Why HR profession isn’t organized nationally (Guest Commentary)

Would prevent associations from achieving statutory regulatory status
By Claude Balthazard
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/23/2013

Why is it that the HR profession in Canada is organized provincially and not nationally? The reason has to do with the blueprint for the profession. This blueprint is not always obvious but its impact on the organization of the HR profession has been profound.

From the start, the HR profession in Canada was based on the idea of emulating the established professions. The whole organization of the profession was, and still is, predicated on the idea that all of the provincial HR associations would one day become regulatory bodies.

This blueprint may be taking decades to unfold but it explains why, to this day, the HR profession is organized along provincial lines.

Past looks ahead to future

In the March 11 issue, I revisited a Canadian HR Reporter article on the future of the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation which had been published in 1997. Reading between the lines, one can clearly see the regulatory blueprint that had been laid out.

In a strict sense, the term “regulatory” may be taken to mean “which exercises regulatory powers delegated by law.”

In this sense, only the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Ontario and l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés (CRHA) in Quebec are “regulatory bodies.” But that is not the point. The point is that the blueprint for the organization of the HR profession was, and is, a regulatory one. One can see in the 1997 article the focus on establishing standards for entry into the profession, standards for ethics, standards for continuing competence and standards for discipline. These are all regulatory matters.

Although the word “regulation” is not used in some circles, this is exactly what provincial HR associations are doing — albeit without statutory sanction.

In another Canadian HR Reporter article (“The difference between a professional association and a regulatory body,” Aug. 11, 2008) the differences were explained.

The provincial HR associations act as both professional associations and professional regulatory bodies. In some jurisdictions, the governments have seen fit to split the professional association and a regulatory body, but this is not always the case — and it is not the case in human resources. This regulatory aspect has meant taking the provincial route rather than the national route.

There is nothing of a statutory nature that would block the creation of a national professional association; professional regulation, on the other hand, must remain provincial if governmental sanction is to be achieved for these activities.

For the most part, professional regulation falls under provincial jurisdiction. Constitutionally, it is just not possible to have a national regulator for HR.

What about taking the national route?

The human resources profession in Canada could have gone the national route but, if it had done so, it would have made it impossible for the profession to achieve statutory regulatory status in any of the provinces and it would prevent the remaining provincial HR association from attaining statutory regulatory status in the future.

Indeed, some professions do have national associations in addition to provincial associations, but these national associations are always about association matters rather than regulatory matters. An important reason why the HR profession is organized provincially rather than nationally is because of the regulatory blueprint for the organization of the HR profession. Were it not for this blueprint, the HR profession in Canada might well have been organized differently.

In a sense, the HR profession in Canada was always swinging for the fences. Even though statutory regulatory status has only been achieved in two provinces, the ambition that all provincial HR associations will, one day, become regulatory bodies is still alive.

Claude Balthazard is vice-president of regulatory affairs at the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto and special regulatory advisor with the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA). He can be reached at cbalthazard@hrpa.ca.

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