Quebec gets its version of CHRP

After a hard-fought three-year battle against the Quebec government and the university community, Quebec human resource professionals have finally succeeded in obtaining the elusive designation they have long sought.

With the passage of Bill 87 in the National Assembly in mid-June, the Quebec government has reserved the designation of Chartered Human Resource Counsellors (CHRC) for members of the provincial human resources association.

And, thanks to the new legislation, the name of the association will also change, becoming by year-end the Quebec Order of Chartered Human Resource and Industrial Relations Counsellors (the Order).

The designation is the equivalent of Certified HR Professionals (CHRP) used in the rest of Canada.

Before Bill 87 was adopted, the only officially approved designation available to Quebec human resource professionals was Industrial Relations Counsellors — a designation most members of the Order’s 4,000 strong membership chose to forego because they did not want to be perceived solely as practitioners of industrial relations.

“We were the only human resource professionals in Canada that did not have an official designation,” notes Sophie Fortin, the president of the Order. “These changes reflect the reality of the market. The world of industrial relations is really much more linked to labour law and labour relations whereas human resources encompasses the ensemble of the profession, including industrial relations.”

Indeed, according to a survey conducted two years ago by the Order, fully 67 per cent of members felt that the title Chartered Human Resource Counsellors reflected their profession more faithfully than the appellation Industrial Relations Counsellor. Members of the Order will now have the option of choosing the CHRC title, the old Chartered Industrial Relations Counsellor (CIRC) designation or both.

“The reality out there in the market is that you have vice-presidents of human resources. Industrial relations is no longer used,” says Fortin. “By obtaining the designation CHRC, it will professionalize our role and give the profession far more visibility because our members will no longer be reluctant to use the officially designated title.”

However, obtaining a designation proved to be a far more arduous and frustrating exercise than ever envisioned.

When the province’s HR association merged with the provinces IR association in a “marriage of convenience,” three years ago (keeping the name Quebec Order of Industrial Relations Counsellors), one of the conditions was that an all-out effort would be made to create an official designation for human resource professionals.

But obtaining the approval of the university community proved to be a difficult challenge to overcome. Three Quebec francophone universities that offer a Bachelor’s degree in industrial relations resisted the request for an official designation in part because of philosophical differences. At the heart of the lively philosophical debate is the firmly entrenched belief held by many academics that industrial relations encompasses human resources, and not the other way around.

“There was a philosophical war behind the schools’ obstinate refusal,” says one professor, who wished to remain anonymous. “Universities with industrial relations departments or schools, did not accept the notion that human resources encompasses industrial relations.”

Complicating matters even further is that three universities were extremely concerned that the merger between the two associations would lead to the ultimate demise of their departments.

“For the longest time the universities were the feeding trough for the Order (of Industrial Relations Counsellors), and with the merger they were afraid of losing their market,” added the professor. “Not surprisingly if you are an industrial relations educational institution and you see your sphere of activities being restricted to solely labour relations, that is not good news.”

That roadblock was finally overcome when a deal was struck with the universities. In exchange for approval for the designation, the Order would co-operate with the universities to revise admissibility criteria into the Order. At present, there are two routes to becoming a member.

Graduates armed with a Bachelor’s degree in industrial relations who apply to the Order are automatically accepted — and this will stand. But graduates with a Bachelor’s degree in management with a major in human resources can also apply to become members but are not automatically accepted. Their course selections are scrutinized to determine whether they meet the Order’s standards — and this will likely change.

A committee has been established to examine the admissibility criteria, a process that will likely take several years before anything is put into place.

This was not the only barrier the province’s HR professionals faced. The unique legislation that governs Quebec professional corporations requires any changes that Quebec professional corporations want to institute, such as seeking new designations, be approved by l’Office des Professions du Quebec, a provincial body that oversees Quebec’s 44 professional corporations. The Office then makes its recommendations to the Quebec Minister of Justice, who has the ultimate say in the matter — all of which can be a lengthy and tedious process.

The Office, however, did not prove to be supportive, says Fortin. After ostensibly meeting every demand made by the Office such as consulting and seeking the approval of employers’ groups, labour, academia and the other 43 professional corporations in order to obtain the CHRC designation, the Office would seemingly always come up with new conditions, thereby prolonging the process. “The Office did not help us, none whatsoever,” says Fortin. “They created a lot of pitfalls, and forced us to overcome many hurdles.”

An Office spokesperson said must proceed slowly and cautiously when faced with requests for new designations. “Reserving a designation for a body of professionals is something that must be justified, and that takes time because we always have to take the protection of the public into consideration.”

Luis Millan is a Montreal-based freelance writer.

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