Regulatory body for Ontario opticians applauds Court of Appeal decision in "Great Glasses" case



    TORONTO, Jan. 15 /CNW/ - In a decision released Tuesday, the Ontario
Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Bruce and Joanne Marie Bergez of
Hamilton, Ontario and their companies carrying on business under the name
"Great Glasses". The Court upheld the decision of Justice Fedak of the Ontario
Superior Court of Justice that the Bergez' and Great Glasses have continued to
operate their business in violation of the Regulated Health Professions Act
(the "RHPA") by allowing staff members working in the stores to dispense
prescription eyewear to customers without valid prescriptions and without
being opticians, optometrists or physicians. The Court of Appeal also upheld a
fine of $50,000 for each and every day that the Bergez' and Great Glasses
continued to dispense prescription eyewear in violation of the RHPA. That fine
now has a cumulative total of $16 million in addition to a $1 million fine
previously ordered by Justice Crane of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice,
which was upheld by the Court of Appeal in October 2008. The Court of Appeal
also ordered costs against the Bergez' and their companies of $42,000 relating
to this appeal. A brief summary of the history of the Court cases is attached
to this Media Release.
    In their judgment, Justices Doherty, Weiler and MacFarland found that
there was no merit to the Bergez'/Great Glasses claim that they were denied a
fair opportunity to address the allegations that they were not complying with
the previous court orders or present evidence to show that they were complying
or attempting to comply with Justice Crane's order. Nor did the Appeal Court
find any procedural or constitutional errors that would warrant setting aside
the previous judgments. On the matter of the fines, the Justices stated:

    "Obviously, this fine imposed is a very significant one. However, the
brazen nature of the appellants' contempt, its lengthy and ongoing nature and
the risk to the public health and safety posed by the appellants' conduct
demanded a substantial fine that would act as a strong disincentive to the
continuation of this kind of conduct."

    And

    "The fact that the appellants, having been fined $1,000,000, carried on
their operation in violation of an order knowing that they faced potentially
huge penalties, speaks loudly to the need for a very significant penalty."

    The College of Opticians, which regulates the Opticianry profession in
Ontario, was an Intervenor in the case. In 2006, the College suspended Bruce
Bergez' licence to practise as an optician because of his role in the illegal
prescribing and dispensing practices at Great Glasses.
    Caroline MacIsaac-Power, Registrar of the College of Opticians said: "The
College applauds the Court of Appeal Decision and hopes it brings this long
and difficult saga finally to a close. The College's only objective throughout
this process has been to ensure that Mr. Bergez --- like all Opticians ---
practise their profession in full compliance with the law."
    "The College has repeatedly made it clear to Opticians and the public
alike that each practitioner must fully comply with the law and this College's
requirements in dispensing prescription eyewear," stated Jeff Fernandes,
College President and a practising Optician. "The College will continue to
communicate this message to the public and to the profession, but the public
should not patronize companies such as Great Classes unless and until they
comply, no matter how attractive their prices for eyewear might be."

    The College of Opticians is the professional, self-governing body for
Ontario's registered Opticians under the RHPA and the Opticianry Act, 1991.
There are currently 2,131 Opticians registered to practise in Ontario by the
College.

    
                         BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
                         --------------------------
    

    September 16, 2002: College of Optometrists initiates Court application
against Bergez/"Great Glasses" to stop "Great Glasses" from dispensing
prescription eyewear without valid prescriptions.

    December 5, 2002: College of Opticians granted intervener status in the
Court application against Bergez/"Great Glasses".

    June 24, 2003: Justice Harris of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
finds Bergez/"Great Glasses" in violation of the Regulated Health Professions
Act for dispensing prescription eyewear without valid prescriptions and orders
them to stop.

    November 24, 2006: Justice Crane of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
finds Bergez/"Great Glasses" in contempt of the order of Justice Harris and
fines them $1,000,000. The Court also ordered a fine of $50,000 for each and
every day that they continue to not comply with the previous court orders.

    December 14, 2007: Justice Fedak of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
finds that Bergez/"Great Glasses" failed to comply with the previous court
orders and orders them to pay total cumulative fines of $16,000,000.

    October 10, 2008: The Ontario Court of Appeal dismisses Bergez'/"Great
Glasses" appeal from the judgment of Justice Crane and orders them to pay
costs of $40,000.

    January 13, 2009: The Ontario Court of Appeal dismisses Bergez'/"Great
Glasses" appeal against the previous decisions and orders them to pay costs of
$42,000, in addition to payment of the fines already levied by the Courts.





For further information:

For further information: Caroline MacIsaac-Power at (416) 368-3616 ext.
210

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COLLEGE OF OPTICIANS OF ONTARIO

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