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Archived Commissioner's Messages

Commissioner's Message: June 2017

I am honoured and proud to have been appointed as Ontario’s Fairness Commissioner in April, 2017. The mandate of my Office is an important one, underscoring fundamental values of fairness, accessibility and equal treatment that we all share as proud Ontarians.

This past March marked the tenth anniversary of the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006 (the Act), and of the creation of my Office. The Act stands to this day as a landmark achievement in progressive and practical government policy - an initiative that continues to stand as a model for the rest of the country, and indeed the world. And I am proud to be taking the helm of this organization at this time, to build on the decade-long journey that has resulted in meaningful, tangible progress in providing fair access to Ontario’s professions and compulsory trades.

At the time of its enactment, the Act was ground-breaking legislation designed to assist the integration of internationally trained individuals into Ontario’s workforce. With a focus on the difficulties encountered by educated and qualified immigrants, the work of the Fairness Commissioner is a vital part of Ontario’s economic and social strategy.

As Fairness Commissioner I will be building upon the substantial knowledge and achievements of the past ten years. Beginning by better aligning the OFC within the government’s accountability framework, I will be leading the OFC in adopting a modernized and targeted approach in carrying out its compliance oversight mandate. The OFC will recognize progress and improvements by regulators and focus more acutely on non-compliance through a risk-based approach to implementing fair-access legislation.

I look forward to working with all regulated professions to ensure that every qualified person who wants to practice their profession or trade in Ontario can get licensed to do so.

Regards,
Grant Jameson
Fairness Commissioner

Commissioner's Message: July 8, 2014

I am often invited to speak to and meet with stakeholders throughout Ontario, across Canada, and internationally, to discuss the work of my office.

To raise awareness of the importance of fair access to the professions, and to share the vital lessons learned over the years, my staff and I participate in many conferences and meet with many decision-makers and opinion leaders.

Some recent highlights include:

  • Conference Board of Canada – Leaders’ Roundtable on Immigration meetings, in Sydney, Australia, January 2014
  • International congress of the “Integration Through Training” Network,in Berlin, Germany, February 2014
  • National Metropolis Conference,in Gatineau, March 2014
  • Internationally Educated Nurses 8th National Conference, in Toronto, May 2014
  • Osgoode Certificate program in the Regulation and Discipline of the Health Care Sector, in Toronto, June 2014

Many jurisdictions have patterned their fair-access legislation after Ontario’s. I speak regularly with my counterparts from Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Quebec. Last winter, we held a full-day meeting to identify emerging issues and consider the national implications of fair access implementation.

Hon. Jean Augustine, PC, CM
Fairness Commissioner
July 8, 2014

Commissioner's Message: November 15, 2013

I am pleased to present the study, Academic Requirements and Acceptable Alternatives: Challenges and Opportunities for the Regulated Professions in Ontario.

The purpose of the research was twofold: to compile information about the academic requirements that Ontario regulatory bodies demand and to describe the alternatives they are willing to consider when they judge someone's application.

The requirements are sometimes quite rigid and the alternatives hard to get, costly, or unsustainable.

Mostly, of course, this affects people who are internationally educated — the very highly skilled people Ontario so urgently needs. They grapple with a licensing system that undervalues their international qualifications and underrates their overseas experience.

I call on regulatory bodies to be more flexible in their assessments and to boost the alternatives they accept.

Regulators and government officials both have a responsibility to act in the public interest, to find acceptable alternatives to this waste of human resources.

Ad-hoc innovation is not enough. Our collective future depends on long-term vision and a commitment to immigrant success.

I hope this study draws attention to this compelling topic.

Sincerely,

Hon Jean Augustine, PC, CM

Fairness Commissioner

 

November 15, 2013

Commissioner's Message: September 30, 2013

As I write, the members of my staff are completing the pilot phase of our second assessment of regulatory bodies’ licensing practices. We have done six assessments, and our reports will be published starting this week.

In our initial assessments in 2011-12, we looked broadly at licensing issues.This time we are focussing on problems we have identified in the past to see what progress has been made.

Earlier this month I spoke at the international Metropolis conference in Finland. Everyone was talking about the scale of international migration today and the pressure for change. Ontario is ahead of the pack.

In my presentation, I laid out the priorities for fairer access to the professions:

  • streamlining registration
  • widening of the reach of international mutual recognition agreements
  • removal of unnecessary requirements such as extra language tests and irrelevant requirements for Canadian work experience
  • acceptance for alternatives to academic and experience requirements
  • collecting applicants’ input about their experiences

I am buoyed by the public acceptance of fair access in Ontario and look forward to a busy fall.

Hon Jean Augustine, PC, CM

Fairness Commissioner

 

September 30, 2013

Commissioner's Message: April 2013

Starting this month, my office will oversee licensing in certain skilled trades, in addition to the professions already in my mandate.

In 2009, the Ontario government began to modernize the skilled trades system. It set up a new, independent, industry-driven body called the Ontario College of Trades.

The creation of this college expanded the scope of my work.

The college promotes apprenticeship training and encourages more men and women to work in the trades. The college will protect the public interest by issuing licences and setting standards. It will also remove barriers and increase access for internationally trained workers.

Starting April 8, 2013, 22 compulsory trades must use fair licensing practices. (A compulsory trade is one in which an individual must be a licensed journeyperson or apprentice to work in that trade.)

I look forward to a collegial working relationship with the board and the staff of the Ontario College of Trades.

Hon Jean Augustine, PC, CM

Fairness Commissioner

 

April 2013

Commissioner's Message: January 2013

Ontario is a very different place than it was in 2007, when the Office of the Fairness Commissioner first opened its doors.

Indeed, the world is a very different place. Economic upheaval, immigration and demographic shifts, and increased labour mobility are among the factors contributing to dramatic changes in business, employment and society.

Licensing, like the economy itself, is evolutionary — it must change with the times. In today’s fluid workforce, where we are literally competing with the entire world for skills, we simply cannot afford to be insular or parochial.

Obviously, the licensing system is an important safeguard for the public, ensuring that only qualified professionals are licensed to practice in their respective fields.

But there is a vast difference between protection and protectionism. Given the global — and even inter-provincial — competition for the brightest and best, Ontario needs to look forward, not just inward.

As part of that conversation, we are pleased to present a report on our findings and observations from the OFC’s first five years.

 

January 2013

Commissioner's Message: September 2012

In the five years since our first eye-opening research, the Office of the Fairness Commissioner has made tremendous progress in rectifying many licensing barriers. We have worked very closely and collaboratively with Ontario’s licensing bodies, and I am pleased that for the most part they have been very cooperative.

We all agree that licensing is vitally important. Licences ensure that only individuals who meet specific criteria are allowed to practise in certain fields. This provides protection for the public, and maintains high standards for performance and accountability.

Just as important, these standards must apply equally to everyone.

Ensuring fair licensing is vital as Ontario competes globally for professional talent. Other forces are impacting on our workforce: increased labour mobility, changing immigration policies and demographics, and shortages in the skilled trades, to cite just a few.

We must continue to be vigilant and diligent – profession by profession, regulation by regulation, line by line.

 

September 2012

Commissioner's Message: May 31, 2012

The Office of the Fairness Commissioner reached its five-year mark in April 2012. When the office opened, I was tasked with spearheading an agency that could identify and address barriers preventing qualified professionals from getting licensed in Ontario.

I am satisfied with our overall progress.

My staff and I have worked closely with Ontario's licensing bodies. I am pleased that they have been very cooperative and are moving forward with positive changes.

Ensuring fair licensing is vital as Ontario competes for professional talent with countries around the globe. Many other forces also affect our workforce: increased labour mobility, changing immigration policies and demographics, to name a few. We must continue to be vigilant.

My staff and I have almost finished this assessment cycle. Its purpose is lasting improvement ... translating the principles of the fairness law into actions.

Elsewhere on this site, you may read about the assessments we have done so far.

 

May 31, 2012

Commissioner's Message: January 31, 2012

As fairness commissioner, my job is to make sure that licensing in the professions is fair.

Last year, I began to assess the licensing practices of the regulatory bodies. The purpose of assessment is lasting improvement … translating the principles of the fairness law into actions.

Now, my staff and I are at the mid-way point in our assessment.

We have found more commendable practices than inadequate ones.  Let me mention a few:

  • Early Childhood Educators: The college surveyed its members who received a Certificate of Registration between September 1, 2010, and June 16, 2011, to get feedback regarding their experiences during their registration process. More info.
  • Geoscientists: Internationally trained applicants and geoscientist-in-training applicants can download applications and register online. The regulatory body also provides online self-assessment tools for minimum knowledge requirements and work experience requirements. More info.
  • Opticians: An excellent flow chart on the college website explains the registration process for domestic and international applicants.  More info.
  • Lawyers: The Law Society has its own program for helping applicants financially. More info.
  • Physiotherapists: The college explains clearly why each of its registration requirements is needed to practise the profession in Ontario and posts this information. More info.
  • Psychologists: The college has removed the registration requirement for three reference letters.  More info.

I am pleased that regulators are implementing our recommendations. Our system for improvement is showing results. Because of our work, qualified individuals will have faster, fairer access to their professions.

Elsewhere on this site, you may read about the assessments we have done so far.

 

January 31, 2012

Commissioner's Message: April 20, 2011

[ Video ]

Hello. My name is Jean Augustine. I am the Fairness Commissioner for the province of Ontario.

Every week I hear from men and women who want to become licensed in one of Ontario’s regulated professions … engineers, dentists, doctors, accountants ….

I speak with organizations that help immigrants get settled here….

I learn about the hardships people experience trying to get into their professions.

As Fairness Commissioner, my job is to make sure that licensing is fair. I work with some forty regulatory bodies. They include health and non-health professions.

My office has been open since 2007. Regulatory bodies have made solid progress. More needs to be done.

That’s why, starting in the spring of 2011, I am shifting my focus to assessing the registration and licensing practices of the regulatory bodies.

The purpose of assessment is long-term improvement … translating the principles of the fairness law into action.

My staff and I are working individually with each regulatory body to identify needed, practical improvements. We’ll identify areas of concern. And we’ll publicize whether or not the regulators are making improvements.

I am pleased with the changes I’ve already seen. And I’m looking forward to this next phase in my role as fairness commissioner.

I want Ontario to be a place where people’s training and qualifications are the only criteria for earning a licence to practise. The people I hear from? Every one of them wants a chance to work at full potential and contribute to building our society.

 

Thank-you.

Commissioner's Message: April, 2011

I have been Fairness Commissioner for four years now. During that time, my staff and I have mobilized support for fairer registration across Canada, created collegial relationships with regulators and gathered relevant data.

Now, in this spring of 2011, we are shifting to a focus on continuous improvement in licensing.

Ontario regulators have done good work so far. They have achieved solid progress in making their licensing fairer. More needs to be done.

That’s why we developed a plan to assess their registration practices and promote long-term improvement.

My shift of emphasis does not indicate a change in the law. Nothing has changed there. The regulators’ obligation is to offer transparent, objective, impartial and fair registration. And one of my key functions is to assess their registration practices.

Elsewhere on this site you may read about our strategy and see the guides that OFC staff will use to conduct the assessments. The guides translate the principles of the fair access law into actions.

Faster, fairer licensing in the professions makes it possible for more highly educated people to work at their full potential in their fields, and it’s good for the economy.

I would like to thank the regulators and the qualifications assessors who helped us prepare the guides. They worked with us in a spirit of openness and collaboration.

Hon. Jean Augustine, PC, CM
Fairness Commissioner

 

April 2011

Commissioner's Message: March 30, 2010

[ Video ]

Video Transcripts

The Commissioner's Comments about Clearing the Path to Licensing

We're in a situation where people are moving around the world, and they are bringing with them skills and talents and abilities. We - as Canada, if you look at our history - we've always benefited from immigration and immigrants bringing their talents and their skills. And I'm sure we can sit here and name any number of individuals who have joined us in this country, bringing skills and talents that we're very proud to display right now.

So it's important for us to recognize that as we do the welcoming, we have to make sure that those individuals can meet their own personal goals. They were trained, they were experienced, [and] they had opportunities where they were. They're bringing all of this to us, and it's [to] the benefit of Canadians. I think the issue of brain gain is one that we need to consider very seriously.

In our province there are too many individuals who are underemployed, who are unemployed, [and] who are seeking employment and cannot find it in their field of endeavour. Too many of those individuals are there. When the system fails it is disastrous-disastrous to the individuals, disastrous to all those who are in the ambit of the individuals and disastrous for society itself.

The Commissioner's Recommendations

In terms of where we want to go with the recommendations that we have heard, number one, we want to speak to the regulatory bodies about the ways in which they could speed up some of the processes to fully acknowledge what happens-the impact actually- that slow decisions, indecisions, too many hoops to jump, too many barriers in the way, how that affects in a personal way the life and the lives of individuals. We want also to speak to the federal government-[make] recommendations to the federal government-as to the information that could be given to someone as they apply offshore, as they apply in their country of origin to come to Canada to be a professional. We feel that there is information that is missing, [that] the individual needs to know once one lands in Canada: you are now in a provincial jurisdiction and that the province and the provincial jurisdiction or territorial jurisdiction-that's where the rules are regarding your licensing, regarding your certification.

The Commissioner's Advice to Applicants

Well, the recommendation that, and I think all of us need to make to professionals before coming to Canada, really is to say to them: do your homework. Start the process as early as you possibly can. Ask as many questions as you can. Find individuals who are already in Canada practising. And find out what some of the processes are. It's important that one comes prepared for the regulatory bodies' registration, to know what is required in that whole registration process. I think if you speak to as many professionals as you possibly can, they will all say to you-those who have succeeded as well as those who have failed in terms of getting into their profession-they are not expecting to walk off the boat or walk off the aircraft straight into their profession. We know in order to put your shingle up you have to go through a process. And I think they are quite prepared to do this. But I think it's so important for them to have information, for them to know exactly what the requirements are and to have an answer given to them in a timely fashion, so that they can make major decisions about either bringing their families, coming themselves or knowing what the financial drain will be when they arrive in the province.

Commissioner's Message: January 21, 2010

I am pleased that regulatory bodies are making steady progress in creating fairer, faster licensing in their professions. For example...

  • The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario worked on a national process to streamline the assessment of internationally trained general dentists. In spring, dentists trained outside Canada have two routes - not just one - to get their licences.
  • The College of Chiropractors of Ontario uses a national board to run exams for internationally trained chiropractors. In November, 2009, in response to our Study of Qualifications Assessment Agencies, the Canadian Chiropractic Examining Board decided to exempt some candidates with more than three years of work experience from the exam about chiropractic knowledge. It has also rescheduled exams to make them more convenient.
  • The College of Dietitians of Ontario is consulting about changes to its registration regulation. It is proposing four new 'classes' of certificate, including one to allow applicants to practice in areas of demonstrated competence while completing further training. It is also looking into ways to better acknowledge dietitians' previous education and work experience.
  • The College of Medical Radiation Technologists of Ontario, like most regulatory bodies, requires competence in English or French. The College studied its requirements and changed them to make it easier for aspiring radiation technologists to meet the standard.
  • In 2008, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario proposed new 'pathways' into the medical profession for doctors trained overseas. They have shortened the process for doctors from other provinces, the U.S. and eight 'approved' jurisdictions and are proposing individual assessments for doctors trained in other countries. The pathways are a good first step.

For further information about these initiatives, please contact the regulatory bodies directly.

Commissioner's Message: September 16, 2009

Ontario's fair access law is already making a difference. I see signs of change that will improve access to the regulated professions.

With our leadership, regulators are taking action by modernizing programs, revisiting requirements and rewriting regulations about licensing. For example...

  • The College of Pharmacy will allow its bridging programs to offer a more individualized approach to applicants than before.
  • The Law Society no longer makes internationally trained lawyers go through a mandatory articling period.
  • The College of Teachers no longer requires teachers educated outside Canada to teach in Ontario for one year before they get permanent teaching certificates.

You may wish to read about the changes proposed by some of Ontario's regulatory bodies in our recent annual report for the year 2008-2009 (PDF document, opens in a new window PDF 2.5MB). See the section 'Report by Ministry'.

Commissioner's Observations: August, 2009

The OFC is seeing the beginnings of positive systemic change, change that clearly reflects the values of Ontarians.

Regulatory bodies must now implement new reporting and review procedures and undergo audits of their registration practices. Over the past year the office has worked closely with these bodies to develop guides and other tools to assist them as they meet their new responsibilities.

With the OFC's leadership, they are working hard to ensure that no barriers to registration exist in their organizations for qualified individuals, regardless of where they were trained.

Following are some of the Commissioner's observations about registration and licensing in Ontario's regulated professions, based on events of the last year. For more detail, see the OFC's 2008–09 Annual Report (PDF document, opens in a new window PDF 2.5 MB).

Agreement on Internal Trade

The Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), signed by Canadian First Ministers and aimed at reducing barriers to the movement of “persons, goods, services and investment” within Canada, came into effect in 1995. In January 2009, the First Ministers signed a revised AIT.

By August 2009, under the terms of the AIT, full labour mobility is expected across Canada. This development affects the registration requirements of Ontario's regulated professions. One of the AIT's core concepts is that individuals who have an unrestricted licence to practise in a Canadian jurisdiction should be eligible for a licence in any other Canadian jurisdiction to which they apply, without undergoing another assessment.

  • Consistency of goals — The OFC agrees with the spirit of the AIT, which is to improve access to professions. The principles expressed in the Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act, 2006 (FARPA) are consistent with the objectives of the AIT. Both have the same purpose and goal, which is to remove barriers to access to the professions.
  • Fair access for all applicants — The OFC supports the goal of increased labour mobility, provided access to regulated professions in Ontario is transparent, objective, impartial and fair for all applicants.
  • Benefits for Canadian and internationally trained individuals — Professional standards that are consistent across Canada and easy for applicants to understand would be beneficial for Canadian and internationally trained individuals. There are examples of professions that have national or international agreements that work well for internationally trained individuals.
  • Amendments to the AIT — Any amendments to the AIT should incorporate the principles of FARPA and ensure that licensure or certification processes are transparent, objective, impartial and fair for all applicants.

Review of Statutes, Regulations and By-laws Governing the Registration Practices of Regulated Professions

Between September 2008 and February 2009, OFC staff reviewed 34 regulatory bodies' statutes and registration-related regulations and by-laws to acquire a better understanding of how and where the different bodies' registration requirements and practices are stipulated.

The office found some registration-related requirements that are common to regulated professions:

  • Good character — Twelve of 34 regulatory bodies have “good character” as a registration requirement in their statutes, registration regulations and/or by-laws. One of 34 regulatory bodies provides criteria in its regulation for determining a “good character.” Setting criteria to clarify the meaning of “good character” improves the transparency of the requirement and would assist regulatory bodies in making objective judgements.
  • Canadian experience — Eleven of 34 regulatory bodies have Canadian experience as a registration requirement in their statutes, registration regulations and/or by-laws. Among those regulatory bodies that have Canadian experience as a registration requirement in their statutes, registration regulations and/or by-laws, some do not contemplate alternative options. Others have provisions for alternatives such as experience that is considered “equivalent” to Canadian experience.
  • Language fluency — Twenty-three of 34 regulatory bodies require “reasonable fluency” in either English or French or the ability to communicate effectively as a registration requirement in their statutes, registration regulations and/or by-laws. According to information gathered by the OFC in its 2007 study of registration practices, some regulatory bodies do not require any language evaluation. In these cases, reasonable fluency is indirectly assessed by applicants' ability to pass the registration examinations. Other regulatory bodies require specific language tests and scores to demonstrate fluency in English or French.
  • Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status — Four out of 34 regulatory bodies require Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status as a registration requirement in their statutes, registration regulations and/or by-laws. Others have a more inclusive provision that accepts applicants who hold an authorization under the Immigration Act to engage in the practice of the profession, as well as those with Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status.

Qualification Assessment Agencies

In March 2009, the Office of the Fairness Commissioner published a study about qualifications assessment agencies.

This is the first time that research of this type has been done. It confirmed that the agencies play a pivotal role in access to the professions.

Twenty-seven of Ontario's regulatory bodies rely on these agencies. They do the following types of assessments:

  • Degree-equivalency assessment
  • Occupation-specific credential assessment
  • Competency assessment
  • Prior learning assessment
  • Examinations.

In the Study of Qualifications Assessment Agencies (PDF document, opens in a new window PDF 228 KB), the Commissioner made several recommendations:

  • Qualifications assessment agencies should offer applicants more help, use clear criteria, and streamline their processes.
  • Agencies should improve their practices, because they play a key role in deciding who gets into the professions and who does not.
  • Regulatory bodies must hold their agencies accountable.

The office will follow up on these recommendations in 2009. Some organizations are already dealing with the difficulties candidates face. These organizations have timely, transparent and equitable processes that can be shared. Other organizations use costly and time-consuming procedures, or do not give candidates reasons for decisions or opportunities for appeal.

August, 2009

Commissioner's Message: May 7, 2009

Audio Clips

Online Survey of Applicants to the Professions

Download the Online Survey of Applicants to the Professions MP3 link opens new window

Share Your Experience

If you have applied for your professional licence in Ontario, I’d like to hear from you.

My name is Jean Augustine, and I’m the Fairness Commissioner here in Ontario.

My office is doing a survey to gather first-hand information from you. Whether you were educated here, in another province, or in another country, if you have applied to receive your licensed professional status as a teacher, a nurse, a doctor, an engineer or any other regulated professional, we want to hear from you.

You’ll find a link to our online survey at fairnesscommissioner.ca. Your answers are completely confidential. Please share your experience with us.

Thank-you.

Online Survey of Applicants to the Professions

Hello, my name is Jean Augustine. I’m the Fairness Commissioner for the province of Ontario.

My job is to make sure that people are treated fairly when applying for their licensed professional status in various regulated professions in Ontario such as law, dentistry, accounting, pharmacy, social work and many more.

My office has recently launched an on-line survey about applicants’ experiences. We want to know what it’s like to become licensed in one of the regulated professions.

Participation in this survey is very important. My colleagues and I have lots of information from regulatory bodies, universities and colleges, and other organizations. But we’re missing the applicant’s story.

Everyone has heard anecdotes about engineers driving cabs, doctors delivering pizza and other well-educated people who are under-employed. This survey will help us get reliable information and give us solid research.

A survey like this has never been done before. You can find it at fairnesscommissioner.ca.

I encourage people to get involved, whether they are applying for their licences or already have them… whether they were trained in Canada or in another country.

Again, you’ll find a link to our survey at fairnesscommissioner.ca.

Thank-you.