Oct 15, 2020

Unregistered persons can be creative in the use of language to describe themselves and their services. When there is a risk that members of the public might confuse those unregistered persons with regulated practitioners, the courts’ powers can be invoked. That occurred in the case of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Of New Brunswick v Anhorn, 2018 NBQB 246 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/hww05>. In New Brunswick, the naturopathy profession is not regulated. The issue in the case was whether naturopaths using phrases like “medically trained” and “practice of family medicine” to describe themselves or their naturopathy practice could reasonably be viewed as holding themselves out as physicians. The Court was of the view that they were illegally holding out and that the phrases they used “are misleading because that assumes that people understand what exactly is naturopathy”.

This case should be read with some caution, at least in the five jurisdictions in Canada (including Ontario) where naturopaths are regulated and are subject to various requirements when describing themselves and their practice. The Anhorn case is a lower court decision from another province where naturopathy is not regulated. However, the case suggests that whether there is “holding out” should be assessed from the perspective of a consumer who is not familiar with the professions in issue.