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Frequently Asked Questions

What the Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) Does

The Law about Fairness

Qualifications Assessment Agencies


What the Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) Does

What does your office do?

The Office of the Fairness Commissioner works with the regulated professions and compulsory trades in Ontario to ensure that they have registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.

It requires them to:

The commissioner submits an annual report to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The report highlights licensing trends and issues.

Is the Office of the Fairness Commissioner part of the Ontario government?

The office is an arm's-length agency of the Ontario government, reporting to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade every year. It is independent of the Ontario government and of the regulated professions and trades.

Why is this office necessary?

The office is necessary because people should be able to put their professional skills and experience to work, regardless of where they were educated. Many newcomers to Ontario have had difficulty getting into the regulated professions through no fault of their own.

In 2006, the provincial government passed the Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act. This act required certain regulated professions to have fair registration practices. The act also established the Office of the Fairness Commissioner, to make sure the professions comply with the law.

In 2009, the law was amended to include some trades.

For more information, read about the mandate of this office.

Licensing, registration and certification: what’s the difference?

Licensing, registration and certification all refer to authorizing a person to practise a profession or trade.

What is a regulatory body? a college? a compulsory trade?

A regulatory body is an organization that oversees a profession or trade and governs its members in the public interest. Some regulatory bodies oversee more than one profession: for example, the Law Society of Upper Canada oversees both lawyers and paralegals.

Some regulatory bodies are called colleges, but they are not schools.

A compulsory trade is one in which an individual must be a licensed journeyperson or an apprentice to work in that trade. There are 22 compulsory trades in Ontario.

What do you mean by "foreign" or "internationally" educated?

A foreign- or internationally-educated person is someone who was trained in a country other than Canada to practise a regulated profession or trade. The term covers both Canadians who have gone abroad for training and immigrants.

Does your office benefit both Canadian-trained and internationally trained people?

Yes. Ontario's regulated professions and trades must have registration processes that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair for everyone. The work of the office helps ensure that people are treated fairly and can put their skills and experience to work, regardless of where they were educated.

What does the Commissioner think should be done to improve access to the professions?

In January 2013, the Commissioner issued a 12-point fair-access agenda for the future. It was the culmination offive years of research and a comprehensive assessment of regulatory bodies. The agenda calls for regulatory bodies and government to strengthen the fairness of the licensing system. The commissioner also calls for work by researchers and pressure from the public.

The fair-access agenda, the results of the assessment and comments on broader issues may be found in A Fair Way to Go Access to Ontario’s Regulated Professions and the Need to Embrace Newcomers in the Global Economy.

Can you help me to get my credentials recognized so I can practise my profession?

No. The Office of the Fairness Commissioner works with Ontario's regulatory bodies to ensure that their registration practices are transparent, objective, impartial and fair. It does not have a mandate to advocate for individuals or to assess credentials.

If you are an internationally trained health professional, and you have questions about the health professions, contact HealthForceOntario.

If you are an internationally trained professional in another regulated profession, and you have questions about that profession, contact Global Experience Ontario Top ›


The Law about Fairness

How many professions and trades are subject to the fair access law?

The Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006, covers professions in 15 regulatory bodies. Not all regulated professions are subject to the act.

The Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, as amended, covers access to professions in 26 health regulatory colleges in Ontario. The act includes the Health Professions Procedural Code, which requires colleges to provide registration that is transparent, objective, impartial and fair.

Starting in 2013, 22 trades will be required to have fair registration practices under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009.

What are the consequences for regulatory bodies that do not comply with the law?

The Office of the Fairness Commissioner encourages regulatory bodies to continually improve their registration practices, and it assesses their practices and makes recommendations every two years.

But, ultimately, a regulatory body guilty of an offence may have to pay a fine of up to $100,000.

I am applying to become a member of a regulated profession. What are my rights?

All applicants are entitled to: By law, all regulatory bodies must:
Information provide clear information about registration requirements, processes, timelines and fees
Timely decisions, responses and reasons make registration decisions, and provide written reasons for those decisions, within a reasonable time
Internal review or appeal offer an internal review or appeal, including an opportunity for applicants to submit arguments and supporting documents
Information on appeal rights inform applicants of any rights they have to request a further review or appeal of the registration decision
Fair assessment of qualifications conduct assessments in a way that is transparent, objective, impartial and fair, and take reasonable measures to ensure that any external assessors follow these principles ensure adequate training of all individuals who assess qualifications or make registration decisions
Access to records grant applicants – upon written request - access to records related to their application, with certain legal limitations

Are regulatory bodies audited?

Yes. The fair access law provides for audits. These are independent examinations of an organization's registration procedures to verify that the procedures comply with the law. Audits do not examine accounting or financial practices.

All existing regulatory bodies were audited between December 2008 and 2010. Read existing audit reports. No audits have been done since, and none is planned for 2014.

What is a review of registration practices?

A registration practices review is a fresh look by a regulatory body at its own laws and policies. Are its requirements for a licence really necessary and still relevant? Does the body make its decisions in an efficient and timely way? Are its fees reasonable? The OFC may require a mandatory review under the fair access law. Regulatory bodies may also undertake reviews voluntarily. Read existing entry-to-practice reviews.

Does any other place have an office like yours?

The Manitoba government appointed a fairness commissioner in 2008 under its Fair Registration Practices in Regulated Professions Act.

The Nova Scotia government passed The Fair Registration Practices Act in 2008. It calls for the appointment of a review officer.

In 2009, the Quebec government set up a Commissioner for Complaints Concerning the Recognition of Professional Competence, whose role is similar.

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Qualifications Assessment Agencies

What are "qualifications assessment agencies"?

Regulatory bodies use qualifications assessment agencies to help determine whether a person should be licensed in their professions. These agencies evaluate academic degrees, evaluate candidates' prior learning, assess competence in specific skills, and assess occupation-specific qualifications. They also run exams. They usually operate independently of regulatory bodies.

What is the fairness commissioner's role concerning these agencies?

The Fairness Commissioner monitors them. The regulatory bodies must make sure that the agencies' assessments are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.

Why are they important?

Qualifications assessment agencies are important because 27 regulatory bodies rely on them to assess the qualifications of people applying to enter the professions. The agencies directly affect who gets into the professions and who does not. For more information, read the OFC's 2009 Study of Qualifications Assessment Agencies, the first research study done about these organizations.

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