The Operations of a Professional Order
The Professional Code ensures legislative and regulatory consistency by instituting shared organizational principles among all professional orders. The 46 professional orders of Québec are legally obliged to respect these principles and set up bodies to ensure their smooth operation and the fulfillment of their mission to protect the public.
Legally speaking, each order is composed of professionals who are its members and constitutes a legal person established in the public interest in the meaning of the Civil Code of Québec. The orders are also considered to be non-profit organizations.
They are mandated by the government to ensure the protection of the public. To this end, they are vested with the power to regulate the practice of the professions and exercise oversight. They therefore come under public and administrative law. Some aspects of their operations resemble those of an association.
In the decisional and quasi-judicial processes they execute as part of their mission to protect the public, the professional orders are required to uphold the principles of natural justice, in particular:
- the opportunity of all persons to be heard before the rendering of a major decision affecting them
- impartiality, absence of prejudice and conflict of interest on the part of the decision-makers, in particular, not deciding on one’s own recommendation or appealing/amending one’s own decision
- action/decision must be taken within a reasonable time period
The principle of self-management underpins the orders’ mode of organizing the regulation and supervision of professional practice. Based on this principle, those governed by a professional order:
- are its members
- are responsible for financing its activities
- participate in managing its affairs
- participate in drawing up professional regulations; and
- hold different functions and responsibilities in the execution of its mandate of protection of the public
The main bodies of a professional order are the board of directors, the executive committee, the general meeting, the training committee, the professional inspection committee, the syndic, the review committee and the disciplinary council.
Board of directors and executive committee
The board of directors is the body mainly responsible for carrying out the order’s mission of protecting the public. Its primary responsibility is to control admission to the profession and regulate its practice. To this end, the board of directors adopts regulations concerning the protection of the public and makes decisions with respect to their application, including the issuance of permits, professional inspection, and disciplinary procedures. It appoints individuals to key functions within public protection mechanisms.
The board of directors also ensures the order’s smooth operations by, among other things, adopting regulations concerning its internal affairs and monitoring their application.
The board of directors is composed of a chair and 8 to 24 directors who are elected by the members, except for a few directors who are appointed by the Office des professions du Québec to represent the public. The professional directors are, of course, elected by the members of the order, but once they have been elected they are mandated by and accountable to the government.
Where the board of directors is composed of 16 or more members, an executive committee, composed of five members of the board, ensures the ongoing administration of the order’s affairs. The executive committee exercises the powers delegated to it by the board of directors.
The general meeting of an order’s members is held once every year. It formulates recommendations on various subjects. It also has the power to decide whether to approve an increase of the annual dues where such an increase is not justified by increased costs associated with controlling the practice of the profession and public protection measures. The general meeting also appoints auditors who are responsible for auditing the order’s books and accounts.
In addition, the general meeting determines the method of election of the president—by a general vote of the members or by the vote of the elected directors of the order who elect the president from their ranks.
All professional orders must have a training committee, the purpose of which is to consider issues relating to the quality of required training to practice the profession.
The training committee considers the adequacy of training with regard to the job-related skills that must be acquired, taking into account changes in knowledge and practice. The committee also advises the board of directors on projects involving the revision or formulation of goals for training programs leading to a diploma giving access to a permit.
The committee is composed of the members of the order appointed by the board of directors, individuals appointed by the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport, and educational institutions offering programs resulting in a diploma giving access to a permit. The chair of the committee is a member of the order. Committee members are selected on the basis of their knowledge and responsibilities in connection with the issues being addressed.
Professional inspection committee
All of the 46 professional orders are also legally obligated to have a professional inspection committee. Comprising at least three individuals appointed by the board of directors, this committee is responsible for overseeing professional practice to ensure the competence of all members.
It is assisted by inspectors, investigators and various experts. The committee’s powers may be delegated by regulation to an individual who is in charge of professional inspection.
The committee may recommend to the board of directors that a member be required to successfully complete a training period or refresher course. It may also simply recommend to restrict or suspend the professional’s right to practise until such time as he or she has fulfilled certain obligations.
All of the 46 professional orders must have a syndic. The syndic is appointed by the board of directors from among the members of the order. The syndic hears complaints from patients or clients who have requested the services of a member of the order and who believe the professional in question has committed an error or failed to fulfill their obligations.
He or she also investigates infractions of the Professional Code or the professional legislation and regulations. Where appropriate, the syndic can decide to lodge a complaint against a member. Syndics also conduct conciliations in the context of a disciplinary procedure or a dispute about an account. If necessary they may call on the assistance of experts.
Syndics have decision-making authority in inquiries, conciliations and in their representations before the disciplinary council and decisions on whether to lodge a complaint.
All of the 46 professional orders have a review committee. The function of this committee is to give persons who have requested the holding of an inquiry its opinion regarding a decision of the syndic or assistant syndic not to lodge a complaint.
The committee is composed of at least three individuals appointed by the order’s board of directors, at least one of whom is selected from among the directors appointed by the Office des professions du Québec or from a list produced by the Office.
The disciplinary council deals with complaints lodged against a member of an order, or a former member, if it involves an offence that might have been committed when the person was a member.
The committee is composed of at least three persons, of whom at least two are appointed by the board of directors from among the members of the order. The chair of the disciplinary council is a lawyer appointed by the government.