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Clearing the Path: Recommendations for Action in Ontario's Professional Licensing System

On March 30, 2010, the Commissioner made 17 recommendations to improve registration and licensing in Ontario's regulated professions.

The recommendations appear in Clearing the Path: Recommendations for Action in Ontario's Professional Licensing System (PDF document, opens in a new window PDF 96 KB).

Clearing the Path: The Commissioner's Recommendations for Action

To Regulatory Bodies

Regulatory bodies have direct responsibility for licensing professionals in Ontario.

Recommendations:

  • Improve communication with applicants by:
    • clearly identifying all of the steps required to get a professional licence in Ontario
    • posting information on your websites about the amount of time registration normally takes and the cost of the process
    • giving applicants clear reasons if they are denied a licence
  • Streamline registration processes by reviewing and eliminating unnecessary steps and speeding up decision-making so applicants have answers sooner.
  • Review Canadian work experience requirements to ensure they are relevant and necessary. Recognize and value comparable work experience obtained outside Canada.
  • Enable potential immigrants to complete most of the steps for registration before they arrive in Canada.
  • Provide stricter oversight when outsourcing assessments of qualifications. You must take your relationship with these qualifications assessment agencies very seriously, because these agencies directly affect who gets into the professions and who doesn't. Hold qualifications assessment agencies accountable for transparent, objective, impartial and fair assessments.

Of all the licensing systems used by regulated professions in Ontario, the system to license doctors is the most complicated. Following are recommendations related specifically to the physician licensing system.

  • Provide alternatives to mandatory postgraduate training or residency programs, to allow qualified international medical graduates to get licensed more quickly.
  • Initiate individualized assessment regimes for qualified international medical graduates.

    The Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) monitors each regulatory body to track the implementation of these recommendations. As of June 30, 2012, most regulators are making changes and improvements. For details, check summaries of assessments for the professions that interest you.

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To Qualifications Assessment Agencies

Third-party qualifications assessment agencies often have significant impact on decisions about granting licences. These agencies decide whether academic credentials are equivalent, determine whether occupation-specific credentials are acceptable, judge competency, assess skills and knowledge, and run exams. More than three-quarters of Ontario regulators have outsourced assessments.

Recommendations:

  • Without waiting for direction from regulatory bodies, remove overlaps so that candidates do not have to go through costly and lengthy duplicate verifications.
  • Publish details about the documents you require, state clearly how you will assess candidates, help them get documents from overseas, and assess the credentials of immigrant candidates before they move to Canada.

    The OFC monitors qualifications assessment agencies, but does not oversee them directly. It is the regulatory bodies’ responsibility to make sure their agencies do their work in a transparent, objective, impartial and fair way.

    As of June 30, 2012, this is gradually happening.

    Read about assessment of academic credentials elsewhere on this site.

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To the Government of Ontario

As the overseer of all regulatory practices, the Government of Ontario has a key role to play in improving the licensing system.

Recommendations:

  • Open the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) or other needs-based financial aid to internationally trained professionals who must upgrade their education or training.

    The Government of Ontario funds several bridge training programs that help skilled newcomers get licences or certificates in their professions. It does not provide financial aid to individuals who are internationally trained.

  • Decide within six months whether to approve or reject regulators' proposed changes to regulations or laws affecting licensing.

    The OFC is actively involved in registration regulations. The office examines proposals for changes to regulations, sometimes at the request of a regulator or the government, to ensure that they maintain fairness. As of June 30, 2012, the government has not been able to commit to short timelines for approving regulation changes. The commissioner raises this issue in her meetings with ministers responsible for the regulated professions.

  • In the health care sector, convene the seven organizations - national and provincial, including the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care itself - involved in the complex process for licensing doctors, in order to:
    • Ensure transparency in the decisions they make on licensing.
    • Eliminate duplication across the licensing system.
    • Identify alternative licensing streams to recognize existing qualifications.

    The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care convened a meeting with the seven organizations on June 28, 2010.  These organizations, known as the Physician Resources Task Force, state that they "recognize there is opportunity to make additional progress."

    Interviews with international medical graduates (IMGs) for residency positions are the most subjective part of the selection process. The OFC would welcome a structured-interview approach based on objective criteria, and believes that unsuccessful candidates should get feedback. The OFC will continue to monitor IMGs’ access to the profession.

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To the Government of Canada

Although professional licensing is within provincial jurisdiction, the federal government is responsible for admitting skilled immigrants and therefore has an important role to play.

Recommendations:

  • Ensure that professionals who apply to immigrate to Canada are informed that there is a provincial licensing process.
  • Before immigrant professionals arrive, give them realistic, clear and up-to-date information about licensing requirements in destination province(s).

Since July 2011, the Government of Canada includes a clear statement on its immigration application form, and prospective immigrants must sign it: "I understand that if I wish to work in a regulated occupation, it is my responsibility to obtain information on the licensing requirements from the appropriate regulatory body in Canada…."

To Applicants

Ultimately, individual applicants must take responsibility for their own futures.

Recommendations:

  • Know the cost and be prepared to support yourself and your family during the licensing process.
  • Do your homework before moving to Ontario or immigrating to Canada. Ensure that you are sourcing credible information, and are not relying on friends or anecdotes.
  • Complete as much of the licensing process as possible before leaving your home country.

The Commissioner speaks to many immigrant serving organizations about these issues. She is not in a position to follow up with individual applicants.

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Mauricio Marin

Watch videos of applicants speaking about their own experiences getting professional licences in Ontario.

» See all the applicants' videos

View the Commissioner's Message about the human consequences of complex, costly and time-consuming licensing.

Presentation of Research Findings to Regulatory Bodies

Presentation of Research Findings

Getting Your Professional Licence in Ontario: The Experiences of International and Canadian Applicants

» View Presentation