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Supreme Court of Canada

Law of professions—Chartered accountant and licensed general accountant—“Acting in such a way as to lead to the belief”—Information wording—Professional Code, 1973 (Que.), c. 43, ss. 32, 37(b)—Chartered Accountants Act, 1973 (Que.), c. 64, s. 24.

Respondent was prosecuted under the Summary Convictions Act and s. 32 of the Professional Code. He was a member of the Professional Corporation of Licensed General Accountants of Quebec, and was charged with acting in such a way as to indicate that he was authorized to engage in public accountancy by attaching to financial statements a letter suggesting that he was a public accountant. In appellant’s submission, s. 24 of the Chartered Accountants Act reserves the right to engage in public accountancy exclusively to members of the Order of Chartered Accountants of Quebec. Respondent maintained that para. (b) of s. 37 of the Professional Code allows him to do so in matters involving industrial or commercial accounting services.

Respondent was found guilty in the Court of Sessions of the Peace but acquitted by first the Superior Court and then the Court of Appeal.

Held: The appeal should be dismissed.

There is no need in the case at bar for this Court to pronounce upon the interpretation to be given to the sections determining the respective legal limits of professional activity of chartered accountants and certified general accountants, since respondent should in any case be acquitted in view of the nature of the information and of the evidence. Neither the content of the letters written by respondent and the fact that he attached them to financial statements, nor the fact that he admitted he was not a member of the Order of Chartered Accountants and that he had been paid amounted on his part to acting in such a way as to lead to the belief that he was authorized to practise public accountancy. A person may very well engage in public accountancy without thereby acting in such a way as to lead to the belief that he is authorized to do so, and in the case at bar the

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charge was not of having engaged in public accountancy, but of acting in such a way as to lead to the belief that he was authorized to do so.

APPEAL from a decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec affirming a judgment of the Superior Court and reversing a decision of the Court of Sessions of the Peace. Appeal dismissed.

Bernard Roy, for the appellant.

Marcel Rivest, for the respondent.

English version of the judgment of the Court delivered by

LAMER J.—This appeal is from a judgment of the Court of Appeal of Quebec dismissing the appeal brought by the Order of Chartered Accountants of Quebec against a judgment of a justice of the Superior Court, sitting in appeal under the Summary Convictions Act of Quebec, R.S.Q. 1964, c. 35. In that judgment, the Superior Court justice acquitted respondent, whom a judge of the Court of Sessions of the Peace had found guilty on two charges, the content of which is essentially the same. It will suffice for the purposes of this appeal to reproduce here only one of these charges, indicating in parentheses those elements which vary from one information to the other:

[TRANSLATION] (On or about May 31, 1975) acted in such a way as to lead to the belief that he was authorized to engage in a professional activity reserved to the members of the Professional Corporation of Chartered Accountants of Quebec, which is not permitted by law, by attaching to the financial statements which he prepared for (Ste‑Anne Barbecue, in Ste-Anne de Beaupré) a letter suggesting that he is a public accountant, contrary to and in breach of the provisions of s. 32 of the Professional Code …

These charges were laid and decided in accordance with the Summary Convictions Act and in light of s. 32 of the Professional Code, 1973 (Que.), c. 43:

No person shall claim in any manner to be an advocate, notary, physician, dentist, pharmacist, optometrist, veterinary surgeon, agrologist, architect, engineer, land‑surveyor, forest engineer, chemist, chartered accountant, radiological technician, dental technician, dispensing optician, chiropractor, hearing-aid acoustician, podiatrist or nurse, or use any title which may lead to the belief that he is one, or engage in a professional activity

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reserved to the members of a professional corporation, claim to have the right to do so or act in such a way as to lead to the belief that he is authorized to do so, unless he holds a valid, appropriate permit and is entered on the roll of the corporation empowered to issue the permit, unless it is allowed by law. (Emphasis is mine.)

Appellant argues that the evidence showed that the accused, a certified general accountant, and a member of the Professional Corporation of Licensed General Accountants of Quebec, acted in such a way as to indicate that he was authorized to engage in public accountancy and therefore in breach of the Code; in appellant’s submission, s. 24 of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1973 (Que.), c. 64, reserves exclusively to members of the Order of Chartered Accountants of Quebec the right to engage in public accountancy. Respondent pleads that para. (b) of s. 37 of the Professional Code allows him to do so in matters involving industrial or commercial accounting services.

Respondent further argues that, even if this Court concludes that he was not entitled to engage in industrial or commercial public accountancy, he should nonetheless be acquitted in view of the nature of the information and of the evidence in the case at bar.

With this latter submission, I agree; as a result, that issue no longer arises and there is therefore no need for this Court to pronounce upon the interpretation to be given to the sections determining the respective legal limits of professional activity of chartered accountants and certified general accountants.

For the purposes of this appeal, therefore, it will suffice to cite ss. 24 and 19 of the Chartered Accountants Act and s. 37 of the Professional Code:

24. Subject to the rights and privileges expressly granted by law to other professionals, no person may practise public accountancy unless he is a chartered accountant.

19. Engagement by a person, for remuneration, in the art or science of accountancy or in the auditing of books or accounts and the offer of his services to the public for

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such purposes constitutes the practice of public accountancy.

However, a person does not practise public accountancy within the meaning of this act if he acts exclusively as a book-keeper, provided that if he offers his services to the public, he advertises only as a book-keeper.

37. Every person entered on the roll of one of the following professional corporations may engage in the following professional activities in addition to those otherwise allowed him by law:

(a) …

(b) the Professional Corporation of Certified General Accountants of Quebec: perform book-keeping and industrial or commercial accounting services;

Assuming, without deciding the point, the appellant is correct in interpreting these provisions as denying to certified general accountants the right to engage in public accountancy, the question when considered in light of the charge is whether the content of the letters written by respondent and the fact that he attached them to financial statements amounted on his part to acting “in such a way as to lead to the belief that he [was] authorized to” (Professional Code, supra, s. 32) “practise public accountancy” (Chartered Accountants Act, supra, s. 24).

It is convenient to reproduce both of these letters here:

[TRANSLATION]

Gilles Goulet
CERTIFIED GENERAL ACCOUNTANT
Tel: 827-2298
9497 boul. Ste-Anne, Ste-Anne de Beaupré, Que.
GOA 3C0

Accountant’s remarks

Ste-Anne Texaco Service Enr.
Messrs. Claude Cloutier and
Gilbert Gagnon, prop.
9698 Boul.
Ste-Anne
Ste-Anne de Beaupré, Que.

Dear Sirs:

I have prepared the statement of income and expenditure for the fiscal year ending on February 28, 1975,

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using the books of Ste-Anne Texaco Service Enr. and information supplied to me.

I have undertaken to make no audit and I therefore express no opinion on these financial statements.

These financial statements are submitted with comparative figures for 1974, contained in the financial statements prepared by the firm of Pierre Racine et Cie, C.A.. I have not audited these amounts.

Trusting that this will be entirely to your satisfaction, and thanking you for your confidence in my firm.

                                                                                             Yours very truly,

                                                                                             (signed)
                                                                                             Gilles Goulet
                                                                                             Certified General Accountant

Ste-Anne de Beaupré,
June 19, 1975.
[TRANSLATION]
Gilles Goulet
CERTIFIED GENERAL ACCOUNTANT
Tel. 827-2298
9497 boul. Ste-Anne, Ste-Anne de Beaupré, Que.
G0A 3C0

Accountant’s remarks

To Shareholders of Ste-Anne B.B.Q., Inc.
Rôtisserie Ste-Anne Inc.
9309 boul.
Ste-Anne
Ste-Anne de Beaupré, Que.

Dear Sirs:

I have examined the balance sheet of Ste-Anne B.B.Q. Inc.—Rôtisserie Ste-Anne Inc., at May 31, 1975, and the statement of undistributed profits, the statement of income and expenditure and the statement of the source and use of funds for the fiscal year ending on this date.

I have relied on the entries made by the company’s bookkeepers and have not made any test or audit of the amounts entered. However, I have analysed the capital assets and certain expenditure accounts which appear to me to be significant. I have not confirmed with banks, creditors or debtors amounts to their credit.

These financial statements are submitted with comparative figures for 1974, which I have taken from the financial statements prepared by the firm of Pierre Racine et Cie, C.A.. I have included these for purposes of comparison only and if anyone wishes to draw any conclusions as to their value, he should examine the original financial statements and the comments of the expert accountant attached thereto.

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Accordingly, I express no opinion on these financial statements, because I am not in a position to do so. I only present the facts as they were supplied to me.

Thanking you for your confidence in my firm, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further information.

                                                                                             Yours very truly,

                                                                                             (signed)
                                                                                             Gilles Goulet
                                                                                             Certified General Accountant

Ste-Anne de Beaupré
July 7, 1975.

In addition to these two letters, the evidence contains two admissions by respondent, namely, that he was not a member of the Order of Chartered Accountants, and that he was paid for the accounting work done for these two clients.

Such evidence could perhaps have been a basis for a finding that respondent was guilty on a charge of having engaged in public accountancy, but not on one of acting in such a way as to lead to the belief that he was authorized to do so.

A person may very well engage in public accountancy without thereby acting in such a way as to lead to the belief that he is authorized to do so; he may even do so while warning his clients that he is not entitled to do so; conversely, one can just as easily claim to have the right to do so without actually doing so.

Considering the charge and the evidence adduced in its support I would conclude, like the Superior Court justice, that Mr. Goulet should be acquitted, though for different reasons.

I would dismiss this appeal with costs.

Appeal dismissed with costs.

Solicitors for the appellant: Ogilvy & Renault, Montreal.

Solicitors for the respondent: Jasmin, Rivest, Castiglio, Castiglio & Lebel, Montreal.

 

 

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