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Introduction

In March 2014, Ontario’s Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) performed a targeted assessment of the way the Ontario Professional Foresters Association (OPFA) registers people who apply for a licence to practise in Ontario, to ensure that the registration practices are fair and continue to improve.

Assessment is one of the Fairness Commissioner's mandated roles under the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act (FARPACTA).

Assessment Cycle

To hold regulatory bodies accountable for continuous improvement, the OFC assesses their licensing practices using a two-year assessment cycle.

Assessment cycles alternate between full assessments and targeted assessments:

  • Full assessments address all specific and general duties described in FARPACTA.
  • Targeted assessments focus on the areas where the OFC made recommendations in the previous full assessment.

This approach establishes continuity between the assessment cycles.

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Focus of This Assessment and Report

The March 2014 targeted assessment of the OPFA focused on the areas where the OFC made recommendations in the full assessment it completed in March 2012.

The OFC’s detailed report captures the results of the targeted assessment. The assessment summary provides the following key information from the detailed report:

  • duties that were assessed
  • an overview of assessment outcomes for specific-duty practices
  • an overview of comments related to the general duty
  • commendable practices
  • recommendations

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Availability of Report

The OFC encourages the OPFA to provide the detailed report to its staff, council members, the public, and other interested parties.

To receive a copy of the detailed report, click here.

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Assessment Methods

Assessments are based on the Registration Practices Assessment Guide – For Regulated Professions and Trades. The guide presents registration practices relating to the specific duties and general duty in FARPACTA.

A regulatory body’s practices can be measured against FARPACTA’s specific duties in a straightforward way. However, the general duty is broad, and the principles it mentions (transparency, objectivity, impartiality and fairness) are not defined in the legislation.

As a result, the specific-duty and general-duty obligations are assessed differently (see the Strategy for Continuous Improvement of Registration Practices).

Specific Duties

The OFC can clearly determine whether a regulatory body demonstrates the specific-duty practices in the assessment guide. Therefore, for each specific-duty practice, the OFC provides one of the following assessment outcomes:

  • Demonstrated – all required elements of the practice are present or addressed
  • Partially Demonstrated – some but not all required elements are present or addressed
  • Not Demonstrated – none of the required elements are present or addressed
  • Not Applicable – this practice does not apply to this regulatory body

General Duty

Because there are many ways that a regulatory body can demonstrate that its practices, overall, are meeting the principles of the general duty, the OFC makes assessment comments for the general duty, rather than identifying assessment outcomes. For the same reason, assessment comments are made by principle, rather than by practice.

For information about the OFC’s interpretations of the general-duty principles and the practices that the OFC uses as a guideline for assessment, see the Registration Practices Assessment Guide – For Regulated Professions and Trades.

Commendable Practices and Recommendations

Where applicable, the OFC identifies commendable practices or recommendations for improvement related to the specific duties and general duty.

Sources

Assessment outcomes, comments, and commendable practices and recommendations are based on information provided by the regulatory body. The OFC relies on the accuracy of this information to produce the assessment report. The OFC compiles registration information from sources such as the following:

  • Fair Registration Practices Reports, audits, Entry-to-Practice Review Reports, annual meetings
  • the regulatory body’s:
    • website
    • policies, procedures, guidelines and related documentation templates for communication with applicants
    • regulations and bylaws
    • internal auditing and reporting mechanisms
    • third-party agreements and related monitoring or reporting documentation
    • qualifications assessments and related documentation
  • targeted questions/requests for evidence that the regulatory body demonstrates a practice or principle

For more information  about the assessment cycle, assessment process, and legislative obligations, see the Strategy for Continuous Improvement of Registration Practices.

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Assessment Summary

Specific Duties

Specific duties assessed

As a result of the recommendations made in the full assessment completed in March 2012, the OPFA has been assessed in the area(s) marked below:

None Unchecked
Information for Applicants Checked
Timely Decisions, Responses and Reasons Unchecked
Internal Review or Appeal Unchecked
Information on Appeal Rights Unchecked
Documentation of Qualifications Unchecked
Assessment of Qualifications Checked
Training Unchecked
Access to Records Unchecked

Outcomes

In all areas assessed, there are practices that are partially demonstrated or not demonstrated. See the Recommendations section later in this summary.

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General Duty

Assessment Method

The OPFA selected the method marked below for the assessing of its adherence to the general-duty principles, and informed the OFC:

a. OFC assesses based on the practices listed in the assessment guide Unchecked
b. Regulatory body self-assesses based on the practices in the assessment guide Checked
c. Regulatory body self-assesses using a system-based approach, in which it explains what it does to ensure that its practices are adhering to the general-duty principles Unchecked

Principles assessed

As a result of the recommendations made in the full assessment completed in March 2012, the OPFA has been assessed on the principle(s) marked below:

None Unchecked
Transparency Checked
Objectivity Unchecked
Impartiality Checked
Fairness Checked

Comments

The OFC found that since the last assessment, the OPFA has taken active measures to promote transparency, impartiality and fairness. Recommendations for further improvement are listed below.

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Commendable Practices

A commendable practice is a program, activity or strategy that goes beyond the minimum standards set by the OFC assessment guides, considering the regulatory body’s resources and profession-specific or trade-specific context. Commendable practices may or may not have potential for transferability to another regulatory body.

The OPFA is demonstrating commendable practices in the following area(s).

Information for Applicants

  • clearly outlining timelines for each step of the registration process that is under the OPFA’s control. This information is presented in a separate chart for each of the five types of applicants:
    • full member applicant/accredited education
    • full member applicant/non-accredited education
    • associate member applicant
    • nationally registered applicant
    • student member applicant

Assessment of Qualifications

  • providing individualized support to applicants who have non-accredited education. The OPFA helps each applicant to develop an action plan for addressing any gaps identified by the national qualifications assessment process. 
  • holding the national qualifications assessment process accountable to fairness principles. The OPFA and the other provincial forestry associations worked together to develop a flexible approach for reviewing qualifications assessment decisions. Applicants can request a full reassessment or a targeted reassessment through the national process.  Alternatively, applicants can discuss assessment concerns and strategies to fill competency gaps directly with the relevant provincial association.These options allow applicants to address concerns about the assessment of specific competencies without incurring the expense and time involved in a full reassessment.

Transparency

  • putting registration information in a larger context, by explaining the scope of professional forestry in Ontario. The OPFA website also offers labour-market and employment information.
  • providing a clear and comprehensive description of the registration process for internationally educated applicants in the OPFA career map. This map includes contact information for third parties involved in the assessment process, as well as key forestry organizations and providers of services for immigrants.
  • promoting the national qualifications assessment portal. This portal includes detailed instructions to help applicants assemble and upload their competency portfolio, and online training materials for assessors. Applicants, assessors and registrars can all log on to the portal to view and work with an assessment file.

Fairness

  • demonstrating a commitment to learn from appeals and to respond by improving registration practices. In response to one appeal, the OPFA’s executive committee instructed the registration committee to exercise its discretion to consider work experience from outside Ontario. This decision has led to further policy development on this issue.

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Recommendations

The OPFA should improve in the following areas.

Information for Applicants

Status
  • Describe registration requirements in a complete and consistent way across different sections of the website. Be more explicit about describing all of the acceptable ways in which requirements may be met. (Practice 1.1)
Checked
February 2015

Assessment of Qualifications

 
  • Identify the professional forestry competencies that must be demonstrated through work experience or an acceptable alternative. (Practice 6.2)
Checked
November 2015 
  • Develop a policy document that sets out the criteria that must be met to satisfy the work-experience requirement. These criteria will help to ensure more objective decisions about whether international experience is sufficient to meet all or part of the experience requirement. (Practice 6.1)
Checked
September 2014
  • Revise the sponsor form, incorporating more specific questions and guidelines to help sponsors understand and consistently apply the criteria for assessing work experience. (Practice 6.3)
Checked
September 2014
  • Develop assessment tools and provide training for registration committee members, to help them understand and consistently apply the criteria for assessing work experience. (Practice 6.3)
Checked
May 2014
  • Develop a work plan for reviewing all assessment methods for objectivity, validity and reliability. (Practice 6.5)
Checked
September 2015 
  • Provide information to applicants about the criteria for assessing work experience. This will allow applicants to understand how decisions are made about whether international experience is sufficient to meet all or part of the experience requirement. (Practice 6.8)
Checked
November 2015 
  • Research promising practices in using online assessment to streamline decision-making, and share this information with the Canadian Federation of Professional Foresters Associations. (Practice 6.10)
Acceptable alternative

Transparency

 
  • Post the Registration Committee Decision Criteria document on the OPFA website, to help applicants understand the criteria for assessing work experience. Clarify what documentation and information is required from applicants in order to determine whether their work experience meets the criteria.
Checked
September 2014
  • Develop clearer criteria for assessing “good character.” Incorporate the criteria into a new Good Character Witness Form. Provide information on the OPFA website about how the information provided in the witness forms will be assessed.
Checked
February 2015
  • Review and revise the website information about reconsideration and appeal to ensure that:
Checked
February 2015
  • The information is written in plain language.
Checked
February 2015
  • Clear instructions are provided about the format for making a written request, and the address to which it should be sent.
Checked
February 2015
  • Information is provided about timelines for applicants to receive a decision after they have requested a reconsideration or appeal.
Checked
February 2015
  • Add the following details to the website information on access to records:
Checked
September 2014
  • the way in which records are available (for example, by photocopy or by access in person)
 
  • who may access the records (for example, the applicant or legal representative)
 
  • how long the records are kept
 
  • Provide information about the option for applicants to request the return of original documents.
Checked
September 2014

Impartiality

 
  • During the next face-to-face training session for registration committee members, incorporate training on anti-discrimination, diversity, and the objectives of FARPACTA.
Checked
April 2014
  • Identify any additional training needs and develop a training plan for registration staff and the registration committee.
Checked
February 2015

Fairness

 
  • Ask the OPFA membership to confirm a bylaw change that removes the requirement for Ontario work experience and replaces that requirement with work experience relevant to professional forestry work in Ontario.
Checked
April 2014
  • Explore alternative ways that applicants could demonstrate or develop any missing competencies required to satisfy the work-experience requirement (for example: courses related to key aspects of the practice of professional forestry in Ontario; relevant volunteer experience; or a report that describes a work project that they have done and what they would have to do differently if the same project was done in Ontario). Document this analysis and incorporate any acceptable alternatives into policy.
Checked
December 2015
  • On the OPFA website, clearly explain the rationale for the work-experience requirement and assessment criteria.†
Checked
September 2014

† Recommendations marked with a dagger symbol have been carried forward all or in part from the previous assessment.

 
Blank = Implementation is in progress.
Checked = Recommendation is implemented.
Acceptable alternative = Regulator implements acceptable alternative to this recommendation.

Assessment History

In the previous assessment, the OFC identified 11 recommendations for this regulatory body.

Ten of those recommendations have been implemented. For one, implementation has begun but is not yet complete. This recommendation has been carried forward into this report.

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