What the Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) Does
What does the OFC do?
The Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) is a Government of Ontario agency which performs an important oversight role across the province's regulated professions, regulated health colleges and Skilled Trades Ontario. Its mandate is to help ensure that the registration practices of these organizations are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.
The work of the OFC is designed to provide better outcomes for applicants who wish to join the professions and skilled trades, whether they are educated in Ontario, other Canadian jurisdictions, or internationally.
While our office engages with many stakeholders, our relationships with Ontario's 41 professional regulators is particularly important since these are the organizations that are directly accountable for implementing fair registration practices.
Is the OFC part of the Ontario government?
The office is an arm's-length agency of the Ontario government, reporting to the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD). While the OFC has an independent status, it works closely with officials from MLITSD, the Ministry of Health and other government oversight ministries to implement fair registration practices.
Why is the OFC necessary?
The government of the day enacted this legislation, with all party support, to help ensure that the registration practices of regulatory bodies were transparent, impartial, objective and fair. The legislation, in turn, designated the OFC to oversee this work.
There was also a strong desire to prevent regulators from unfairly discounting the credentials of internationally trained professionals and, thereby, excluding them from occupations in the province for which they would otherwise be qualified.
Licensing, registration and certification: what's the difference?
Licensing, registration and certification are all terms that refer to authorizing a person to practise a profession or trade.
What is a regulatory body? a college?
A regulatory body is an organization that oversees a profession or trade and is responsible for, among other things, the registration of new members. It is also required to govern its members in the public interest.
The regulatory bodies in the non-health sphere are referred to as regulated professions. This term also encompasses Skilled Trades Ontario, which oversees the compulsory trades in the province. The regulatory bodies in the health sector are called regulated health colleges.
What do you mean by "foreign" or "internationally" trained?
A foreign or internationally trained individual is someone who received their training to practise a profession in a country other than Canada. The term covers both Canadians who have travelled abroad for training and immigrants.
Does the OFC benefit both Canadian-trained and internationally trained people?
Yes. Ontario's regulated professions, the regulated health colleges and compulsory trades must adopt registration processes that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair for everyone. The work of the office helps to ensure that people are treated fairly and can put their skills and experience to work, regardless of where they were educated.
Can the OFC help me to get my credentials recognized so I can practice my profession?
The short answer is “no". The legislation prohibits the Fairness Commissioner from becoming involved in individual registration decisions, internal reviews or appeals. The office may, however, choose to pursue fair registration issues reported in individual cases that are repetitive in nature or that display a systemic dimension.
If you are an internationally trained health professional, and you have questions about the health professions, contact Health Force Ontario.
If you are an internationally trained professional in a non-health regulated profession or compulsory trade, and you have questions about that profession, contact Global Experience Ontario.
The Law about Fairness
How many professions and trades are subject to the fair access law?
The Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006 covers access to the 15 regulated professions, including Skilled Trades Ontario.
Schedule 2 of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 deals with access to the 26 health regulatory colleges in Ontario.
What are the consequences for regulatory bodies that do not institute fair registration practices?
The Office of the Fairness Commissioner's (OFC) main compliance tool is its Risk-informed Compliance Framework and Policy. This framework relies both on the regulator's historical performance, and a series of forward-looking risk factors, that could impact a regulator's ability to achieve better registration outcomes for applicants.
Regulators are then placed in one of three risk categories which dictate the degree of attention that they will receive from the OFC, as well as the compliance tools can be applied to improve performance. Among these are compliance orders that the OFC can issue against non-health regulators which may lead to the imposition of substantial monetary penalties.
I am applying to become a member of a regulated profession. What can I expect from a regulated profession or health college?
|All applicants are entitled to:||By law, all regulatory bodies must:|
|Information||Provide clear information about registration requirements, processes, timelines and fees.|
|Timely decisions, responses and reasons||Make registration decisions within stipulated time frames.|
|Internal review or appeal|
Offer an internal review or appeal, including an opportunity for applicants to submit arguments and supporting documents.
Note: Applicants to the regulated health colleges can file appeals with the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board.
|Information on appeal rights||Inform applicants of any rights they have to request a further review or appeal of the registration decision.|
|Fair assessment of qualifications|
Conduct assessments in a way that is transparent, objective, impartial and fair, and take reasonable measures to ensure that any external assessors follow these principles.
Regulators must also ensure adequate training of all individuals who assess qualifications or make registration decisions.
|Access to records||Grant applicants – upon written request - access to records related to their application, with certain legal limitations.|
Does any other place have an office like yours?
Ontario was the first Canadian province to adopt a fair registration practices regime by enacting the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006, many of whose provisions were then extended to the health sector.
Other jurisdictions followed suit with their own legislation:
· Manitoba: The Fair Registration Practices in Regulated Professions Act (gov.mb.ca), 2007
· Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia Legislature - Fair Registration Practices Act (nslegislature.ca), 2008
· Québec: C-26 - Professional Code (gouv.qc.ca, 2009
· British Columbia: Professional Governance Act | Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance (professionalgovernancebc.ca), 2018
· Alberta: Fair Registration Practices Act (alberta.ca), 2019
· Saskatchewan: The Labour Mobility and Fair Registration Practices Act (saskatchewan.ca), 2022
Third party Service Providers
What are "third party service providers"?
Regulatory bodies often contract with outside organizations to help determine whether a person should be licensed in their professions. These organization, some of which are pan-Canadian in nature, can evaluate academic degrees, evaluate the prior learning of candidates, assess competence in specific skills, and / or assess occupation-specific qualifications. They may also run examinations. They usually operate independently of regulatory bodies but are subject to accountability frameworks with their regulator.
What is the fairness commissioner's role concerning these service providers?
Under the legislation, the Fairness Commission has the authority to monitor these agencies. The main responsibility lies with the regulatory body to ensure that the registration practices of these organizations are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.
Why are they important?
These organizations directly affect who gets into the professions and who does not. For more information, read the OFC's 2009 Study of Qualifications Assessment Agencies and the relevant sections of our offices' Legislated Obligations and Best Practices Guide-Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades and Legislated Obligations and Best Practices-Health Regulatory Colleges.