offence. If, for example, he had
disclosed to the Society the true nature of the offence and its consequences, but had
represented that the offence occurred in 1968 or 1970, one could conceive that the

20
Preyra v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2000 CanLII 14383 (ON LSHP), p. 6.
21
Section 4.2 4, Law Society Act.

18
Society or a hearing panel would consider such a misrepresentation to be immaterial, and
not fatal to the application. Such is not the case here. The misrepresentations were
material and, in addition, they also happened to be deliberate.

[58] Even if the “deliberately misleading” test in Levenson is correct, when it is applied to this
case, the Hearing Panel concludes that Mr. Vincent’s application must be dismissed

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


because he deliberately misled the Society on his Application and in the application
process. Pursuant to subsection 8(2) of By-Law 4, he is deemed not to have met the
requirements for the issuance of a Class P1 licence under the Act.

[59] In the event that we are incorrect in our interpretation of s. 8(2) of By-Law 4 and its
application to the facts in this case, we turn now to consider whether Mr. Vincent has met
the burden of showing that he is presently of good character.

GOOD CHARACTER

[60] The law on “good character” and the factors to be considered in determining good
character have been summarized in several recent decisions.22 The hearing panel in
Claude Hyman Armstrong v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2009 ONLSHP 29, (CanLII)
summarized the law at paragraphs 22 to 29:

THE LAW

(a) What is Good Character?

[22] “Good Character” is not defined in the Law Society Act, but case law
has defined the term. These definitions have been repeatedly relied on in lawyers’
good character hearings.

[23] Character has been defined as:

that combination of qualities or features distinguishing one person from another.


Good character connotes moral or ethical strength, distinguishable as an amalgam
of virtuous attributes or traits which undoubtedly include, among others, integrity,
candour, empathy and honesty.

[24] Madam Justice Mary Southin of the British Columbia Court of Appeal
also elaborated on the term:

“[G]ood character” means those qualities which might reasonably be considered


in the eyes of reasonable men and women to be relevant to the practice of
law…Character…comprises…at least these qualities:

22
Vincent George Sinclair v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2010 ONLSHP 3 (CanLII), at paragraph 4; Howard
Steven Levenson v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2009 ONLSHP 98 (CanLII), at paragraph 55; David Moffat
Matheson v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2009 ONLSHP 105 (CanLII), at paragraph 5; Parminder Singh Saini v.
Law Society of Upper Canada, 2010 ONLSHP 5 (CanLII), at paragraphs 56 to 65.

19
1. An appreciation of the difference between right and wrong;

2. The moral fibre to do that which is right, no matter how uncomfortable the
doing may be and not to do that which is wrong no matter what the consequences
may be to oneself;

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


3. A belief that the law at least so far as it forbids things which are malum in
se must be upheld and the courage to see that it is upheld.

[25] In his book, Lawyers and Ethics: Professional Responsibility and


Discipline, Gavin Mackenzie states that the objectives of the good character
requirement are the same as the principles of discipline, namely to:

…protect the public, to maintain high ethical standards, to maintain public


confidence in the legal profession and its ability to regulate itself, and to deal
fairly with persons whose livelihood and reputation are affected.
[26] The Law Society suggested that the good character definitions which
apply to lawyers are equally applicable to paralegals. Mr. Armstrong’s counsel,
Mr. Bhattacharya, implicitly agreed with this position.

(b) Who Bears the Onus and What is the Burden of Proof?

[27] It was also accepted by Mr. Bhattacharya that once the applicant’s
character was put in issue by the Law Society, the onus shifted to Mr. Armstrong,
as applicant, to prove that he was of good character at the time of this hearing.

[28] Counsel agreed that Mr. Armstrong’s obligation is succinctly set out in Re
Preyra:

The onus is on the applicant to prove that he is of good character at the time of the
hearing of the application. The standard of proof is the balance of probabilities.
The relevant test is not whether there is too great a risk of future abuse by the
applicant of the public trust, but whether the applicant has established his good
character at the time of the hearing on a balance of probabilities. The test does
not require perfection of (sic) certainty. The applicant need not provide a
warranty or assurance that he will never again breach the public trust. The issue
is his character today, not the risk of his re-offending.

FACTORS DETERMINING GOOD CHARACTER

[29] In determining whether Mr. Armstrong is of good character today, we


considered the following factors, which have generally been considered in
admission cases:
(a) the nature and duration of the misconduct;

(b) whether the applicant is remorseful;

20
(c) what rehabilitative efforts, if any, have been taken, and the success of
such efforts;

(d) the applicant’s conduct since the proven misconduct; and

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


(e) the passage of time since the misconduct.

APPLICATION OF THE LAW TO THE FACTS

The Burden of Proof

[61] In this application, the parties agree that the applicant has the burden proving on the
balance of probabilities that he is presently of good character.23

[62] The Society has articulated three concerns on the question of whether Mr. Vincent is
presently of good character:

1. the misrepresentations made in his application for a licence and during the
Society’s subsequent investigation;
2. his 2004 conviction for fraud over $5,000; and
3. the conduct complaint of David Vaine made in 2008.

The Misrepresentations Made in Mr. Vincent’s Application for a Licence and during the
Society’s Subsequent Investigation

[63] A hearing panel is entitled to consider inaccuracies in the application for a licence in the
ultimate assessment of the applicant’s good character.24

[64] The Hearing Panel considers the misrepresentations in Mr. Vincent’s application and
during the Society’s subsequent investigation to have been serious and deliberate. The
application itself presented Mr. Vincent with a unique opportunity to demonstrate his
good character by truthfully and fully disclosing the nature of his 1969 conviction for
contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

[65] Mr. Vincent offers a very credible explanation for why he failed to be candid about the
1969 conviction in the application process. Who would not be reluctant to disclose a
“deep dark secret” from 40 years ago, especially when it was never repeated? In this,
however, we are obliged to measure Mr. Vincent’s concealment of the details of the 1969
conviction against one of the fundamental tests of good character. As Madam Justice
Southin wrote in her article on good character, “good character” comprises at least three
qualities:

1. An appreciation of the difference between right and wrong;

23
Levenson, at paragraph 71.
24
Levenson, at paragraph 96.

21
2. The moral fibre to do that which is right, no matter how uncomfortable the
doing may be and not to do that which is wrong no matter what the
consequences may be to oneself;
3. A belief that the law at least so far as it forbids things which are malum in
se must be upheld and the courage to see that it is upheld.25 [Emphasis

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


added.]

[66] Although Mr. Vincent offers an explanation for why he misrepresented the seriousness of
the 1969 conviction and its aftermath for both himself and the victim, his explanation
demonstrates that he lacked the moral fibre to make full disclosure when it counted the
most. Again, it is not the 1969 conviction itself that is at issue here. Mr. Vincent had the
opportunity to show that he had the moral fibre to disclose the nature of the 1969 offence
and the impact it had on his life. Instead of seizing the opportunity, he chose to mislead
the Society’s investigator by trivializing the offence and its personal impact on him and
his victim. Regrettably, we are of the view that Mr. Vincent failed the “moral fibre” test
when he chose to mislead the Society’s investigator about the nature of the 1969
conviction and its impact on him. Mr. Vincent changed his approach after he consulted
counsel, but this does not assist him. After all, it is his good character, not his counsel’s,
which is at issue in this application.

[67] Mr. Vincent’s expression of remorse for misleading the Society about the 1969
conviction appeared genuine to us. Although we accept that Mr. Vincent is genuinely
remorseful, we have given greater weight to the consideration that his misleading of the
Society is of recent origin. We note also that his decision to register for continuing
education courses in professional responsibility and ethics is also of recent origin.26

The 2004 Conviction for Fraud over $5000

[68] Paragraphs 33 through 38 of the Agreed Statement of Facts set out the basic facts of Mr.
Vincent’s conviction for fraud in 2004. These facts are summarized as follows:

a. On September 2, 2003, Mr. Vincent was arrested and “found to be in possession


of two stolen and altered cheques.”
b. At the time of his arrest, the police reported that Mr. Vincent was attempting to
tender one of the cheques at a Toronto Dominion Bank.
c. The cheque that Mr. Vincent was attempting to cash was made payable to him in
the amount of $56,700 and was drawn on the account of Caledonia Plastics Inc.
d. A bank employee became suspicious and contacted Caledonia Plastics and was
advised that the cheque had been originally issued to a different payee in the
amount of $377.
e. The police report also indicated that, after Mr. Vincent was arrested, the arresting
police officers searched him and discovered another cheque made payable to Mr.

25
Mary F. Southin, “What Is' Good Character'”? (1987), 35 The Advocate 129, at p. 129.
26
Mr. Vincent’s testified that he had enrolled in a course days before the hearing commenced and, although he has
enrolled, he had not yet paid for the course.

22
Vincent in the amount of $49,825.98 drawn on the account of a different
company.
f. Mr. Vincent was charged with five different criminal offences and entered a plea
of guilty to the charge of “fraud over $5000.”
g. Mr. Vincent was convicted of the charge and, in a joint submission, received one

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


years’ suspended sentence and a fine in the amount of $3,000.

[69] Mr. Vincent supplemented these basic facts with his oral testimony, on which he was
cross-examined. Overall, his testimony raised more questions than it answered.
Unfortunately, most of his testimony was uncorroborated by any documentary evidence.
Mr. Vincent explained that his computer had crashed in 2005 and he lost most of his
documentation, including numerous e-mail exchanges with the individuals who
apparently duped him into becoming an agent for their fraud. In cross-examination, Mr.
Vincent admitted that this extensive documentation had been given to both his criminal
defence lawyer and the Crown in 2004 when the criminal charges were pending against
him. Mr. Vincent’s criminal defence lawyer apparently did not keep any copies of Mr.
Vincent’s documents and Mr. Vincent admitted in cross-examination that he did not seek
to obtain a copy of his documents from the Crown’s file. Regrettably, we are left with a
somewhat confusing and disjointed story of Mr. Vincent’s involvement in nefarious and
quite obviously suspicious transactions which took him to Spain and Italy.

[70] In June 2003, Mr. Vincent had discussions with an individual by the name of “John
West.” Mr. West told Mr. Vincent that Mr. West and his associates in Spain were
looking for someone to assist them in Canada. The Hearing Panel did not hear much
more about Mr. West or how Mr. Vincent came to be in discussions with him, except that
his discussions with Mr. West were made exclusively over the Internet. Mr. Vincent
testified that from the outset he was only interested in doing business with Mr. West if
Mr. Vincent did not have to “pay any fees or advance any monies out of” his own
pocket.27

[71] These discussions with Mr. West culminated when Mr. West convinced Mr. Vincent that
Mr. West and his associates had found a Canadian investor who was interested in funding
their venture, but wanted to deal with another Canadian. Mr. West asked him to receive a
payment from this individual in the amount of $39,000. Mr. Vincent agreed. A cheque
in the amount of $39,000 arrived by courier.28 Mr. Vincent deposited the cheque into his
personal account. After he deposited the cheque, he transferred the bulk of the funds to
his personal line of credit the following day.29

[72] Mr. West instructed Mr. Vincent to deposit the money and to hold onto it until Mr.
Vincent was sure that the “money had cleared and the cheque was good.” He was then
instructed to forward the funds to Mr. West’s business account in Barcelona, Spain by
wire transfer.30

27
Transcript of Hearing (the evidence of Peter Paul Vincent), July 13, 2009, page 27.
28
Transcript, page 29.
29
Transcript, page 32.
30
Transcript, page 34.

23
[73] Mr. Vincent transferred the funds as he was instructed to do, but on July 11, 2003, the
Bank notified him that the original cheque of $39,900 had been dishonoured by the
Canadian firm on whose account the cheque had been drawn. The bank reversed the
transaction and Mr. Vincent was out-of-pocket by this amount.31

[74] Mr. Vincent immediately requested that his bank attempt to retrieve the money he had

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


wired to Barcelona. He also sent an e-mail to Mr. West advising that the original cheque
was no good and that he wanted his cash returned. Surprisingly, on July 31, 2003, his
account was credited with $40,440.67. As Mr. Vincent testified, “I got my money back,
and I made a little bit of money on the currency exchange.”32

[75] Although Mr. Vincent attempted to contact Mr. West by e-mail once or twice after this
incident, he received no reply.

[76] While the Hearing Panel can accept that Mr. Vincent’s naïveté may have been the reason
for the near loss of $40,000 of his own money to a fraudster, the Hearing Panel found it
incredible that Mr. Vincent failed to learn his lesson about conducting business
transactions with strangers over the Internet. Mr. Vincent apparently did not learn his
lesson and engaged in another two unscrupulous ventures, the latter of which led to his
arrest at the Toronto Dominion Bank.

[77] In July and August 2003, Mr. Vincent was “dealing with a number of different entities
from different places via the Internet.” The next fraudster with whom Mr. Vincent
conducted business was an individual whose first name was also “John.” John Paul33 was
from Saskatoon, operating, he claimed, on behalf of an Amsterdam Consortium.
Coincidentally, John Paul also had a $39,000 cheque that he was interested in having Mr.
Vincent negotiate. Mr. Vincent testified, however, that he was “very concerned about
cheques” and “didn’t want to touch anything like that.” He insisted that the only way he
would accept funds from John Paul would be by wire transfer. As Mr. Vincent said, “It’s
not something that can be faked.” John Paul agreed to have the $39,000 transferred by
wire transfer.34

[78] At the same time, Mr. Vincent was dealing with another Spanish group, this time a group
based in Madrid. Mr. Vincent had apparently developed a suspicion about Spanish
business groups, because this time he insisted on a face-to-face meeting with the
individuals involved. He flew at his own expense to Madrid on August 20, 2003 to meet
with his potential new business associates.35

[79] When he arrived in Madrid, Mr. Vincent started to become suspicious about the people
he was to meet. They asked for a meeting at the airport, but Mr. Vincent declined. They
then wanted to meet Mr. Vincent at his hotel. Again, Mr. Vincent declined. Mr. Vincent
proposed a meeting at the Canadian Consulate in Madrid. Eventually, Mr. Vincent

31
Transcript, page 38.
32
Transcript, page 41.
33
Apparently, a con man with a bit of a sense of humour.
34
Transcript, pages 43.
35
Transcript, page 45.

24
concluded that “they tried to dance me around the circle,” and that they were not
genuine.36

[80] At this point, one might reasonably have expected Mr. Vincent to stop exploring the
Internet opportunities he was receiving from strangers abroad, but he was not to be
deterred. While visiting an Internet Café in Madrid, he checked his e-mail account and

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


found that he had received a “reply” from yet another group based in Milan, Italy.
Instead of going home, Mr. Vincent arranged a meeting with this group and flew from
Madrid to Milan. Once again, however, Mr. Vincent could not make suitable
arrangements to meet representatives of this group at their office, which he understood to
be a bank. He concluded that the Milan group was also comprised of fraudsters. He flew
home.37

[81] When Mr. Vincent arrived back home on September 2, 2003, he discovered that a bank
deposit in the amount of $28,000 had been made to his account on August 28, 2003.38
Mr. Vincent assumed that the deposit was the wire transfer that John Paul had agreed to
make to his account prior to Mr. Vincent’s departure to Madrid. Upon inquiry, however,
Mr. Vincent learned that a cheque in the amount of $28,000 had been deposited to his
account in Vancouver on August 28. At Mr. Vincent’s request, the bank gave him a copy
of the cheque.39

[82] With a copy of the cheque, Mr. Vincent contacted the company in Calgary on whose
account the cheque had been drawn. He was told that the cheque was a fraud. He had his
bank immediately return the funds that had been deposited into his bank account.40

[83] Also waiting for Mr. Vincent when he returned from Spain and Italy were two courier
packages that had been left at his home. Each package contained a cheque. The first was
in the amount of $56,000 drawn on the account of Caledonia Plastics. The other was in
the amount of approximately $49,000.41 When asked to identify the sender of each
cheque, Mr. Vincent testified that he believed the cheques came from yet another group,
based in Madrid, Spain.

[84] With this particular group, Mr. Vincent had extensive e-mail communications. He
understood that this group operated an import-export business. They claimed to have two
customers in Toronto who owed them money. They preferred to deal with a Canadian
and asked him to receive the cheques. This was the third time that Mr. Vincent was
being asked to become involved in a suspicious transaction. He knew it was suspicious.
He testified, “I was extremely suspicious because of my experience with my $39,000
cheque....”42 He testified that he was supposed to earn a commission for his involvement
in the transaction, but admitted that he only had “very basic information” about the

36
Transcript, page 46.
37
Transcript, page 47.
38
Transcript, page 49.
39
Transcript, page 51.
40
Transcript, pages 55-58.
41
Transcript, pages 62-63.
42
Transcript, page 65.

25
group.

[85] Mr. Vincent did not deposit the cheques to his bank account. He was afraid that if they
bounced, he would “have trouble” with his bank. Instead of contacting the entities on
whose accounts the cheques had been drawn, as he had done once before, Mr. Vincent
went to the bank. He at first spoke to a teller who informed him that she could not assist

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


him. She did confirm for him that there were insufficient funds in the bank account of
Caledonia Plastics to cover the cheque. She directed him to another branch of the Bank.
Even though he suspected that the cheque was phony and now knew that there were
insufficient funds in the account to cover the cheque, Mr. Vincent nevertheless proceeded
to the second branch of the Bank to speak to the “account executive” in charge of the
Caledonia Plastics account. When he arrived at the second branch, he spoke to the
person he thought was the account executive for Caledonia Plastics. A short time later,
he was arrested and charged with five criminal offences resulting from his attempt to
negotiate a fraudulent cheque.43

[86] The disposition of the criminal charges is detailed in the Agreed Statement of Facts, as
excerpted above.

[87] Mr. Vincent’s testimony left the Hearing Panel with doubts about the true nature of Mr.
Vincent’s involvement in these transactions. In his testimony, he appeared to be a
reasonably intelligent and worldly person. He has significant experience as a
businessman, partly as an information-technology consultant. He testified that, at least
with respect to the last transaction, he was “highly suspicious” about the veracity of the
transaction. If the purpose of his testimony was to demonstrate to the Hearing Panel that
Mr. Vincent was an innocent dupe of a conspiracy to commit fraud, his testimony fell
short of the mark.

[88] Mr. Vincent’s testimony about the events leading up to his 2004 criminal conviction
appears to have been tendered to suggest that the severity of his 2004 criminal conviction
should be discounted by the fact that he himself was the victim of fraud and paid the
price of a criminal conviction as a result. In the absence of corroborative and
independent evidence, we are not convinced on the balance of probabilities that Mr.
Vincent was simply a naïve victim of fraud. His education and his business experience,
together with Mr. Vincent’s decision to continue dealing with individuals whom he
believed to be suspicious, are established facts that stand in the way of our acceptance of
Mr. Vincent’s testimony at face value.

[89] If anything, Mr. Vincent’s testimony convinces us that his involvement in these
fraudulent transactions was perhaps more extensive than the admitted facts of his 2004
criminal conviction would suggest. Quite apart from this lingering impression, Mr.
Vincent’s evidence does show at least an inability to recognize the obviously fraudulent
nature of the transactions in which he involved himself. His main concern was that he
personally not suffer a financial loss from these suspicious transactions. He did not seem
to concern himself with the potential losses to others. This point is illustrated by Mr.

43
Transcript, page 73.

26
Vincent’s testimony surrounding his arrest. He testified on several occasions that he
never did discover whether the second cheque found on his person at the time of his
arrest was any good or not. This issue seemed to concern him as much as his arrest on
multiple indictable criminal offences. We found this concern to be misplaced and
unusual given the predicament in which he found himself, especially when the

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


circumstances would strongly suggest that the second cheque was also fraudulent.

[90] Finally, we note that his rather extensive testimony about the circumstances surrounding
his 2004 criminal conviction seemed to be an effort to explain away his guilty plea and to
establish that he was actually a victim of fraudulent schemes perpetrated by others. He
testified, for example, that he pleaded guilty in part to avoid the cost of a trial. The
testimony was not aimed at establishing that Mr. Vincent is presently of good character.
Rather, it appeared to be aimed at establishing that his character in 2004 was not as bad
as his criminal conviction might suggest. If anything, his testimony shows that Mr.
Vincent still has some challenges in accepting full responsibility for his past conduct.

The Conduct Complaint of David Vaine Made in 2008

[91] The Agreed Statement of Facts sets out the following agreed facts relating to this issue:

(e) Complaint Respecting Candidate – 2008

39. The Candidate was retained to, amongst other things, serve a document
upon the complainant, David Vaine.

40. The Candidate contacted Mr. Vaine and advised Mr. Vaine that he wanted
to hire his moving company. The Candidate set up a meeting with Mr. Vaine at
Tim Horton’s in Oakville. After talking this over with his wife, Mr. Vaine
decided it was strange to meet a client to discuss a move at the Tim Horton’s. He
left a voice mail for the Candidate indicating he would not keep the appointment.

41. When Mr. Vaine advised the Candidate that he did not attend the meeting
at the Tim Horton’s, the Candidate attended at Mr. Vaine’s former workplace and
obtained Mr. Vaine’s mail, telling the occupants that he was seeing Mr. Vaine
later and would provide the mail to him.

42. Mr. Vaine’s wife received a telephone call from the Candidate on Sunday,
March 30, 2008. He informed her that he had Mr. Vaine’s mail and wanted to
meet with him.

43. When Mr. Vaine told the Candidate to return the mail to where he picked
it up from, the Candidate said he did not want to do that and insisted they get
together for a meeting so he could get his mail back.

44. Mr. Vaine warned the Candidate he would call the police and have him
charged if he did not return the mail to where he picked it up. The Candidate
replied,”If that is what you have to do, then that is what you have to do.”

27
45. Mr. Vaine telephoned the Halton Regional Police Service and Constable
Tom Zafrridis (7080) arrived to take a report and statement. Constable Zafiridis
telephoned the Candidate and cautioned him regarding potential charges that
could be laid should he not return Mr. Vaine’s mail to where he picked it up and

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


also warned him about having no further contact with Mr. Vaine.

46. The Candidate returned the mail the following day.

47. The Law Society obtained a copy ofthe police report. The investigator
spoke with Constable Zafiridis over the telephone. The officer said he did not
remember all of the particulars surrounding the occurrence but indicated when he
contacted the Candidate he was cooperative, but evasive in that he would not
readily say who he was and what position he was holding. The officer told the
Candidate to return the mail.

48. During the interview with the Law Society, the Candidate advised:

SD: Did you not think at any time along the way when you were doing this that
possibly this was the wrong way to do it and it may generate a complaint?

PV: Well I didn’t think it would generate a complaint but I did think at the
time I thought, you know, if somebody’s trying to duck service this is the way to
beat him at his own game ..

SD: Mmm-mmmm (affirmative).

PV: ... is to be sneaky about it but when I spoke to the police and he pointed out
that you can’t hold somebody’s mail I agreed and I returned it.

[92] Taken on its own, this particular incident may not be sufficient to deny Mr. Vincent a P1
licence. The incident shows, however, that Mr. Vincent recently attempted to use
deception and unlawful means44 to effect service of a small claims court proceeding.
Instead of acknowledging to the Society’s investigator that what he had done was
deceptive and unlawful and instead of expressing regret for what he had done, Mr.
Vincent instead justified his conduct by shifting responsibility to Mr. Vaine.

[93] Mr. Vaine may very well have been attempting to avoid service of process, but one can
imagine the intimidation that both Mr. Vaine and his wife may well have experienced
when Mr. Vincent, a stranger, called out of the blue with an offer to deliver Mr. Vaine’s
intercepted mail. It certainly was sufficient to provoke Mr. Vaine to call the police.

[94] It is troubling that Mr. Vincent never acknowledged that what he had done was improper
until after the notice of application was issued in this proceeding. Compared to the other

44
Mr. Vincent’s interception of Mr. Vaine’s mail and his refusal to turn it over when requested is not lawful, as was
pointed out to him by the investigating police officer.

28
concerns expressed by the Society about Mr. Vincent’s character, this incident may
appear relatively minor, but it nevertheless illustrates Mr. Vincent’s tendency to engage
in conduct which exhibits a lack of appreciation for the ethical standards demanded of a
licensed paralegal.

[95] Since the incident is of recent origin, it tends to support the conclusion that Mr. Vincent

2010 ONLSHP 51 (CanLII)


has not demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that he is presently of good
character.

CONCLUSION

[96] In the result, we order that Mr. Vincent’s application for a Class P1 licence be dismissed.

29