Legal Updates

Response to Court Decision

In an effort to protect Ontario patients, the College of Opticians of Ontario and the College of Optometrists of Ontario initiated a legal proceeding against Essilor Group of Canada Inc./Clearly. The Colleges sought an injunction that would prohibit Clearly from dispensing prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses online to the Ontario public, without following Ontario legislation. On January 11, 2018, the Superior Court of Justice for Ontario granted the  injunction. Clearly sought an appeal of the decision, which was heard on September 21, 2018.

On April 4, 2019, the Court of Appeal for Ontario released its decision granting Clearly's appeal. To read the full decision please click here.

The College of Opticians of Ontario and the College of Optometrists of Ontario are disappointed with the outcome of this appeal.  We will take time to conduct a more fulsome review of the decision and provide further information at a later date.

In the interim, we want to reiterate that our Colleges firmly believe that the Internet can be an effective tool for providing vision care. We have already established protocols to support how Ontario optometrists and opticians use the Internet to care for their patients and regularly review our professional standards of practice to ensure they are keeping pace with changes in technologies and other innovations.

Our position throughout this legal action has been, and continues to be, squarely focused on ensuring Ontario patients receive appropriate eye health care regardless of where they purchase their eyewear, be that in store or online. Our eye health is an important aspect of our overall health and well-being. Improperly fitted glasses can lead to eyestrain, double vision and headaches. Improperly fitted contact lenses pose an even greater risk and can cause sight-threatening injuries, such as corneal ulcers and infection. Children are at particular risk. Aside from the fact that we know that children with vision problems often suffer from low self-esteem, frustration, poor literacy and headaches, wearing improperly fabricated or dispensed eyewear can lead to permanent vision development issues.

As the regulators for the professions of optometry and opticianry, our role is to ensure that Ontarians receive the utmost standard of eye health care.

Court affirms professional standards can govern refraction, refuses to endorse optician's business model
In a decision released in January 2015, the Ontario Superior Court affirmed the enforceability of professional standards governing refraction. The matter was brought to the Court by an Ontario optician, who wanted the Court to declare that his business model was compliant with Ontario laws governing eye care professionals. In denying the optician's application, the Court affirmed that regulatory bodies can enforce professional standards, such as the College of Opticians of Ontario's standards for refraction. These standards do not have to be made through government-approved regulations. The College of Opticians acted as an intervenor in this case, providing assistance to the Court regarding the standards of practice for opticianry in Ontario.

Click here to read the full communication from the College as well as the Court's decision

College of Opticians of Ontario successfully obtains court
order prohibiting illegal practice in Vaughan

The College successfully obtained an injunction on May 30, 2013 prohibiting Tony Frisoli, the owner of Idol Optical located at 9333 Weston Rd., Vaughan, Ontario, from dispensing eyewear illegally. Mr. Frisoli is not a registered optician, optometrist or physician. He had conducted an eye test, issued a prescription and dispensed eyewear to one of the College’s undercover investigators without authorization. The College and the College of Optometrists of Ontario brought a joint application in the Superior Court of Justice to prohibit Mr. Frisoli and his companies from performing controlled health care acts illegally. An order was obtained, which requires him to ensure that only registered opticians, optometrists and physicians dispense (and only physicians and optometrists prescribe) eyewear at his store. Mr. Frisoli must also contribute towards both Colleges’ legal costs.

Click here to read the court order [PDF]

GREAT GLASSES UPDATE - October 1, 2010
(Toronto, Ontario; October 1, 2011): The College of Opticians of Ontario (COO) is pleased with today's decision by Justice James Turnbull to sentence Mr. Bruce Bergez to one year in jail without parole.

Click here to read the Media Release [PDF]

GREAT GLASSES UPDATE – August 24, 2010
On August 23, 2010, the College of Opticians of Ontario attended before Justice
Turnbull in Hamilton to listen to the Sentencing Submissions of Mr. Bruce Bergez. Also
in attendance were the College of Optometrists of Ontario, the Attorney General,
counsel for the individual store operators, and counsel for Eyelogic.

Click here to read the complete update [PDF]

On Friday July 2nd, 2010 Justice Turnbull released his 94 page decision (plus appendices and schedules) in the court case against SHS Optical Ltd. et al., including “Great Glasses” franchises, Mr. Bruce Bergez and Mrs. Joanne Bergez, referred to collectively as the Respondents.

[Click Here To Expand Summary +]

Click here to read the media release (PDF)

The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed applications for leave to appeal by Bruce Bergez and Joanne Bergez and associated companies from two decisions of the Ontario Court of Appeal, which upheld findings of contempt of court against them. They were found in contempt of court for operating Great Glasses optical stores in violation of the Judgment of Justice Harris of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice who had ordered them to comply with the Regulated Health Professions Act. (Justice Crane dated November 24, 2006 and Justice Fedak, dated December 14, 2007). Substantial fines were ordered to be paid by them as a result of the findings of contempt. With the dismissal of their applications for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, they have exhausted all of their appeal rights. Enforcement of the Court Orders is now in the hands of the Attorney General of Ontario, with the support of the College of Opticians and the College of Optometrists. Click here to read the Judgments of the Courts (PDF).

On February 12, 2010, a panel of the Discipline Committee of the College of Opticians of Ontario revoked Bruce Bergezs certificate of registration as an optician in Ontario, following a finding of professional misconduct against him. Bruce Bergez had been under an interim suspension order by the Executive Committee of the College before that date. Click here to read the decision of the Discipline Committee of the College of Opticians of Ontario.

Hamilton Spectator Article – January 14, 2009
Still in contempt - Appeal by Great Glasses founder denied, court upholds $50,000-aday fine

Click here to read the full article.

Hamilton Spectator Article – January 12, 2009
Bid to shut down Great Glasses starts this week - College of Opticians wants stores closed

Click here to read the full article.

Hamilton Spectator Article – January 9, 2009
Optician's fate hangs in balance - Allegations of misconduct

Click here to read the full article.

Decision Re: Bergez Appeal – Jan 6, 2009

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by Bruce Bergez and the other appellants (Joanne Bergez and their companies) from the Judgment of Justice Fedak. All of the arguments made were dismissed by the Court of Appeal, and the fine of $16 million was upheld.

Click here to read the decision.

Justice Fedak - October 2007
Decision Re: Great Glasses

Click here to read the decision (PDF)

Justice Crane - November 24, 2006
Decision Re: Great Glasses

Click here to read the full article.

Decision Re: Injunction Application

In 2003 the College of Optometrists of Ontario sought and was granted an injunction against SHS Optical Ltd., Dundurn Optical Ltd. and John Doe, all carrying on business as Great Glasses; Joanne Marie Bergez, and Bruce Bergez. Please click here for a copy of Justice Harris' decision and reasons.

The College of Optometrists of Ontario has applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for an order of contempt alleging that the above named respondents are in violation of the Court Order. The College of Opticians supports the College of Optometrists in their application.

After a court hearing on March 30, 2006, the Honourable Mr. Justice Festeryga found Bruce Bergez in contempt of Court for failing to answer certain questions that on February 7, 2006, he had been ordered by the Court to answer. Justice Festeryga ordered that Bruce Bergez be immediately imprisoned until such time as he has purged his contempt by attending before an Official Examiner in Toronto, at his own expense to answer his outstanding undertakings and his refusals. Mr. Bergez undertook to the Court that he would answer the questions put to him, and enforcement of the Order was suspended for 30 days to allow this to happen.

The College was informed on October 24, 2006 that the matter against Great Glasses was being heard October 25 and October 26, 2006 in Hamilton at the John Sopinka Courthouse.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice reached a decision in the Contempt of Court proceedings against Mr. Bruce Bergez. Bruce Bergez was found in contempt of court and ordered, among other things, to pay a fine of 1 million dollars. You can read the decision here.

The College of Optometrists and the College of Opticians brought a motion requesting the Court to order compliance with the non-monetary portions of Justice Crane's November 2006 order. The matter was heard during the week of August 27th 2007 at the Hamilton Courthouse. On October 10, 2007 Justice Fedak released his judgment. Justice Fedak ordered a fine of $50,000 per day since the date of Justice Crane's. Bruce Bergez has filed a motion requesting leave to appeal.

On February 6, 2008, the Ontario Court of Appeal heard the appeal brought by Great Glasses, appealing the contempt order of Justice Crane. The College of Optometrists were the responding party and as we have been throughout this particular matter we were there as intervenors.

The College of Opticians and College of Optometrists were successful before the Court of Appeal in a case ordering the largest known fine for contempt in Canada. The Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the judgment of Justice Crane of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, finding Bruce Bergez, his wife Joanne Bergez, and corporations controlled by them in contempt of Court for violating a 2003 Court Order requiring them to comply with the Regulated Health Professions Act. In its complete dismissal of the appeal, the Court found that the evidence proved contempt beyond a reasonable doubt: “There were no controverted facts relating to matters essential to a finding of liability on the part of any appellant, corporate or individual.”

The liability of Joanne Bergez was rooted in her role as sole shareholder and director of one of the corporate respondents. The Court noted that Mrs. Bergez “plainly benefits from the financial rewards associated with the business” of Great Glasses. The Court also upheld the penalty including the fine of $1,000,000 ordered to be paid by Bruce Bergez and the corporate defendants and concluded, “In this case, there is a singular need for punishment. It is essential that any monetary penalty imposed not be or appear to be a licence fee for further disobedience of a public health care statute”. The penalty imposed emphasized the “denunciation of the appellants’ intransigent and unremitting refusal to obey the law. We cannot suffer the sacrifice of the rule of law to the lure of lucre.”

The decision contained a reminder that the RHPA was enacted to ensure that the people of Ontario only “receive health care from health care professionals within the boundaries of the providers’ accredited expertise”. The Court found that Bruce Bergez “ignored the restrictions imposed upon his own competence in the public interest and redrew the boundaries to suit his own crass commercial purposes.” The Court also stated that just because a person disagrees with a law, it does not mean that that person is entitled to break the law.

Finally, the Court concluded that this “is a case of flagrant, protracted and deliberate disobedience of a court order to comply with a statute regulating the conduct of a health profession.” The Court found that none of the appellants, especially Bruce Bergez, had any intention of complying with the RHPA or the 2003 Court Order.