Say goodbye to national certification (Guest Commentary)

Former chair of CCHRA weighs in on Ontario's exit from national association
By Ian Turnbull
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/16/2014

I am deeply saddened by the decision by Ontario’s HR association to leave the Canadian Council of Human Resources Association (CCHRA). Saddened, but not surprised.

This announcement by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) will have a huge effect on national HR certification. How could it not? HRPA will no longer be at the table.

Phil Wilson, chair of the board of directors at HRPA, is quoted by Canadian HR Reporter as saying: “Leaving CCHRA does not affect the transferability or the mutual recognition of designations across the country in any way. Legally, the provinces have the sole responsibility in this area, and designations can only be dealt with on a province-to-province basis.”

But he is also quoted as saying that this action “empowers HRPA to focus basically on upgrading our (CHRP) designation, because now we’re a tier-one association.”

That sounds to me like a different designation with huge implications for the continued health of a countrywide designation.

Abandoning CCHRA also means HRPA could find itself excluded from the North American Human Resource Management Association (NAHRMA) and the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA). Maybe they have nothing to share in or outside of Canada?

Improve the CHRP?

All provincial HR associations (and some specialty groups) contributed to the development of the national CHRP. Hundreds of volunteers from across the country worked hard to create a strong national standard.

And the federal government contributed a significant sum to make the vision of a national standard a reality. Perhaps HRPA will do the ethical thing and return its share of the federal monies? An apology to all those volunteers wouldn’t be amiss either.

No one suggests the CHRP program is perfect. It is essential that it continue to evolve in process and content. Regarding the latter, Ontario has long suggested the CHRP should have a more specific focus on labour relations. It claims practitioners need more knowledge in this area.

That may very well be true, but is it any less true in other provinces? What about human rights, health and safety or privacy legislation?

These are all different in every province, but the goal of a national certification was to set a standard for the basis of practice, not to provide an all-inclusive learning experience.

Perhaps working together to develop and offer supplementary courses with plug-in provincial legislation segments that can be used for recertification would be a better approach.

Instead, HRPA’s planned “upgraded CHRP” — be assured that it is already planned — will differ from the rest of the country. So if you are an HR professional who wants to practise in Ontario…

Imagine the impact on businesses (and their HR staff) that operate in Ontario in addition to their province of origin. The CHRP may continue to be recognized in some form but its image will be severely diminished.

Where we came from

CCHRA represents the third or fourth attempt, and the only successful one, to create a national presence for the profession of human resources in Canada.

Created in 1994, its objectives are to:

•collaborate on national issues and share information

•be the national voice on the enhancement and promotion of the profession across Canada

•co-ordinate the national CHRP designation

•proactively position the national human resources agenda at the international level.

With which of these goals does HRPA disagree?

Like any political entity, the growth of CCHRA has been fraught with difficulties. CCHRA truly reflects the Canadian reality: small provinces fighting for an equal voice with large ones, Quebec’s “special” status and national co-ordination of a provincial legislative responsibility.

CCHRA’s birth overcame those challenges, in no small part because the then leaders of HRPA had the vision to see a national presence was needed to give HR professional status. To make the confederation possible, Ontario agreed to a model of equality — every member association was to have two votes.

This despite the reality — then and now — that Ontario represents more than 50 per cent of the members of Canadian HR associations.

Medicine, law and other professions have national associations. Why can those provincially regulated professions cope while providing a national face, while HR cannot?

Canadian accounting associations — all provincially regulated — have not only acted as national organizations for decades, but they are now joining together for one nationwide accounting voice.

Which “profession” will present a better face to Canadian business and the public now that CCHRA has lost any pretense of being national?

The death of CCHRA?

Rather than lead by strengthening national certification and representation, HRPA has celebrated its new “special” status by dropping any pretense of leadership, grabbing its toys and leaving the playground.

Unfortunately, many no longer care. But for those who believe a strong national voice and certification are crucial to the well-being of HR as a Canadian profession, it is time to mourn.

It is unlikely CCHRA can survive with only the Maritimes and Western provinces at less than 50 per cent of prior membership and no truly national certification but, regardless, it will no longer have a truly national voice.

Only in Canada you say? Pity.

Ian Turnbull is the former chair of the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA) and he presided over the official announcement of adoption of the national Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) standard and exams. He can be reached at iturnbull@lairdandgreer.com, (416) 618-0052 or via Skype: ianturn.

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