In Canada, about 20 percent of occupations—for example, doctors, engineers, plumbers, teachers—are regulated to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Specific professional regulatory authorities and associations have been mandated by governments to govern access to these regulated professions and trades. They are responsible for issuing professional qualifications (e.g., certificate of competency or qualification, licence to practise) to applicants who have met registration requirements. Such professional qualifications are specifically excluded from the 2019 Global Convention. Only academic credentials issued by educational institutions are targeted by principles of the 2019 Global Convention.
In turn, newcomers to Canada may hold academic credentials and professional qualifications issued outside Canada and wish to access these regulated occupations in the labour market. This generally requires the submission of previously completed academic credentials by applicants. However, there could also be other requirements, such as:
- examinations to test an applicant's knowledge and competencies;
- a criminal-record check;
- a Canadian work placement or practicum; or
- a period of internship or supervised on-the-job training.
Articles in the 2019 Global Convention clearly establish the principle of autonomy of educational institutions and professional regulatory bodies, in their role as competent recognition bodies. Consequently, legislation confers some autonomy on professional governing bodies in setting the content of regulations under which earned credentials, competencies, and training are recognized. Professional governing bodies therefore enjoy broad autonomy in recognizing credentials, whether obtained in Canada or abroad, for the purposes of registration or permission to practise a profession in Canada. Therefore, although there are no legal obligations for professional regulatory authorities and associations to apply the 2019 Global Convention, the good faith implied by ratification compels institutions to apply the following principles:
- adequate and clear information on assessment requirements must be provided;
- transparent, coherent, and reliable procedures and assessment criteria must be used;
- mutual recognition of academic credentials and qualifications must be extended unless substantial differences in requirements can be demonstrated; and
- refusal of recognition must be justified. In such cases, applicants must have the right to appeal the outcome of this decision.
Five provinces in Canada have established legislation on fair registration by regulating bodies. Ontario and Manitoba have both appointed Fairness Commissioners, while Alberta and Nova Scotia each appointed a Fair Registration Review Officer. In 2009, Quebec appointed a Commissioner for Complaints Concerning the Recognition of Professional Competence (now known as the Commissioner for Admission to Professions), whose role is similar to the commissioners in these other provinces. In Alberta, the Fair Registration Practices Act and the Fair Registration Practices Regulation came into force March 1, 2020. The Fairness for Newcomers Office officially opened March 2, 2020, and its purpose, intent, and future planned work is similar to the offices of the other provincial commissioners, but may not be exactly as generally stated below. Additional information is available on the Fairness for Newcomers Office website.
These offices provide advice and guidance to regulatory authorities (and, to a certain extent, to individuals) to ensure transparent, objective, impartial, and fair access to regulated occupations. Principles outlined in their guiding legislation are based largely on those of the 1997 Lisbon Convention and 2019 Global Convention. These bodies conduct audits and receive and assess complaints. Specifically, they require that holders of qualifications issued outside Canada have fair access to regulated professions in their respective provinces.