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Who’s the boss? The privilege of self-regulation


The term “engineering” covers a wide range of fields and careers, but they all have one important thing in common: across Canada, engineers are self-regulated. Instead of being regulated or licensed by governments, engineers and engineering companies are under the jurisdiction of professional organizations in each province. In Alberta, for example, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) regulates professional engineers.

APEGA awards licenses and permits—and the use of the term “professional engineer”—to individuals and companies if they meet certain professional, ethical, and technical competency requirements. The main goal of APEGA, and its counterparts in other provinces, is to ensure public safety.

In protecting the public, one of the functions of engineering associations is to investigate engineers and companies when something goes wrong. Engineers who fail to meet the standards set by the organization could be disciplined, and may even have their licenses revoked.

Sometimes, though, it’s the organization itself that fails to meet standards. This was proven just recently when Quebec’s provincial government decided their engineering regulatory body – the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, or OIQ – wasn’t doing enough to correct some internal problems it had been having. The government felt that OIQ was jeopardizing its job to protect the public, so it’s placing OIQ under a trusteeship and appointing administrators to oversee the organization.

The OIQ wasn’t thrilled with the decision, but they say they’ll go along with it. Self-regulation is a privilege, after all, and as this incident shows, it’s one that can be taken away. Engineers make up the different governing bodies across the country, and the governing bodies regulate the engineers. Most of the time this works out great for everyone, but there are occasionally times when things can get a little off track. In those cases, the government will step in as needed to help straighten things out.


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