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LETTER: Psychologists' ethical obligation compelled effort to have misrepresentation corrected

'I vehemently disagree with that my actions were an 'attack' and part of a 'smear effort.' My interactions ... were respectful, appropriate, and consistent with the ethical standards of my profession,' says letter writer
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RE: 'This is why people who look like me and think like me don't run': Newmarket-Aurora Liberal candidate speaks out against 'smear campaign', Jan. 15, 2022.

A recent article stated that my practice, Central Ontario Psychology, was involved in a “smear effort” against Shameela Shakeel, representing one “point of attack” among others that she stated she has endured as a nominee for political candidacy. I must answer these claims.

It is illegal to hold oneself out as a psychologist without proper authorization; it’s against the ethics of our profession to allow another person to do so. On Jan. 12, I came across a political blog that referred to both Dr Sylvain Roy and Shameela Shakeel as “psychologists.” I checked with the College of Psychologists of Ontario website; she is not a member, and therefore, is not a psychologist.  

I alerted the blogger to the error; he promptly corrected it. I don’t believe Ms. Shakeel had any involvement in the error.

However, in the course of looking into it, I found a link to her website, where she appropriately refers to herself as a psychometrist (meaning she has training in psychological testing, and practises under the supervision of a psychologist). She also includes a list of media mentions, the first being a link to a NewmarketToday article of December 2020. In it, she was referred to as a psychologist twice.

I now had an ethical obligation to act. I tried to contact the journalist without success, as he is no longer employed with the website. I contacted Ms. Shakeel directly by email, explained the problematic presentation of her qualifications, and recommended that she reach out to NewmarketToday for a correction. I also noted it was problematic that she linked to the article without indicating her qualifications had been misrepresented. I recommended that she post a comment to that effect on her website.

I could have brought a complaint to CPO and let them deal with it. However, it’s appropriate, and less confrontational, to raise less severe ethical infractions with our colleagues to allow them to address it. But she’s under the supervision of a psychologist who is responsible for her professional behaviour.

As I explained to her, this is why I asked for the identity of her supervisor; I needed to ensure she and her supervisor discussed the appropriate management of this error in the media. Once I had alerted the supervisor, I had no intention of taking any further action, as I had told her in an email.

According to the Jan. 15 article in NewmarketToday: Another point of attack that has emerged came from Central Ontario Psychology, which sent her an email with concerns she had misrepresented herself as a psychologist…Shakeel said part of a smear effort required the psychologist she worked with to get involved. 

I vehemently disagree that my actions were an “attack” and part of a “smear effort.” My interactions with her were respectful, appropriate, and consistent with the ethical standards of my profession. Indeed, she followed my advice, completely. I thought the issue was done.   

She is the one who made this issue public. It is deeply unfair to describe my actions as an “attack” and a “smear effort.”

Dr. Jonathan Douglas, Psychologist , Central Ontario Psychology, Barrie