Chemistry as a Regulated Profession in Canada

Chemistry as a regulated profession in Canada

In this section we expand the context of establishing the Professional Chemist in British Columbia as a positive step in interprovincial labour mobility and trade.

Agreement on Internal Trade

“Professional chemist” is a Regulated Occupation under the federal-provincial Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) to which BC is a signatory along with all other provinces and territories.  Specific matters related to Labour Mobility are covered as Schedule 7 (2009). This section was accepted and adapted to BC regulations as the BC Labour Mobility Act (2009).  “Chemist” is also a recognized occupation under the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA) signed by BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The agreement was previously known as TILMA, a bilateral agreement between Alberta and BC. Notably all regulatory authorities in each province are listed. British Columbia lists over 200 professions and trades, but since historically the professional chemist did not appear in legislation, the professional chemist is missing from the BC list.

In Canada the federal government also provides non-regulatory descriptions of occupations as unit groups in the National Occupational Classification; “Chemist” is in Unit Group 2012.  The classification is again essentially consistent with the Scope of Practice adopted by professional chemists’ organizations. The range of activities described for chemists is extensive.

Under the AIT, provinces typically delegate authority to oversee Regulated Occupations to specific Regulatory Authorities, typically professional associations.  How this is handled varies considerably between provinces and the result is a patchwork of Regulatory Authorities across the country.  With respect to chemists, there are several models in place:

Regulation of Professional Chemist by Provinces

Province of Quebec

Quebec regulates chemists through a statute which assigns regulatory authority to l’Ordre des chimistes du Québec (OCQ).  Chemists in Québec are licensed under the title of “chimiste” and they have Right-to-Practice within a defined scope of practice.  This is effectively the same status, rights, and obligations as Professional Engineers and Geoscientists have currently in BC.


Ontario chemists have an exclusive Right-to-Title under statute for the designation “Chartered Chemist (C.Chem.)”.  The Association of the Chemical Profession of Ontario (ACPO) administers the registration of C.Chem. and is currently in the process of developing legislation which would confer licensure for C.Chem. and would name the ACPO as the Regulatory Authority.


In Alberta, “chemist” is a regulated occupation under NWPTA.  The exclusive Right-to-Title of “Professional Chemist (P.Chem.) is granted under the Professional and Occupational Associations Registration Act to the Association of the Chemical Profession of Alberta (ACPA).  The ACPA is the Regulatory Authority in Alberta. Their classes of membership include Professional Technologist in Chemistry and Registered Technologist in Chemistry

Saskatchewan Nova Scotia and Other Provinces

Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have professional chemist associations under their respective Society Acts. These Societies are directly developing legislation to gain Right-to-Title and licensure.  At this time there is no Regulatory Authority assigned in these provinces.

British Columbia

Chemists in BC have exclusive Right-to-Title granted under Section 10 of the Society Act for “Professional Chemist (P.Chem.)” and “Chemist in Training (C.I.T.)” giving the Association of the Chemical Profession of BC (ACPBC) the right to register chemists. Notably Section 10 requires both consultation with other affected professions and public advertisement for comment. Granting of Right-to-Title must be judged to be in the public interest.  These requirements distinguish the ACPBC from a simply incorporated Society under the Act. There is no Regulatory Authority for chemists in BC in the legal sense required by AIT and NWPTA.  Only occupations with an enactment or in regulation under umbrella statute such as the Health Professionals Act are considered to be regulated in BC.

Non Regulatory National Organizations

Regulation of professions is a provincial responsibility (AIT) but there are national organizations of the chemical sciences that play a role in the discipline of chemistry.  Professional organizations in the provinces benefit from and contribute to mutual goals of excellence and achievement in chemistry they share with these national societies. The Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC) is an umbrella organization for the promotion of the chemical sciences and engineering in Canada consisting of three constituent societies – the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE), the Canadian Society for Chemical Technology (CSCT), and the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC).  The principal role of these organizations is to promote the discipline of chemistry across the whole spectrum and to provide a unified national face to the international community.  These organizations are primarily directed at academic matters and research.  The CSC has a program under which specific university undergraduate chemistry degree programs are accredited to meet standards with international stature.  Chemistry programs at BC universities are typically accredited by the CSC with a review process on a five-year cycle.  While graduation from an accredited program is not mandatory for membership in ACPBC, that standard is adopted and provides a very strong foundation for assuring the government in BC of the competency of the chemists in our province.

In recognition of the growing complexities of the profession of chemistry across Canada, a national umbrella organization of professional chemistry associations was created in 2008.  Canada’s Professional Chemists/ Chimistes Professionnels du Canada (CPC) is a partnership of provincial organizations including the OCQ, ACPO, ACPA, and the ACPBC.  It also recognizes the emerging associations in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.  The mandate of the CPC is to advance the chemical profession in Canada. It works closely with the Canadian Society for Chemistry, CSC, which contributed to its founding and support.

An early achievement of the CPC was a Memorandum of Understanding that allows administrative processes for professional chemists to transfer registration between provincial associations as an administrative matter, thereby facilitating labor mobility of the type required under AIT.  Member organizations have developed a more in-depth Mutual Recognition Agreement which will complement the Memorandum of Agreement. These two documents will focus on professional harmonization including transferability and core elements of practice, registration criteria, code of ethics, accountability to the public interest, and discipline.

The CPC is focused on a common pursuit of professional recognition and access to practice within their scope of practice for chemists registered in their provincial professional associations while recognizing provincial distinctions and the need to be congruent with the different ways that provinces handle professions.  The national scene was surveyed from this perspective in 2011 (“the Bordeleau Report”).  This survey identified common interests and accountability targets.  One of these is now the focus of active development and addresses the creation of a common approach to professional ethics via a common ethics course and exam process.  A one day workshop is planned for the end of May 2014 in Vancouver.  Such professional development initiatives further emphasize the accountability that the provincial government can expect from the Professional Chemist.

As the provincial organizations move toward becoming regulators, the CPC is being reorganized as the FCPC, the Federation of Canada’s Professional Chemists/Federation des Chimistes Professionnels du Canada. The new federation will operate independently of the CSC and will pursue membership in the Canadian Network of National Associations of Regulators (CNNA). The change recognizes the importance of defining the delegation of responsibility to regulators from provincial governments.