The registration (licensure) of professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and, increasingly, geoscientists in Canada is the responsibility of individual provinces and territories, under acts of their respective legislatures. These acts limit or restrict the practice of the professions to those persons who are registered (licensed) by autonomous, self-governing professional associations established under the legislation. The right-to-practice legislation enables the professional associations to protect the public by preventing unqualified, unskilled or unethical persons from carrying on the restricted professions. Aside from appointing public members to the governing councils and key committees of the professional associations, governments play no direct role in the licensing of practitioners.
A different arrangement, providing less protection for the public, is right-to-title legislation which permits designated occupational associations to certify their members and give them the right to use a specific reserved title. Persons who are not members of the designated association (and therefore not certified) cannot be prevented from practicing the occupation, regardless of the level of their qualifications or ethics, provided they do not use the reserved title. Right-to-title legislation usually is also the responsibility of provincial and territorial legislatures.
Current Status of Registration (Licensure) of Geoscientists in Canada
Professional registration of geoscientists (albeit as Professional Engineers in the Mining Division) began in Canada in Alberta with the formation of the Association of Professional Engineers of Alberta (APEA) in the 1920s. Dr. John A. Allan, founder of the Geology Department at the University of Alberta, was active in establishing the Association and became its president in the 1930s. Geologists, and the practice of geology and geophysics, were explicitly identified in the Engineering Act in 1955. Separate designations (P.Geol. and P. Geoph.) were introduced in 1960 and, in 1966, APEA became the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA).
Alberta (APEGGA). Today, approximately 5,000 geoscientists are registered (licensed) under combined engineering and geoscience right-to-practice legislation in Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories as Professional Geoscientists (P. Geo.), Professional Geologists (P.Geol.) or Professional Geophysicists (P.Geoph.). Saskatchewan will begin registering Professional Geoscientists under their new Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act in 1997. Ultimately, approximately 10,000 geoscientists will be registered in Canada over the next few years as other provinces enact appropriate legislation.
The Nova Scotia legislature gave first reading to a bill establishing the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Nova Scotia in may, 1996, before adjourning for the summer. Because of difficulties between engineers and architects in the area of professional practice, the bill was withdrawn from the fall legislative session and a task force of engineer and architects is working diligently to overcome the problems. With an early and successful resolution of the issues, the next window of opportunity for reintroducing a new act will be at the spring, 1997 session of the legislature.
In Manitoba, a joint committee of geoscientist and engineers has developed a new act to create the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba. The result of several years of intense effort on the part of geoscientists and engineers, it is anticipated that the act will be introduced into the legislature early in 1997.
Geoscientists in Ontario, who have been working with the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario since 1990, have formed the Association of Geoscientists of Ontario to assist in preparing new legislation for the registration of geoscientists and engineers. A draft of the new act could be completed early in 1997 and a final version could be before the legislature by the end of the year.
In New Brunswick, the report of a joint task force of the Association of professional Geologists of New Brunswick (APGNB) and the Association of Professional Engineers of New Brunswick (APENB) has been accepted by the Council of APENB and a recommendation to develop a new combined engineering and geoscience act will be put to a vote at the APENB Annual Meeting in February, 1997. Assuming a favourable response, the first draft of a revised act could be completed by the end of the year.
In Quebec, the situation is somewhat different. Geoscientists have been seeking registration since 1968, but the body responsible for registering engineers in Quebec, the Ordre des Ingenieurs du Quebec (OIQ), has for many years consistently rejected joint task force recommendations for combined registration. After a moratorium on the creation of new professional orders (associations) was lifted by the provincial government in 1990. The geoscientists, then represented by the Association Professionnelles des Geologues et Geophysicien du Quebec (APGGQ), took their requests directly to the government. In view of the recognized need to protect the public, the Office des Professions du Quebec recommended that the Ordre des Geologues Agrees du Quebec (AGZQ) be created under existing right-to-title legislation. The OGAQ bas yet to be proclaimed by the Minister in Council despite continuing efforts to encourage the government to proceed.
A very small number of geoscientists practice in the Yukon and Prince Edward Island and interest in registration currently appears to be very low. As registration of geoscientists becomes accepted in more of the other provinces, the engineering associations in these jurisdiction will probably recommend revising their acts to include geoscientists.
National Coordination – The Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists
The professional practice of geoscience is typically less constrained by political boundaries than is the practice of many other professions. This is true both within Canada. where geoscientist often practice in several provinces and territories, and outside the country as, increasingly, more geoscientists practise internationally. In light of the distribution of legislative authority in Canada. and given the high mobility of geoscientists in the global organizations in matters that are national or international in scope, including international registration or certification of geoscientists, and reciprocal practice; * to act in respect of other matters of Canada-wide or international nature concerning the geoscience professions either alone or together with other bodies.
In addition, under the by-laws, the directors of CCPG may undertake to perform such services, enter into contracts, or otherwise take steps to generate income for the operation of the Council, i.e., to ensure its continuing financial viability.
The CCPG is committed to being inclusive rather than exclusive, and to working with its member organizations, CCPE, the universities and the learned societies to enhance the professional qualifications and stature of individual geoscientists and the geoscience professions in Canada.
Liaison with other organizations such as the American Institute of Professional Geologists and the European Federation of Geologists is an explicit objective of the CCPG to facilitate the international recognition and mobility of Canadian professional geoscientists.
Developments in 1996
Because a significant and rapidly increasing number of its constituent associations register geoscientists, the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) supported establishing the CCPG to provide services for the geoscience professions comparable to what CCPE provides for engineering. An Implementation Task Force, consisting of geoscientists from all provinces and territories except Yukon and PEI, was formed by the CCPE in January, 1996, and given a mandate to establish the CCPG within two years.
The Task Force met four times during 1996, twice in person and twice by teleconference. A business plan has been developed and a budget established, bylaws have been drafted, an application for incorporation has been submitted and letters patent would be granted by the time this report is published. Office facilities have been established in Calgary, the Task Force has begun to operate as the interim CCPG Board of Directors and has started to address the stated objectives of the Council.
The Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists, as distinct from the Implementation Task Force, will become a reality early in 1997, well before the mandate of the Task Force expires.
Initial funds for the Task Force for 1996 and 1997, in the amount of approximately $40,000 per year, are being provided by CCPE. This is equal to the annual assessment collected by CCPE from its constituent associations for their geoscientist members. CCPE has agreed that the amount of the annual geoscience assessment will be permanently transferred to CCPG when it becomes operational.
For more information, please contact the writer or any other member of the Task Force.
Members of the Task Force are:
Michel Bouchard, Ph.D.
Terry Hennigar, P.Eng.
Bob Leech, M.Eng.Sc.
High Miller, PhD, P.Geo.
Philip Reeves, P.Eng
Carolyn Relf, Ph.D., PGeol.
Brion Stimpson, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Linda Thorstad, P.Geo.
Gordon Williams, Ph.D., P.Geol., Chair
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