On June 1 at the Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition in Vancouver, the provincial chemistry associations of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia created a new national body called the Federation of Canada’s Professional Chemists (FCPC). Paul West, President of the Association of the Chemical Profession of British Columbia (ACPBC) was elected FCPC Chair and on June 2 signed an historical Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC). Lorenzo Ferrari, CSC President (2013-2014) was the CSC signatory. Each organization has much to bring to the table for mutual benefit. The MRA agreed to roles and responsibilities by both parties.
Members from the FCPC council and CSC board of directors met afterwards in a cooperative, positive atmosphere with both parties expressing confidence that improvements are coming to the chemistry profession and society as a whole. What does this all mean and what is the path forward? First, a brief explanation of regulations and associations, drawn from an overview by Claude Balthazard, Registrar of the Human Resources Professionals Association, in an article, “What does It Mean to be Regulated?” Balthazard notes that the regulation of professions in Canada falls under provincial authority. Doctors, lawyers, engineers and many other professions are either selfregulated or professionally self-regulated at the provincial level. Provincial legislators expect association bodies to regulate professions for the primary reason of “public interest” to protect the public and not to directly enhance the profession.
While regulatory bodies are responsible to the province, provincial governments are downloading their legislative and regulatory responsibilities to provincial associations, which are expected to set standards for anyone entering the profession. This includes standards of practice and codes of ethics. The FCPC should therefore expect that provincial chemistry associations will be given increased responsibilities in the future as provincial governments add more regulations to be carried out by a professional chemist (P.Chem) or Chartered Chemist (C.Chem).
Professional associations such as the CSC serve the interests of their current membership and set the stage for the next generation of members, as well as pursuing the goals of science and innovation. The activities and programs of these associations include: running professional development conferences, courses and workshops; publishing scientific information; networking opportunities; career services; recognition programs and awards and lobbying for the interests of their members, such as research funding. CSC also accredits university chemistry undergraduate educational programs.
There is also a growing recognition of “chemist” as a profession. Up until a few years ago, in all provinces except for Quebec, chemists could not sign off on environmental assessment reports regarding the remediation of brownfields. Although the work was done by a chemist, an engineer’s (PEng) or geoscientist’s (PGeo) signature was required. Alberta and BC have been leaders amongst the provincial chemistry associations in achieving this kind of recognition and authority for their P.Chem members.
Although it will probably take a few years to sort out the details of the roles and responsibilities of FCPC and CSC, there is optimism that the increasing recognition of “chemist” as a profession will enhance the public image of what we do in areas such as food, water, air quality, energy, climate change, environment, security and healthcare. Both organizations have important roles to play and must work closely together to achieve mutually beneficial objectives.