Doctors, engineers, lawyers, notaries… These are just a few examples of regulated professions in Quebec. To practice one of these professions, someone must be part of an institution called a “professional order”. But what exactly do professional orders do? What are the professions covered by these rules?
Some professions are regulated to protect the public
Professional orders aren’t labour unions or professional associations: it’s not their job to defend their members’ interests.
These institutions were created to protect the public by overseeing certain professions in Quebec. The government can create a professional order when it considers that a specific field of activity can be risky if it’s not well regulated.
There are currently 46 professional orders in Quebec. They can be divided into three categories:
Engineering, development and science
Architects, chemists, geologists, engineers
Law, administration and business
Notaries, lawyers, chartered professional accountants (CPAs)
Health and human relations
Dentists, midwives, psychologists
The Office des professions du Québec has a list of all the professions that are regulated by professional orders on their website (in French only).
Did you know?
Some careers aren’t regulated by professional orders, but have very similar rules and institutions. For example, real estate brokers are governed by the Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec (Quebec’s authority of real estate brokers). Another example is the Corporation des maîtres électriciens du Québec (Quebec’s corporation for electrical contractors) that oversees electrical work in Quebec.
Regulated professions require a licence
All professions that are regulated by professional orders require a licence. But this licence can give you different rights depending on the profession.
Some professions only require a licence to use a specific title. They’re usually called “professions with reserved titles”. For example, anyone can give nutrition advice without being a licensed dietician-nutritionist. But in Quebec, you can’t claim to be a dietician-nutritionist if you don’t have a dietitian-nutritionist’s licence from the Ordre des diététistes-nutritionnistes du Québec (Quebec’s professional order for dietician-nutritionists).
Other professions require a licence to practice and to use a specific title. They’re usually called “exclusive professions”. For example, in Quebec, you usually can’t prescribe medication for animals without having a veterinarian’s licence from the Ordre des vétérinaires du Québec (Quebec’s professional order for veterinarians). You can’t claim to be a veterinarian either.
Aside from having a valid licence, professionals must register every year to be on the official list of members of their professional order (often called the “roll”).
These rules also apply to people who used to practice a profession in another province or country. For example, if a dentist from Brazil wants to practice dentistry in Quebec, they need a licence from the Ordre des dentistes du Quebec (Quebec’s professional order for dentists).
What do professional orders do to protect the public?
Professional orders protect the public by being involved in every step of their members’ professional paths. They can also have charges pressed against anyone who practices a profession or uses a reserve title without a valid licence.
Decide who gets admitted to their profession
Professional orders decide who gets admitted to their profession. They must make sure that those who apply are qualified to practice.
For example, the Barreau du Québec (Quebec’s professional order for lawyers) decides whether its applicants meet the qualifications and ethical standards to become lawyers. The Barreau does this by checking its applicants’ academic background and criminal record, among other things.
Supervise and inspect their members
Professional orders inspect some of their members each year to make sure they follow all the rules.
Most of these rules are set out in a “code of ethics”. This document essentially explains how a professional should act towards their clients and colleagues. Professionals also need to follow strict rules regarding their fees and accounting.
For example, the Barreau du Québec can make sure a lawyer’s accounting is being done properly. The Ordre des dentistes du Québec can check whether a dental clinic meets the required hygienic standards.
Receive complaints and investigate their members
Anyone can file a complaint against a professional with their order’s Bureau du syndic (syndic’s office). If the order finds the complaint to be well-founded, it can discipline the professional. For example, it can require them to pay a fine. In the most severe cases, a professional can lose their right to practice.
Among other reasons, someone can file a complaint against a professional if they
- rarely have time for their clients,
- are involved in a conflict of interest,
- give bad advice or false information, or
- are disrespectful towards their clients.
Most professional orders have a “complaints” section on their website.
It’s important to know that you can’t file a complaint simply because you don’t agree with a professional’s fees. There’s a specific and separate procedure for this, called “conciliation and arbitration of accounts”. Most professional orders have a section for this procedure on their website.
In some cases, a person could have other recourses against a professional. For example, if the professional caused them harm, they can sue them in civil court and ask for financial compensation. If the professional committed a crime, they can report it to the police.
Counter illegal practice and unauthorized use of a title
Professional orders can have charges pressed against people who
- practice a regulated profession without having a valid license, or
- use a reserved title without having a license.
These people may have to pay large fines.
For example, the Ordre des architectes (Quebec’s professional order for architects) can have charges pressed against anyone who claims to be an architect without having a valid architect’s license. The Chambre des notaires (Quebec’s professional order for notaries) can have charges pressed against anyone who claims to prepare notarial wills without having a valid notary’s license.
You can check if someone is a licensed professional through the list of members on each professional order’s website. You can also access these lists via the Office des professions’ website (in French only).