The Legal Context

The Professional Code

Under review

Ratified in 1973 and amended several times, the Professional Code constitutes the legal framework governing all recognized professions in Québec. It clearly establishes
that every order’s principal function is to ensure the protection of the public and, to this end, must supervise the professional practice of its members. It also defines the criteria for the constitution of an order: 

- the knowledge required to practice;
- the degree of independence required to practice professionally; 
- the personal nature of the relationships with persons requesting services; 
- the gravity of the prejudice or damage due to incompetence or lack of integrity; 
- the confidential nature of the information obtained.

It also determines the organizational structure of professional orders.

The Professional Code distinguishes two categories of profession: exclusive professions and professions with reserved titles.

Exclusive Professions
In exclusive professions, members reserve the exclusive right to engage in certain professional activities and to bear the corresponding title, for example, physician, nurse, architect, or chartered accountant. 
Professions with Reserved Titles
Professions with reserved titles allow their members the right to use a title, for example, translator or social worker, but the activities of their profession are not exclusively reserved to them.

However, since the adoption of Bill 90 in June 2002 and the coming into force of the Act to amend the Professional Code and other legislative provisions as regards the health sector six months later, certain professions with reserved titles have obtained the right to engage in activities considered to entail risk of injury and heretofore restricted to the exclusive professions. In the health care field, they are the professions of registered respiratory therapist, nurse and certified nursing assistant, medical technologist, dietician or nutritionist, speech therapist and audiologist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist.

The Professional Code contains provisions common to all orders; these relate to the issuance of permits, recognition of training or the required diplomas. It states “no order
may refuse to issue a permit or specialist’s certificate or to grant a special authorization for reasons of race, color, sex, religion, national extraction or social origin.” It prescribes entry on the roll and defines the reasons for temporary or permanent striking off the roll. It also determines the circumstances in which the board of directors of an order may oblige a member to undergo an examination to ascertain whether his or her physical or mental condition is compatible with the practice of the profession. With respect to admission to practice, the legislative provisions henceforth make it possible to refuse a person who has been the subject of decisions of a criminal or disciplinary nature, and imposes recourse to a disciplinary process for misconduct of a sexual nature. The  Professional Code  also provides immunity for physicians charged with conducting inquiries and for physicians or experts who testify before the Disciplinary Council or the Professions Tribunal.

In order to supervise and coordinate the  activities of professional orders, now numbering nearly 50, half of which are in the health sector, the Code provides for two bodies: the Office des professions and the Inter-professional Council.

Office des professions

Composed of five members, the Office des professions du Québec (OPQ) is an agency whose function is to see that each order ensures the protection of the public. More specifically, the OPQ makes certain that each order,

- adopts a code of ethics; 
- has a functional professional inspection committee; 
- sets regulations on the management and  discarding of records, the keeping of medicines, the use of equipment, the administration of offices, etc.; 
- regulates the procedure for elections to the board of directors, to the presidency, etc.; 
- sets standards of equivalence for diplomas issued by educational institutions outside of Québec; 
- defines the acts that may be performed by other professionals; 
- has a disciplinary council.

The OPQ may also make suggestions as to how an order should conduct itself or what measures it should take, if necessary, to protect the public. 

The OPQ is funded by mandatory dues paid annually by the members of every professional order.

Interprofessional Council

The Interprofessional Council brings together all orders governed by the Professional Code. Its functions include studying general problems encountered by orders, making the recommendations it considers appropriate, promoting exchange among the different groups of professionals, hearing  groups that want to be recognized as professionals and giving its opinion in this regard.