Professional self-regulation is an agreement between an occupational group or profession and the government to regulate the activities of its members. Self-regulation is a privilege granted to a profession through legislation to protect the public interest. In this arrangement, government trusts professionals to set aside their self-interest in favour of professional standards set in the public interest, and relies on an ethos of professionalism that includes a commitment to public service. This system is used by government to reduce the risks of incompetent and unethical practice. It allows government some control over the practice of the profession while enabling professionals to use their expertise to set and enforce appropriate requirements.
Professional governance legislation establishes a profession’s governing body with the authority to manage itself within a regulatory framework and set requirements for persons to enter the profession, standards of practice, a pathway for complaints, and investigation and discipline procedures. Government can maintain further oversight with ministerial accountability, government appointees to councils and boards, and agencies of oversight, which in this case is the OSPG.
Professional Regulators and Professional Associations
It is important to acknowledge, as there is sometimes confusion, that ‘professional regulators’ are distinct from ‘professional associations’. Professional associations are usually voluntary organizations which advocate for a profession and their member’s interests. Professional regulators, such as regulatory bodies under the Professional Governance Act, have a duty to regulate their professions in the public interest, which may not necessarily reflect the interests of their registered professionals. Registered professionals regulated by a professional regulator have an ethical and legal duty to put the interests of the public ahead of their own.
‘Professional reliance’ as it developed in BC’s natural resource sector in the 2000’s is a system where government has given significant decision-making power over to the professional, while maintaining a compliance and enforcement role. In this system government sets the objectives and results desired and the professionals hired by proponents decide how those objective and results will be met. Not all regulated professionals practice within a professional reliance model, but this model is one way in which government can rely on a system of professional governance to support resource management and public safety.
Crown Agencies and Board Resourcing Office
The Crown Agencies and Board Resourcing Office (CABRO) oversees the recruitment and recommendation of candidates for public appointments to all Crown corporations, agencies, boards and commissions. In this role, CABRO finds public appointees for the councils of many self-regulated professions in BC. Please see CABRO’s website and contact form if you are interested in learning about the process of becoming a council member.