Regulating Professions in Canada: Interprovincial Differences across Five Provinces

By Adams, Tracey L. | Journal of Canadian Studies, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Regulating Professions in Canada: Interprovincial Differences across Five Provinces


Adams, Tracey L., Journal of Canadian Studies


This essay looks at the regulation of professions in five Canadian provinces-Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia-from Confederation to 1961 to examine the ways in which professional regulation has historically varied across locale. Interprovincial variations in the timing and content of legislation regulating professions are examined, and explanations for these variations are explored. Overall, the study finds that although there was a core group of professions regulated in all five provinces, there is significant variation across the provinces with respect to which professions were regulated, and when and how they were regulated. Such variations may be partly explained by differential rates in occupational growth, differences in professional organization and interprofessional conflict, and population density.

Cet article examine la réglementation des professions dans cinq provinces canadiennes-Nouvelle-Écosse, Québec, Ontario, Saskatchewan et Colombie-Britannique-du temps de la Confédération jusqu'à 1961 pour voir comment la réglementation professionnelle a varié historiquement d'un endroit à l'autre. Des variations interprovinciales dans le calendrier et le contenu des lois qui réglementent les professions sont étudiées et des explications de ces variations sont offertes. Les résultats de cette étude proposent globalement que bien qu'il y ait eu un groupe de professions principales réglementées dans les cinq provinces, il y avait des variations importantes entre les provinces en ce qui concerne les professions qui étaient réglementées ainsi que la date et la façon dont elles ont été réglementées. Ces variations peuvent s'expliquer en partie par des taux différentiels de la croissance des professions, des différences dans l'organisation des professions et des conflits interprofessionnels ainsi que par la densité des populations.

Early in 1868, during the first session of the first parliament of the new prov- ince of Ontario, legislators passed an Act Respecting Dentistry and thereby established the first self-regulating dental profession in the world (Gullett 1971). This legislation created a regulatory college, the Royal College of Dental Surgeons, and granted this college and its executive board extensive authority, including the right to restrict entry to practice to those who had met the educa- tion and examination criteria prescribed by the board. Further, the board was granted the right to establish a dental school in the province and to regulate practitioner conduct. In obtaining these powers, Ontario dentists were in elite company: only lawyers, and, to a lesser extent, homeopathic and eclectic doctors, had similar powers in Ontario at this time. Regular medical practitioners had to wait until the following parliamentary session in 1869 before acquiring their own regulatory college and full rights to self-regulation.

Dentists in Quebec earned similar powers in 1869: legislation granted them the right to self-regulate and established a regulatory body to oversee education and entry to practice. Dentists in other provinces, however, were not so fortunate. Those in Nova Scotia, for instance, had to wait until 1891 before obtaining any recognition from the government. The Nova Scotia dental act both recognized an organization and established a separate, largely government-appointed, board of examiners to determine entry to practice. Entry, then, was not entirely left in the profession's hands. Dentists in British Columbia were granted even less authority. The 1886 BC dental act established a state-appointed board of examiners to oversee entry to practice, but did not grant any rights to self-regulation. Dentistry did not become a self-regulating profession in BC until 1908.

Why were there so many differences in precisely when and how the dental profession was regulated in Canada? Were such variations evident in other professions, or was dentistry the exception? …

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