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Professional system

  • Background

    The supervision of professional practice has been a concern since ancient times-as witnessed by the stone monument dating back to roughly 1750 B.C. known as Hammurabi's Code.( ) The Babylonian king Hammurabi had it engraved with a summary of royal legal decisions, elements of which address what we today call the professions. The Code defines certain terms for the practice of medicine, architecture and veterinary medicine. There are also provisions regarding fees as well as punishments and compensation for improper practice.

    Later, in other civilizations and nations, different forms of professional supervision and organization emerged, usually in relation to the quality of training and practice and the protection of clients.

    • New France and the British Regime

      In North America, under the impact of colonization, supervisory models were inspired by those existing in Europe.

      In New France, Royal declarations and orders issued between 1717 and 1733 established various procedures for conserving, determining the validity of, and executing notarial acts in the colony. The first document to regulate the practice of medicine and surgery was written in 1755 by Intendant Bigot.

      After the British Conquest in 1760, an ordinance of the Legislative Council in 1785 separated and institutionalized the professions of lawyer and notary, while prohibiting notaries from simultaneously practising as surveyors. (For a time, one enterprising individual had simultaneously practised the functions of surveyor, notary and lawyer.) In the same year, surveyors obtained professional status. In 1788, another ordinance( ) was issued to regulate the practice of medicine, surgery, pharmacology and child delivery. At that time, the State directly authorized the practice of a profession by granting permissions. Professional corporations, delegated to certify professional knowledge and morality, would appear later.

    • From the first professional

      The first professional corporations appeared in the mid-1900s, at the dawn of urbanization and industrialization in Québec. These were corporations of notaries, physicians and lawyers and they came to symbolize professionalism.

      At that time, the grouping of members of these professions in a corporation was a response to an urgent need to protect their clientele and safeguard the reputation of the profession against impostors, of whom there were many, due to the absence of clearly defined training standards.

      For the same reasons, other professional corporations emerged, their constitution usually coinciding with Québec's principal phases of development. Between 1960 and 1970, a period characterized by an explosion of knowledge and accelerated social development, fields of knowledge subdivided and new sectors emerged.

      Claiming their practice had the characteristics of a "profession," numerous associations composed of individuals working in a particular sector asked the government to be constituted as professional corporations. As a result, the decade between 1960 and 1970 saw the creation of many new professions.

    • The reform of 1973-1974: the Professional Code

      In 1970, the Castonguay-Nepveu Commission tabled its report on the Québec health system. A section of the report entitled "The Professions and Society" challenged the organization of the health professions and those in other fields.

      The Commission found that the professional corporations were failing to adapt appropriately to the new social and economic conditions. More specifically, it asserted that the concept of "liberal profession," in the sense of an independent intellectual occupation practiced in isolation with no outside control, was irrelevant, both to the more recent professions and, increasingly, to the older ones. Moreover, it criticized the chaotic multiplication of new professional corporations and the ensuing legislative, institutional and procedural inconsistencies.

      In the wake of the Castonguay-Nepveu Commission recommendations, and under the constitutional jurisdiction conferred on the provinces in this area by the Constitution of Canada, Québec's National Assembly introduced the Professional Code in 1973, and at the same time passed or amended 21 bills on the professions.

      Most provisions of the Professional Code came into force in 1974. Since then, the Code has ensured legislative and regulatory consistency by subjecting all orders to common organizational principles adapted to the conditions of contemporary society and the needs of those using professional services today.

      With the passage of the Professional Code, the protection of the public became the principal objective of the professional system.

      Under the Code, the government is mandated to constitute professional orders and entrust them with the mandate of protecting the public with respect to activities involving the risk of harm to physical and psychological integrity and to property. The orders carry out this mandate by regulating and monitoring the practice of professional activities.

    • A balance of powers : independence, transparency, accountability and monitoring

      The underlying philosophy of the Professional Code is a balance of powers enabling the State to mobilize the expertise of professionals in their field of practice and draw on this expertise to formulate and ensure compliance with standards designed to ensure proper professional practice.

      This translates into an organizational, regulatory and monitoring model for professions that is based on the principle of self-management by the regulated professionals. They themselves manage the supervisory and monitoring body for their field. Still, professional self-management is subject to the format and process set out in the Professional Code and is monitored by the State.

      State delegation of the power to supervise a profession (power to certify, prohibit, investigate, and impose penalties) is a politically sensitive issue. The same is true of the monopolistic impact, economically speaking, of exclusive practice or utilization of a title that comes under professional supervision. It was important, then, that the State-ultimately accountable to citizens for the powers that it delegates-adopt means by which to monitor and intervene in the event of the abusive or inappropriate exercise of these powers by the professional orders.

      There is a wide variety of approaches in the matter of professional supervision, from direct State regulation, to regulation by semi-independent public boards and committees, to the delegation of powers to professional groupings that enjoy a degree of autonomy.

      The Québec government opted for a system that accords broad powers and decision-making autonomy to the professional orders, while subjecting them to a form of monitoring. The powers of the orders are: admission to professional practice; the monitoring and investigation of professional practice; and the punishment of violations of the laws and regulations.

      The external control of the orders established by the Professional Code brought new actors into the system and translates into a range of coordinating, transparency and accountability measures. Among these:

      • devolution to the government of the power to pass certain regulations and approve and amend regulations proposed by the professional orders with respect to the protection of the public;
      • the implementation of means for the State to monitor and intervene with the professional orders;
      • the creation of the Office des professions as a government agency to monitor professional orders and act as an advisory body to government;
      • the introduction of the Interprofessional Council - created before passage of the Professional Code - among the system's institutions as an advisory body to government and coordinating tool for the professional orders;
      • the appointment by the Office of members representing the public to the boards of directors of the professional orders;
      • the opening up of the disciplinary council through the publication of their decisions;
      • the appointment by the government of the chairperson of the committee on discipline;
      • the creation of the Professions Tribunal;
      • more detailed and consistent definition of clients' rights and recourse;
      • more consideration of the principles of natural justice in decisional and quasi-judicial processes;
      • the creation of training committees to ensure coordination with educational institutions (colleges and universities) regarding professional training.

      Transparency and accountability measures have been improved over the years in tandem with Québec society's evolving expectations and values. Among these:

      • opening disciplinary committee hearings to the public (1988);
      • the review of disciplinary procedures, in particular, by setting up a review committee to examine the decision of a syndic to lodge (or not lodge) a disciplinary complaint (1994);
      • greater consideration of the principles of natural justice in decisional and quasi-judicial processes;
      • the reinforcement of means for the State to monitor and intervene with the professional orders (1994);
      • the passage of an access to information Bill giving the public the right to obtain information on the activities of the professional orders with respect to the control of professional practice (2006).
  • The concept of protection of the public

    Because its principal function is the protection of the public, the professional system draws on the demands and values of Québec society, expressed in particular by the fundamental rights enshrined in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. These rights may be summarized as follows:

    • the right to physical and psychological integrity
    • the rights to professional secrecy and privacy
    • the right to safeguard personal property

    Both by the language used and by their exercise, these rights place individuals at the centre of decisions that concern them. The concept of protection of the public is therefore interpreted in light of these fundamental rights and the role of the person with respect to these rights.

    • The State and the protection of the public

      The State employs diverse means to prevent prejudice or injuries and ensure effective and equitable compensation for prejudice that is sustained. One example would be the opportunity of a wronged person to prosecute for civil or contractual responsibility. Other examples are the adoption of product manufacturing or consumer protection standards.

      Still, in some cases, individuals might find themselves especially powerless in particularly complex situations, or ones involving incompetence or dishonesty. Although they are responsible for their decisions in terms of exercising their fundamental rights, it can sometimes be very difficult to assess the appropriateness and quality of services provided by others without the benefit of training in the field in question. Often people will simply trust in the expertise of another person when it comes to making these decisions.

      Faced with these situations and the seriousness of the potential for prejudice, the State prefers to adopt a preventive approach that consists in verifying the competence and integrity of individuals offering services or controlling product quality. In over 40 fields, the State has therefore instituted a legislative and regulatory framework aimed at protecting the public by preventing prejudice. It is applied according to the principle of self-management by those knowledgeable in these fields, and it is called the professional system.

    • Factors for determining whether activities should be regulated by the Professional Code

      The State considers several factors before deciding whether activities should be regulated by the Professional Code. A non-exclusive list of these factors is presented in section 25 of the Professional Code. They mostly refer to the nature of the activities and the characteristics of the persons who practice them, in particular:

      • the knowledge required in order to engage in the activities;
      • the degree of independence enjoyed by the persons practising the activities and the difficulty which persons not having the same training and qualifications would have in assessing those activities;
      • the personal nature of the relationships between such persons and those having recourse to their services, by reason of the special trust which the latter must place in them;
      • the gravity of the prejudice which might be sustained by those who have recourse to the services of such persons because their competence was not supervised by an order;
      • the confidential nature of the information which such persons are called upon to have in practicing their profession.

      These legislated factors are non-exclusive and subject to interpretation in each case. The institutions of the professional system have therefore integrated additional factors and analytical frameworks to assess the appropriateness of supervising practice by means of professional self-management as set out in the Professional Code.

    • Regulated professions

      Fifty-three professions are currently regulated by the Professional Code and supervised by 45 professional orders. The supervision of these professions is similar in some respects but differs in others.

      • Reservation of professional title

        Application of the Professional Code to activities representing a risk of prejudice implies, for all the professions enumerated by the Code, control of the professional title associated with the practice of such activities. This is what is known as a reserved title.

        The Code and the special laws contain a list of professional titles that are reserved for the exclusive use of members of professional orders. This means that persons who are not members of an order may not use any of these titles or allow others to believe they are members of an order by using a similar title or abbreviation. For example, only members of the Ordre des urbanistes du Québec may use the title of urbanist.

        The principal purpose of a professional title is to inform the public about the nature of services offered by a professional. Members of the public are then able to choose the professional who is most apt to meet their needs. The reserved title is also a sign of competence because it allows the public to distinguish between practitioners who are likely to be able to adequately meet said needs from those who simply affirm to have this ability.

      • Exclusive right to practice

        Also, with respect to the acts or activities of specific regulated professions, the Professional Code has established that only members of the order concerned may, in addition to using the title reserved to them, practice such acts or activities. Examples are geologists, advocates and nurses.

        However, even when professional legislation has established exclusivity of practice, orders have the power, through regulation, to authorize certain categories of individuals other than their members, to perform particular acts related to the profession.

      • Types of professions and orders

        The Professional Code defines the types of professions: professions with reserved titles, numbering 25, and professions with reserved titles and the exclusive right to practise, also numbering 28. The first group is monitored by 20 professional orders (figures in parentheses indicate professions that belong to the same order) :

        • Audiologist (1) 
        • Certified Human Resources and Industrial Relations Counsellor
        • Certified Interpreter (2)
        • Certified Terminologist
        • Certified Translator (2)
        • Chartered Administrator
        • Chartered Appraiser
        • Dental Hygienist
        • Dental Technician
        • Dietician
        • Guidance Counsellor
        • Marriage and Family Therapist (4)
        • Medical Technologist
        • Nursing Assistant
        • Occupational Therapist
        • Physical Rehabilitation Therapist (3)
        • Physiotherapist (3)
        • Professional Technologist
        • Psychoeducator
        • Psychologist
        • Sexologist
        • Registered Respiratory Therapist
        • Social Worker (4)
        • Speech Therapists (1)
        • Urbanist

        Professions with reserved titles and exclusive right to practice are grouped in 25 professional orders.

        • Acupuncturist
        • Advocate
        • Agrologist
        • Architect
        • Bailiff
        • Chartered Professional Accountant
        • Chemist
        • Chiropractor
        • Dentist
        • Denturologist
        • Dispensing Optician
        • Engineer
        • Forest Engineer
        • Geologist
        • Hearing-aid Acoustician
        • Land-surveyor
        • Midwive
        • Notarie
        • Nurse
        • Optometrist
        • Podiatrist
        • Pharmacist
        • Physician
        • Radiation Oncology Technologist, Medical Imaging Technologist - Radiodiagnosis, Medical Imaging Technologist - Nuclear Medicine, Medical Electrophysiology Technologist
        • Veterinary Surgeon
      • The specific nature of some health professions

        Under the Ministerial action plan to update the professional system, the National Assembly of Québec modified the Professional Code and specific laws in June 2002, when it passed Bill 90.

        The government’s goal-for the protection of the public—was to modernize the professional organization of health care in the public sector in order to improve the organization of services and speed up access to care. These changes concern the following thirteen health professions:

        • Audiologist
        • Dietician
        • Medical Technologist
        • Nurse
        • Nursing Assistant
        • Occupational Therapist
        • Pharmacist
        • Physical Rehabilitation Therapist
        • Physician
        • Physiotherapist
        • Radiation Oncology Technologist, Medical Imaging Technologist - Radiodiagnosis, Medical Imaging Technologist - Nuclear Medicine, Medical Electrophysiology Technologist
        • Registered Respiratory Therapist
        • Speech Therapist

        Field of practice

        The new law gave these professions a new description of their field of practice, listing the principal activities of the profession as well as its purpose.

        Besides their differences, the professions in question share some elements of their fields of practice. They now share the common mission of health information as well as promotion and preventing illness, accidents and social problems of individuals, families and communities.

        Reserved activities

        The notion of reserved activities transforms the previously established exclusive practice of these professions; those of nurse, physician, pharmacist, radiation oncology technologist, medical imaging technologist and medical electrophysiology technologist.

        The eight other professions, which have reserved titles, were also attributed with exclusive status in the form of reserved activities. Note that some reserved activities are shared by a number of different professions.

        Coming into force

        On January 30, 2003, provisions relating to the professions of nurse, nursing assistant, respiratory therapist, physician, pharmacist, radiation oncology technologist, medical imaging technologist, medical electrophysiology technologist and medical technologist came into force.

        On June 1, 2003, provisions concerning dieticians, occupational therapists, speech therapists and audiologists, physical therapists and physical rehabilitation therapists came into force.

    • Competence: an underlying value of the professional system

      The factors justifying the use of the Professional Code as a tool for the protection of the public reflect the complexity of certain activities and their potential impact on the public. Such complexity and impact necessitate a proactive attitude in order to prevent the infliction of prejudice. This is why competence is the fundamental value of the professional system. It is the essential qualification required of a person intending to practice regulated activities. Later, we will see how competence figures at the centre of mechanisms for the protection of the public and the role of professional orders.

      • The concept of professional competence

        What is meant by competence? It generally refers to the knowledge and skills required to carry out activities. Today it is increasingly being associated with an individual’s capacity to integrate into a workplace, mobility and performance.

        When competence is referred to in the sense of professional competence-in other words, in a context where there is a risk of prejudice-it assumes particular dimensions. Indeed, together with the knowledge and skills associated with a field, professionals must demonstrate the capacity to integrate and apply them in varied and complex situations in the service of a client or employer, and in such a manner as to prevent such persons from sustaining prejudice. Ethical and moral dimensions must therefore be considered in assessing needs and services. Competence so defined serves as the basis for the exercise of professional judgement.

      • The professional orders and competence

        The professional orders are the guardians and promoters of professional competence. They have tools for ensuring the competence of their members. First, they establish standards regarding admission to the practice. Based on their knowledge of the context and content of the practice within the labour market, each of the orders establishes a set of training requirements and other conditions with the aim of satisfying the needs for a sound practice in which the risk of prejudice is minimized. Based on these set requirements, professional orders verify the competence and integrity of candidates to the profession and ensure they are maintained throughout that individual’s professional life.

        Pursuant to their function, professional orders must be aware of the labour market situation, identify training needs with respect to the protection of the public, determine requirements and certify the fulfillment of such requirements. They are aware of the changes in the practice of a profession and consider them in establishing standards and supervising the activities of their members.

  • The institutions of the professional system

    • The professional orders

      The professional orders have been mandated by the State to regulate and monitor professional activities involving the risk of harm to the public. Under section 23 of the Professional Code, "the principal function of each order shall be to ensure the protection of the public. For this purpose it must in particular supervise the practice of the profession by its members." The orders constitute the front line of the professional system. The operations of a professional order are presented further on.

      Besides their function as delegates of the public administration, the orders organize occasions for dialogue and interaction that contribute to the public interest. They serve as professionalization forums for their members and a forum of expertise in their field for the benefit of society as a whole.

    • The Québec Interprofessional Council

      Founded in 1965, the Québec Interprofessional Council is the association of professional orders that in 1973 was recognized under the Professional Code and vested with the mission of advisory body to the government. Membership in the Council is obligatory for every professional order constituted under the Professional Code. Each of the 45 professional orders is represented on the Council by its president or by a delegate designated by the order's board of directors. The general meeting of members elects the chair and six directors of the Council. They become the organization's executive committee. The updated mission of the Council is as follows:

      "The Council is the association of professional orders devoted to the promotion and defence of the professional system based on the values uniting the orders and on the public interest. As an association of professional orders, the Council:

      • is mandated under the Professional Code to act as an advisory body to the public administration;
      • creates opportunities for exchange and coordinated action among members;
      • intervenes as a mobilizing body and collective voice of the professional orders on issues of common interest;
      • acts as a purveyor of services to the professional orders, according to agreed on mandates and budgets;
      • serves as a reference for concerned members of the public."

      As an advisory body to the government, the Council is consulted in particular on:

      • general and specific guidelines of the professional system;
      • draft bills and regulations regarding the system;
      • the appointment of particular officers and members of the Office of the professions;
      • the appointment of directors who are not members of an order;
      • contributions to the funding of the Office of the professions;
      • budget estimates of the Office of the professions;
      • constitution of a new order or the integration of a group into an order.

      The Council initiates reflection on the evolution of the professional system and actively supports orders in performing their mandate to protect the public and disseminates information to the public.

    • The Office of the professions of Québec

      The Office of the professions of Québec (Office des professions du Québec) is a governmental agency whose mandate is to ensure that each professional order fulfills its function of protecting the public. It also serves as an advisory body to the government.

      In particular, the Office exercises a function of control and supervision. For example, it monitors the operation of mechanisms for evaluating professionals’ competence and ethics and the finances of professional orders.

      The Office ensures that each order adopts the regulations required of it under the Professional Code. It can also suggest changes to such regulations, and should the board of directors fail to adopt them within the fixed deadline, it can recommend that the government adopt the suggested modifications. The Office may also set regulations establishing specific rules and standards by which all professional orders must abide.

      The Office has investigative powers that it may use in specific circumstances with the prior authorization of the Minister responsible for the application of professional legislation. This would be the case, for example, if a professional order failed to fulfill the obligations imposed by professional legislation and regulations.

      The Office advises the government regarding professional legislation and regulations, the constitution of professional orders and the adaptation of rules and standards respecting the professional system. The Office also has the function of informing the public.

    • The Professions Tribunal

      The Professions Tribunal hears appeals from decisions made by the disciplinary council and some decisions of the board of directors, in particular regarding the right to practice a profession. It is a specialized court of the professional system.

      The Tribunal is composed of 11 judges of the Court of Québec, appointed by the government according to the court nomination procedures. The judges benefit from measures to ensure their independence from the government and the parties pleading before them. Depending on the case, they preside as a group of three or alone.

    • The Minister responsible for the application of professional legislation

      The Minister responsible for the application of professional legislation is designated by decree. The Minister of Justice has assumed this responsibility for the past several years.

      The Minister reports to the National Assembly of Québec on the operations and evolution of the professional system. He or she makes decisions on general and specific policy of the system. The Minister appoints certain officials and members of the Office of the professions and oversees the Office’s budgetary planning process.

      The Minister sponsors and presents draft legislation and certain draft regulations regarding the professional system.

      The Minister may intervene in problematic situations, for example, by authorizing the investigation of a professional order or recommending to the government that a professional order be placed under administration.

  • Protection of the public by a professional order

    • Regulation

      A regulation establishes principles, standards, prescriptions and prohibitions. In this respect, professional orders play a major role because they formulate and adopt:

      • regulations relating to the control of titles and the right to practice a profession, such as diploma and training equivalents and permit categories;
      • regulations regarding the standards of practice of a profession, for example, the Code of ethics, which defines the elements of professional practice, including the context of such practice, confers certain rights on the public, and, to these ends, imposes obligations on professionals;
      • regulations regarding the supervision of the practice of a profession, that establish different mechanisms and their procedures, such as professional inspection and the conciliation and arbitration of accounts;
      • regulations regarding the order’s internal affairs.

      The adoption of many of these regulations is compulsory. Other regulations are optional, that is, their adoption is based on a decision by the order as to their pertinence.

      The mode of adopting and approving regulations varies depending on their nature. Regulations are published in the Gazette officielle du Québec and have the force of law.

    • Control of the practice of a profession

      A professional order fulfills its function of protecting the public mainly by:

      • controlling the title and the right to practice a profession;
      • verifying the competence and integrity of candidates to the profession;
      • ensuring that competence and integrity are maintained throughout the member’s professional life;
      • punishing offences against the Professional Code, specific laws and related regulations.

      The first three aspects of an order’s mandate focus on prevention with respect to the risk of prejudice. The fourth aspect involves the imposition of disciplinary measures.

      • Control of the title and the right to practice: the professional permit

        Holders of a permit to practice issued by an order are authorized to use a professional title and, in the case of reserved professions, enjoy the exclusive right to practice the related reserved activities.

        In addition, a permit issued by a professional order represents an official sanction of its holder’s competence and will be recognized throughout Québec. The permit also facilitates mobility of employers and clients.

        Permits are issued according to conditions and terms determined by regulation. Fifty one permits are issued by the 45 professional orders.

        The Professional Code provides for the issuance of a temporary or restrictive permit under certain conditions. It also provides for cases in which members may have their permit revoked or restricted, have their right to engage in professional activities suspended, or be temporarily or permanently struck of the order’s roll.

        Also, in certain cases, and under certain conditions, a professional order may grant special authorization to practise a profession in Québec to someone who is legally authorized to practise the profession in another jurisdiction. This authorization is generally valid for a maximum of 12 months and its acquisition is not subject to the process and requirements associated with the issuance of a permit.

      • Verification of competence and integrity: admission

        Before issuing a permit, an order ensures that candidates possess the minimum level of training and the integrity necessary for the practice of the profession.

        A basic condition: possession of the required diploma or its equivalent 

        The Professional Code requires that all candidates to a profession possess a diploma recognized as valid for this purpose. To this end, the Code stipulates a regulation designating the diplomas of educational institutions that satisfy the orders’ training requirements and give access to a professional permit.

        A candidate who does not hold a valid diploma may still be issued a permit if he or she holds a diploma or training recognized as equivalent. Equivalence is decided by the order based on the profession’s fixed training requirements. The training requirements are set out in a regulation, and are thus approved by the government.

        More than 390 diplomas are presently designated as giving access to 51 permits issued by the professional orders.

        Special permit

        In the cases stipulated by the regulation, candidates may be issued a permanent restrictive permit vesting its holder with the right to practise the profession, but restricted to certain activities. The special permit therefore enables its holder to practise for an indefinite period professional activity for which the order has recognized that the candidate possesses the necessary competence.

        Temporary permit

        As part of their process with the order, candidates may be issued a temporary restrictive permit for the period during which they are acquiring the elements necessary to meet the requirements for issuance of a regular or special permit.

        Other conditions

        In addition to possessing the required diploma or its equivalent, candidates to a profession must satisfy other conditions for the issuance of permit. Depending on the situation, possible conditions are successful completion of a training period, professional training program or an examination.

        Adequacy of practical training

        Given their specific mission to ensure quality of professional practice, orders are concerned about the relevance of their training requirements and the suitability of programs giving access to their permits. Coordination with the educational system is therefore indispensable.

        This coordination is so important that the Professional Code stipulates that orders constitute a Training Committee with a statutory membership composed of representatives of the order, the Ministère de l'Éducation (Ministry of Education) and the concerned educational institutions. This committee discusses the development and revision of training programs giving access to the permit.

      • Maintenance and improvement of competence: continuing education and training

        After receiving their permit and throughout their professional lives, members of professional orders are responsible for their own professional development and are ethically obligated to update their knowledge.

        In some circumstances members of an order must comply with specific training requirements as prescribed by regulation. This could also be imposed following an inquiry into competence in the course of a professional inspection.

        Professional orders do more than monitor competence and impose obligations in this matter. They also work to promote continuing education, training and development. They offer resources to their members by informing them about relevant training activities, associating with educational institutions to offer training, and by organizing their own activities.

      • Supervision of the practice of professional activities: professional inspection

        To ensure that professional activities are being practiced at the expected quality level, the order verifies the practice and competence of its members throughout their professional lives. Orders regularly inspect their members as a means of preventing and detecting problems. This mechanism is called professional inspection.

        Specifically, a Professional Inspection Committee in each order sets up an annual inspection program approved by the Bureau. The committee conducts inspections or verifications and inquiries into the competence of professionals. The committee is assisted by inspectors and investigators.

        In addition, the committee may inquire into the professional competence of a member. Following such an inquiry the committee may recommend to the board of directors that the member be required to successfully complete a period of refresher training or refresher course. The board of directors may also restrict or suspend the member’s right to practice for the duration of the training period or course.

        Professional inspection is an administrative process aimed at supporting a professional in improving her or his practice.

      • Supervision of the practice of professional activities: discipline

        Disciplinary mechanisms are employed to punish offences against the Professional Code, specific laws and professional regulations and prevent their recurrence.

        The disciplinary law applied by the orders is a distinct field of law. It cannot therefore be considered as part of either civil or penal law or their procedures. It does, however, draw on and adapt aspects from each of these legal domains.

        Professionals are therefore obligated to cooperate with the order's investigators. Professionals who testify before the disciplinary council must answer all the questions. Their testimony is privileged and may not be used against them in a judicial or quasi-judicial body. They may not invoke professional secrecy to justify their refusal to answer a question. In addition, the criterion of preponderance of evidence rather than reasonable doubt is applied to determine the guilt of a professional.

        The Code of Ethics

        The order’s Code of Ethics is a particularly important reference in the matter of discipline. This code contains the duties of professionals toward the public, their clients and their profession, particularly the duty to discharge their professional obligations with integrity.

        Request for an inquiry

        Anyone may request an inquiry of a member of an order if they believe that an offence has been committed against the Professional Code, specific laws or regulations. The board of directors of the order may also request an inquiry.

        The inquiry is conducted by the order’s Syndic, who has 90 days in which to complete the inquiry and render a decision on the action to be taken. If the Syndic is unable to meet this deadline, she or he must furnish progress reports on the inquiry to the person who made the request every 60 days. At the conclusion of an inquiry the syndic will make one of the following decisions :

        Besides the Syndic, any person may lodge a complaint directly with the Disciplinary Council. This is commonly referred to as a “private complaint.” In this case, fees must be paid by the person who lodged the complaint if the professional is acquitted or if the complaint is manifestly unfounded.

        Review of a decision not to lodge a complaint

        When, after being seized of the request to hold an inquiry on a member, a Syndic decides not to lodge a complaint with the Disciplinary Council, the person who requested the holding of an inquiry may ask for an opinion from the Review Committee. The committee may give one of the following opinions :

        • decide that there is no ground to lodge a complaint with the Disciplinary Council;
        • suggest that the Syndic complete the inquiry;
        • suggest that the Syndic refer the file to the Professional Inspection Committee;
        • decide that there is ground to lodge a complaint and suggest the name of a person to act in the capacity of Syndic.

        Hearing of the complaint and the decision of the Disciplinary Council

        When it is seized with a complaint and after the hearing, if the member is found guilty, the Disciplinary Council makes one or more of the following decisions :

        • to reprimand the member of the order who committed the offence;
        • to impose a fine;
        • to temporarily or permanently strike the member of the roll;
        • to revoke the permit or specialist certificate;
        • to restrict or suspend the right to practice;
        • to recommend to the Board of directors that the member be required to successfully complete a period of refresher training or refresher course;
        • to oblige the member to refund a particular sum;
        • to oblige the member to communicate, complete, erase, update or correct a document or piece of information.

        Appeal of a decision

        Decisions of the Disciplinary Council may be appealed to the Professions Tribunal.

    • Other mechanisms and measures to ensure the protection of the public

      Complementary mechanisms and measures were instituted to protect the public against possible misconduct or fraud on the part of professionals or the conduct of individuals who do not possess sufficient and recognized qualifications.

      • Conciliation and arbitration of accounts

        A client who disagrees with a professional’s fee may request a dispute conciliation proceeding with the professional. The conciliation proceeding is normally conducted by the Syndic, within a prescribed time period.

        A client who disagrees with the dispute conciliation report may make a request for arbitration. An Arbitration Council whose members are appointed by the Board of directors hears the request.

        The Arbitration Council must render a decision within a prescribed period. It may maintain or reduce the disputed account, determine the amount of the refund or payment to which a party is entitled, or pronounce on the amount the client acknowledges owing.

      • Sums of money held by a professional and indemnification

        Professional orders whose members may hold sums of money for the account of their clients (chartered administrators, advocates, chartered professional accountants, bailiffs and notaries) determine by regulation the terms of receipt, custody and disposition of these sums of money.

        Such professional orders also establish a fund to be used to repay clients, under certain conditions, for the sums of money or other securities misappropriated by a professional.

      • Professional liability insurance

        Professionals are obliged to furnish a security for their liability in case of errors committed in the practice of their profession.

        To this end, a regulation of the Board of directors provides the terms and levels of coverage for professional liability insurance.

        The obligation to provide a security, for which the order may determine exemptions, is designed to ensure the pertinence of clients' recourse to civil courts to obtain compensation for damages resulting from the fault of a professional.

      • Misappropriation of title and illegal practice of a profession

        A professional order may launch penal proceedings in the Court of Québec against a person who is not a member of a professional order and who appropriates the title controlled by that order or who performs an act that only members of that order are authorized to perform. If the person is recognized as having contravened provisions of the Code and specific laws, she or he will be fined.

    • Contributing to the public interest

      More than their roles of controlling and supervising practice, professional orders, by virtue of their organizational culture, serve as professionalization forums for their members and melting pots of expertise in their field.

      This helps to forge the professional identity and competitiveness of members and is perceived as contributing to the quality of services. Orders also organize training activities, colloquia, conventions and courses during which members meet and discuss issues related to their practice.

      Because they are closely connected to their field, professional orders keep abreast of changes and reveal the specific and social issues at stake. This allows them to offer the public various information tools on questions of interest, especially concerning the practice of their members. They also participate in social debates related to their field with their useful and reliable contributions, serving the general interests of government, the business sector and individuals.

  • The operations of a professional order

    • Legal considerations

      Legally speaking, each order is composed of professionals who are its members and constitutes a legal person established in the public interest as signified by the Civil Code of Québec. The orders are also considered to be non-profit organizations.

      The professional orders are delegated regulatory powers and administrative authority with respect to the protection of the public. They therefore come under public and administrative law. Some aspects of their operation resemble that of an association.

      In their decisional and quasi-judicial processes, the professional orders are required to comply with the principles of natural justice, in particular:

      • the opportunity of all persons to be heard before the rendering of a major decision affecting them;
      • impartiality and absence of prejudice and conflict of interest on the part of decision-makers, in particular, not deciding on one's own recommendation or appealing/amending one's own decision;
      • action/decision in a reasonable time period.
    • Professional self-management

      The mode of organizing the regulation and supervision of a profession by a professional order is based on the principle of self-management. Based on this principle, those governed by a professional order:

      • are its members;
      • are responsible for financing its activities;
      • participate in managing its affairs;
      • participate in drawing up professional regulations; and
      • hold different functions and responsibilities in the execution of its mandate of protection of the public.

      However, professional self-management is subject to the guidelines provided under the Professional Code and accountability procedures towards the State, in particular through the Office of the professions.

      The principal components of a professional order are the Board of directors, the Executive Committee, the General Meeting, the Training Committee, the Professional Inspection Committee, the Syndic, the Review Committee and the Disciplinary Council. Descriptions of the principal components are provided under the following headings.

    • The Board of directors and the Executive Committee

      The Board of directors is the body within every professional order that holds primary responsibility for ensuring the protection of the public. Its fundamental responsibility is to control admission to the profession and regulate its practice. To this end, the Board of directors adopts regulations concerning the protection of the public and makes decisions with respect to their application, including the issuance of permits, professional inspection and disciplinary procedures. It appoints individuals to key functions within public protection mechanisms.

      The Board of directors also ensures the smooth operations of the order by, among other things, adopting regulations concerning its internal affairs and monitoring their application.

      The Board of directors is composed of a chair and 8 to 24 directors who are elected by the members, except for a few directors who are appointed by the Office of the professions to represent the public. The professional directors are, of course, elected by the members of the order, but once they have been elected they are mandated by and accountable to the State.

      Where the Board of directors is composed of 16 or more members, an Executive Committee, composed of 5 members from the Board of directors, ensures the ongoing administration of the order’s affairs. The Executive Committee exercises the powers delegated to it by the Board of directors.

    • The General Meeting

      The General Meeting of the members of an order is held once every year. It formulates recommendations on various subjects. It also has the power to decide whether to approve an increase in the annual dues where such an increase is not justified by increased costs associated with controlling the practice of the profession and the public protection measures. The General Meeting also appoints the auditors who are responsible for auditing the order’s books and accounts.

      In addition, the general meeting determines the method of election of the president—by general vote of the members or by the vote of the elected directors of the order, who elect the president from among their numbers.

    • The Training Committee

      Within professional orders, a Training Committee considers issues relating to the quality of training giving access to the practice of the profession. Among other questions, it considers the adequacy of training with regard to the job-related skills that must be acquired, taking into account changes in knowledge and practice. The committee also advises the Board of directors on. projects involving the revision or formulation of goals for training programs leading to a diploma giving access to a permit.

      The committee is composed of the members of the order appointed by the Board of directors and persons appointed by the Ministère de l'Éducation (Ministry of Education) and educational institutions offering programs in the field. The chair of the committee is a member of the order. Committee members are selected on the basis of their knowledge and responsibilities in connection with the issues being addressed.

    • The Professional Inspection Committee

      The professional inspection committee, composed of at least three persons appointed by the Board of directors, conducts inspections and verifications and performs inquiries into professional competence. It is assisted by inspectors, investigators and various experts. The committee's powers may be delegated by regulation to an individual who is in charge of professional inspection.

      The committee may recommend to the Board of directors that a member be required to successfully complete a period of training or course. It may also simply recommend restricting or suspending the professional’s right to practice until he or she has fulfilled certain obligations.

    • The Syndic

      The Syndic is appointed by the Board of directors from among the members of the order. He or she investigates offences against the Professional Code, specific laws and regulations. Where appropriate the syndic can decide to lodge a complaint against a member. Syndics also conduct conciliations in the context of a disciplinary procedure or a dispute about an account. If necessary they may call on the assistance of experts.

      Syndics have full decision-making authority in inquiries, conciliations and in their representations before the disciplinary council and decisions on whether to lodge a complaint.

    • The Review Committee

      The function of the Review Committee is to give persons who have requested the holding of an inquiry its opinion regarding any decision of the Syndic or Assistant Syndic not to lodge a complaint.

      The committee is composed of at least three persons appointed by the Board of directors of the order, at least one of whom is selected from among the directors appointed by the Office of the professions, or from a list compiled by the Office. The committee sits in groups of three, at least one of whom is a director appointed by the Office of the professions, or is selected from a list compiled by the Office.

    • The Disciplinary Council

      The Disciplinary Council deals with any complaint lodged against a member of an order, or a former member, if it involves an offence that might have been committed when such person was a member.

      The committee is composed of at least three persons, of whom at least two are appointed by the Board of directors from among the members of the order. The chair of the disciplinary council is an advocate appointed by the Government. The committee sits in divisions of three persons.

  • Financing of the professional system

    Institutions of the professional system are for the most part financed by the members of the professional orders, with the exception of the Minister responsible for the application of professional legislation, who is remunerated by the State.

    The professional orders and the Office of the professions of Québec are financed by the members of orders by means of individual dues paid annually. The Québec Interprofessional Council is financed by the dues of its members, the professional orders.

  • Organization chart - The professional system in Québec