Unlicensed acupuncturist Xiao Hong Liu — who was suspended by Newfoundland and Labrador's regulatory body in 2020 and has been found in contempt of court twice for refusing to stop — has promised to give up acupuncture.
Liu made her first appearance in court Wednesday, after being taken into custody the previous day and held in the lockup overnight. It was the first time Liu had appeared in court, having skipped all previous hearings.
Justice Glen Noel told Liu she could be released from custody — for now — if she promised to give up acupuncture and abide by the previous court orders.
"I can stop completely," she said. "I can move on with my life."
Liu is due back in court on Jan. 15, when Noel will decide what to do about the two contempt of court orders against her. It's possible Liu will be facing jail time.
Justice Glen Noel said placing Xiao Hong Liu in custody was a last resort. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)
Liu's case began in 2019, when someone lodged a complaint about the cleanliness of her practice. She refused to take part in the process, leading to her licence being suspended in February 2020.
The regulator — as well as a CBC News investigation — found her offering acupuncture services numerous times since her licence was suspended, leading to a pair of guilty findings from the Newfoundland and Labrador Council of Health Professionals.
The NLCHP turned to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in an attempt to escalate the situation. Noel then ordered an injunction telling Liu to stop practising.
She's been found in violation of that injunction twice, and the lawyer for the regulator provided evidence at a hearing on Tuesday that she had once again been caught offering acupuncture services.
That led Noel to issue a directive to have Liu arrested and brought before the court involuntarily.
Disagreement over jurisdiction
Liu told the court repeatedly Wednesday that she doesn't recognize the authority of the provincial regulator. She said she is certified by an Ontario board that is nationally recognized.
"Do you understand, that as the board's right to regulate you, they told you to stop?" Noel asked Liu.
"I don't know," she replied. "I don't belong to that board. I quit that board."
Everyone practising acupuncture in Newfoundland and Labrador is required to be certified by the NLCHP, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Professionals Act.
It wasn't clear from Liu's responses if she understood. Instead, she told Noel that everyone has different standards, and she believed the provincial board had an "elementary education" of acupuncture.
Liu also told the judge she hadn't been notified of previous orders against her. The NLCHP's lawyer, Ryan Belbin, took issue with that statement and reminded Liu that the sheriff's officers had taped the first order to multiple walls in her office when they confiscated her needles in July.
Case affects confidence in justice system, says judge
Belbin has until Nov. 15 to come up with his submissions on what should happen to Liu. The punishment for contempt of court can vary widely based on a judge's discretion.
It's possible Liu could be fined, or she could be sentenced to a period of jail time.
Noel said the consequences will largely depend on whether she keeps her promise to stop practising acupuncture until her next court appearance in January.
Her case highlights a key concern of the justice system, Noel added.
"The broader concern is the public interest that court orders, particularly contempt of court orders, must be be enforced, otherwise the public will lose respect and confidence in the court."