CAPA PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS AND CERTIFICATION PROJECT
Professional Standards, Certification
and Governance Project -
Development of the Certification Model
Funding by the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada and the Law Firm of Miller Thompson is Gratefully Acknowledged.
This Initiative was Guided by a Multi-Stakeholder Working Group
and the National Director.
Approved by the Working Group – November 30, 2007
Phase I of the Professional Standards Certification and Governance Project, completed on March 27, 2007 included professional standards and competencies for the three categories of information access and privacy professionals: Administrator, Executor and Advisor.
This document is intended as Phase II of the initiative, development of the certification model, and includes:
The proposed value of the eventual certification initiative for practitioners and the professional community, employers, clients, corporate members, and others.
The proposed categories of registrants and members.
Entry to practice and registration standards.
The proposed Continuing Competency Program.
Complaints, alternative complaint resolution, investigation and discipline.
Phase II is intended as a platform for the third phase of the initiative –
"... recommending a governance framework and principles that will allow a governance body to successfully manage and implement a national standards and certification program for public and private sector information access and privacy professionals in Canada."
1. Building upon the Accomplishments of Phase I
Phase I, development of professional standards, was completed on March 27, 2007. The Phase I report addressed:
b The benefits and opportunities of professional standards and certification.
Establishment of professional standards for Information and Privacy (IP) professionals.
The concept of professionalism.
Aspects of IP work, including the categories of Administrator, Executor and Advisor.
Criteria and audiences for certification.
Phase I yielded competency profiles for IP professionals. Success in the profession obligates a strong command of ethics, principles and standards, continuing competency and the need to remain "current in practice."
1.2 Three Conceptual Aspects of IP Work
The three identified aspects of IP work are:
Administrator - locating and characterizing records and information under contention; conveying decisions and results; and notifying about appeal rights.
Executor - interpreting rights; recognizing operative conditions; applying mandatory exemptions; considering discretionary prerogatives; conducting investigations, audits and compliance assessments; and explaining decisions.
Advisor - training corporate staff; communicating with the media and public; assessing the impact of privacy developments; and integrating changes in legislation, statutory interpretation and public sentiment to existing corporate policy and IP program design.
1.3 A Natural Ordering - Laddering Concept
The contents of the March 27, 2007 document identified "Competency Attainment Indicators" for each level of IP work. Effective performance as an Advisor (Level 3) requires experience as an Executor (Level 2). Similarly, successful performance as an Executor (Level 2) requires Administrator (Level 1) competencies.
These indicators were developed for use by the certification body when assessing an applicant's competence for professional recognition. For each competency, the certification body, employers and other stakeholders may generate performance level descriptors.
1.4 Education and Experience Basic Qualifications
Individuals currently enter the IP profession through numerous paths, often from other occupational fields and educational streams. The applicant's education and experience ideally position them to contend with the politics, organizational culture, ambiguity, resources, supervision and other factors they will encounter in their practice settings.
1.5 IP Competency Profile
The March 27, 2007 document noted the following competencies for each of the three levels:
- Understanding principles, rights and jurisdiction.
- Managing casework.
- Modeling transparency and confidentiality.
- Perceiving globally.
- Managing information.
- Developing IP programs.
- Navigating the legislative framework.
- Assessing risk.
- Mediating conflict and negotiating resolution.
- Applying discretion.
- Interpreting legislation.
- Making decisions.
- Building relationships and trust.
- Investigating non-compliance.
- Communicating effective.
- Understanding information management challenges.
- Knowing authorization boundaries.
- Developing technological awareness.
- Providing principle-based guidance.
- Contributing to improvements.
- Mitigating risks and formulating options.
- Rendering professional opinions.
- Providing training and education.
- Acquiring new knowledge and skills.
2. Key Assumptions for Phase II - Development of the Certification Model
2.1 Consensus of the Working Group
Working Group members agreed upon the following assumptions at their July 5, 2007 teleconference:
Terminology approved in Phase I will continue to be used.
Policy development in the second phase will build upon agreement on key concepts in the first phase, and provide a framework for eventual discussions about governance in the third phase.
The certification model will be "made in Canada," yet reflect leading practices from certification bodies elsewhere.
The eventual certification body's certification requirements, professional practice standards, Code of Ethics, governance principles, and governance policies and procedures will evolve and mature over time.
The concept of "grandparenting" must be definitively addressed in the course of developing the certification model. That is, existing practitioners’ credentials will need to be assessed - relative to the eventual certification body's entry to practice standards.
Assessment of existing practitioners' competencies will involve a range of options, reflecting the complexity of this issue.
Even if a "perfect" examination was developed and implemented, it could not take into account the permutations and combinations of current practitioners' education, experience, responsibilities, practice settings, involvement in continuing competency programs, etc.
Instead, rigorous and meaningful processes can be developed as proxy measures of entry to practice competencies. These include but are not limited to engagement summaries that address professional competencies, self-assessments, verbal presentations before a panel, references from employers and colleagues, detailed written assignments, and other options.
The eventual certification body will grant certificates, and not delegate this responsibility. Employers' position descriptions, performance management programs, policies and procedures, and continuing education programs will be an important source of information when considering applications for certificant status.
The certification body will recognize the certificant status of an individual from one federal, provincial or territorial jurisdiction as being equivalent to another Canadian jurisdiction. This should promote an integrated national structure, and minimize inter-jurisdictional conflict.
Certification will initially focus on the required competencies of an individual upon entry to practice, and then will attempt to respond to the circumstances of mature practitioners with advanced competencies.
The process of developing a certification model must demonstrate a "value proposition" to certificants, employers and other stakeholders. It should be seen as a valid and objective third party determination of a professional's competencies.
Certification will be voluntary, although in time employers may prefer or even obligate individuals to possess certificant status.
Gaining certificant status upon entry to the profession is never an endpoint. It is merely the beginning of a lifelong commitment to remaining current in the profession, in part through participation in the approved Continuing Competency Program.
The eventual approach to certification and governance will attempt to recognize AAPI, CAPA and CAPAPA's historic and ongoing contributions, as well as long-term support from employers and other stakeholders.
Working Group members will collectively and individually advocate for the consensus approach to certification. This will serve as a prerequisite for development of the governance model in the third phase.
2.2 A Cautionary Note
The contents of this document are intended to describe "ideal" or "leading" practices. The eventual certification body will not necessarily adopt these concepts immediately or in their entirety. It is anticipated that the majority of these concepts will be implemented over time, as the national organization and its provincial and territorial counterparts mature - subject to their governance and management expertise, and financial and human resources.
Phase III will detail the components of a governance structure for the "certification body." This generic term will be used in order not to presuppose any particular governance structure, mechanism or processes. These will be explored in the third phase.
Demonstration of a Value Proposition
3. Demonstration of a Value Proposition
With the understanding that certification will be voluntary, the process of developing a certification model must demonstrate a value proposition to:
Practitioners and the professional community.
Clients and other consumers of information access and privacy services.
Corporate members and other stakeholders.
In the sections that follow, numerous themes from certification body and professional association literature will be identified - relative to their perceived value to internal and external stakeholders.
Unlike a membership services association, formation of a certification body does not usually present a clear and most often financial "return on investment." Instead, development and implementation of a certification body invariably presents an intangible, subjective and higher order value proposition.
3.2 Perceived Value to Practitioners and the Professional Community
The benefits to practitioners and the professional community should ideally be:
In a profession with few objective benchmarks, certification should result in increased practitioner credibility and formal endorsement, recognition of competencies, pride in the profession, and ultimately greater demand for the services of those with professional designations.
Attaining status in the certification body and objective demonstration of the certificant's willingness to invest in their professional development often results in improved self-esteem, respect and confidence. The process of gaining certification provides a personal challenge that tests the certificant's knowledge of the profession and gives the certificant a strong sense of accomplishment.
Certificants differentiate themselves from others practicing the profession - through highlighting their education and experience, commitment, capability, adherence to ethical and professional standards, and determination to maintain their professional status.
Certificants have attained what others aspire to - provision of a higher level of professional services. They are able to gain valuable insight into advanced professional practices, and become better able to assume leadership positions in their respective organizations.
This may have positive implications and give certificants a competitive advantage with leadership opportunities, job responsibilities, autonomy, satisfaction and acknowledgment by employers, clients, colleagues and other stakeholders.
Certificants often assume the position of role model and mentor, particularly for new registrants. They demonstrate their confidence that the profession's Code of Ethics and professional practice standards establish enforceable requirements, deal with matters of judgment, integrity and discretion, promote integrity, and are applied with the primary concern of protecting the public interest.
Certificants are discouraged from involvement in unprofessional conduct - behaviour adverse to the public interest and/or lacking in integrity and self-discipline. Involvement in unprofessional conduct reflects adversely on the certificant, the certification body, employers, educational institutions and the profession as a whole.
Provincial, national and internationally recognized designations are a distinct asset - with anticipated provincial/territorial/international reciprocal agreements. This assists professionals to more rapidly achieve a credible professional image when relocating.
The certification body will be a source of information and motivation. Many certification bodies have established Special Interest Groups, which provide those interested in a particular subject with opportunities to exchange information with like-minded professionals, alleviate professional isolation, share tips and best practices, and benefit from each other's expertise.
Certificants are provided with many continuing education opportunities such as on-line discussions and professional interest sections, relevant textbooks and educational materials, professional workshops, conferences and educational programs - all designed to ensure continued professional growth.
Certificants may contribute to the larger professional community through writing, teaching and speaking opportunities. This may assist them to build their profile by sharing their knowledge, interests and expertise.
Certificants and selected (other than corporate) members are eligible to join one or more of the certification body's governance committees, task forces and project teams - to influence the profession's strategic and policy directions.
3.3 Perceived Value to Employers
The benefits to employers are anticipated to be:
Valuing the quality assurance, dedication, motivation and achievements provided by the designation. As a result, they may encourage employees to obtain and maintain the designation.
Recognition that certificants are held to a higher standard, set by one's peers. In addition to employers' expectations, certificants are obliged to abide by professional and ethical standards - a breach of which may result in disciplinary action, including possible removal of the designation.
Confidence that certificants are required to complete ongoing professional development to qualify for re-certification. This process inherently provides a mechanism to ensure certificants maintain their currency in practice.
The designation will potentially improve the supply, succession planning and qualifications of trained professionals.
The quality of work performed by certificants will generally improve because of their obligation to meet external requirements and participate in continuing competency programs.
Certification will provide a forum for targeted advertising of employment and promotional opportunities.
Collaboration with the certification body and accredited educational institutions will address succession planning and career advancement.
The generic and specialist competencies an individual develops in the process of obtaining the designation are applicable in other professional practice areas.
Heightened integrity, transparency and accountability will be evident through adherence to the professional practice standards and Code of Ethics.
3.4 Perceived Value to Clients
The benefits to clients are anticipated to be:
Recognition that certificants will not undertake an assignment if they believe they do not have the requisite competencies, or are not able to become competent without undue delay, risk or expense.
Feeling secure about proceeding with an assignment on the basis that certificants will adhere to legislation and professional practice standards and Code of Ethics, and will be honest and transparent in their dealings.
Certificants will not place their personal or professional interests or those of their colleagues above the public interest.
Certificants will inform clients of any potential conflicts of interest that may be seen to impair their professional judgment.
3.5 Perceived Value to Corporate Members
The criteria for corporate membership will be defined by the certification body's policies, with the first principle being that corporate involvement must not undermine the certification body's mandate to protect the public interest.
Corporate members will be eligible to post advertisements on the certification body's website, market their services at conferences and continuing education opportunities, and network with registrants and members.
Although their contributions will definitely be welcomed, corporate members will not be allowed to vote at the Annual General Meeting or Special General
Meetings, hold office or influence the certification body's strategic directions, budget, and policies and procedures.
Among the benefits of certification to corporate members are:
With the earlier provisos in mind, gaining access to leading decision makers through participation in conferences and other events. This may increase their profile, solidify brand identity, and strengthen their corporate reputation within the professional community.
Subject to legislative requirements, confidentiality, conflict of interest and other policies, the opportunity to communicate directly with practicing registrants and non-practicing members.
Categories of Registrants and Non-Practicing Members
4. Categories of Registrants and Members
Proposed Categories of Members
Over 20 comparable certification bodies in Canada and the United States (noted in the appendix) were surveyed to determine leading practices for categories of members.
Certification bodies normally distinguish practicing registrants vis-à-vis members who do not practice the profession. Reflecting the voluntary nature of certification noted above, three types of registrants will actively practice the profession:
4.1 General Registrants
4.1.1 Limited Grandparenting "Window of Opportunity"
The grandparenting "window of opportunity" in most emerging professions is often about two years, and then is not available to current practitioners. During the first two years of operation, individuals will gain certificant status as General Registrants through the grandparenting process.
Subsequent to this two year period, all individuals entering the profession will be viewed as first time applicants to the Provisional Registrant category (noted below). First time applicants will be paired with General Registrant sponsors, who mentor, guide and coach them through the certification process.
During this initial two year window of opportunity, applicants will be obliged to submit:
A list of their education and employment, including official transcripts, position descriptions, summaries of performance reviews, and letters of reference from instructors and/or employers.
The certification body will develop policies and procedures to assess relevant prior work experience.
Engagement summaries that demonstrate the applicant's achievement and maintenance of competencies - relative to their self-declared and validated role as Administrator, Executor and/or Advisor.
Details of contributions to IP member, employer and other relevant associations. The applicant's sponsor or sponsors would likely be responsible for validating these details.
Willingness to adhere to the certification body's Code of Ethics, professional practice standards, principles and policies.
Other relevant professional designations where analogous competencies are required, including maintenance of competencies.
Formal recognition that achieving certification is not an "endpoint," rather is one step in the registrant’s ongoing professional development.
4.1.3 Maintenance of Certification
General Registrants must remain in good standing and continue to meet the requirements for certification renewal.
4.1.4 Prior Learning Assessment Recognition (PLAR) - Following Closure of the Two Year Grandparenting Window
The certification body will identify through its policies and procedures that some IP professionals have the required competencies gained through their work experience, self-directed studies, volunteer work, non-credit courses, professional development and training programs. PLAR provides an additional route to access the designation for those with "substantially equivalent competencies," but not necessarily the required educational credentials.
PLAR is a process that involves identifying, documenting, assessing and recognizing professional development and work experience. Applicants are obligated to demonstrate their competencies - relative to entry to professional practice standards.
Following closure of the two year grandparenting window, PLAR applicants will normally have a specified number of years experience. They will need to complete a detailed application form, and submit at two letters of reference (including from a General Registrant).
4.2 Provisional Registrants - and Their Sponsors
After the certification body is formed, Provisional Registrants will normally be individuals with less than three years work experience. They will be pursuing certification as the first step in their ongoing professional development.
Provisional Registrants will be responsible to secure two sponsors to pursue professional designation and eventual status as a General Registrant. Sponsors must be General Registrants, who will validate the accuracy of the Provisional Registrant's application form and recommend the applicant’s acceptance as a General Registrant.
The criteria for becoming a sponsor, assignment of sponsors to applicants, identification of sponsors willing to be assigned to applicants unknown to them, and other issues will need to be dealt with in the course of development of a policy framework.
Sponsorship provides an opportunity for General Registrants to connect with new members, mentor, share experiences and promote the profession. Sponsors can meaningfully support the profession - without an onerous time commitment. This will be an opportunity for sponsors to share their wisdom and expertise. Sponsors will be provided with Continuing Competency Program credits to recognize their contributions.
Two sponsors per applicant are desirable, as gaining certification for provisional registrants may be a lengthy process. Two sponsors ensure sharing of time and resources if an applicant requires additional support. In the event the primary sponsor/applicant relationship is unsatisfactory, the second sponsor will need to assume greater responsibilities.
The certification body will maintain a list of sponsors for applicants who require them. As well, the certification body will develop and maintain policies and procedures, including information packages for provisional registrants and sponsors.
Conduct initial assessments of applicants' abilities and credentials, and provide clarification about the process.
Coach applicants through the certification process, including with completion of engagement summaries, preparing for the examination, and (with the applicant’s approval) liaising with others to provide the applicant with comprehensive feedback and suggestions for improving their competencies.
Attempt to make the certification process less onerous through provision of support, guidance, information, mentorship, expertise and counsel.
Provide closure to the sponsorship relationship when the applicant attains certification status. The relationship may then transition to one of formal or informal mentorship or collegiality, if both parties agree.
Encourage the new certificant to contribute to advancement of the profession, and abide by the continuing competency program requirements.
Sponsors must be:
General registrants in good standing, with at least five years of experience, preferably as Executors and/or Advisors. This includes full compliance with the continuing competency program.
Knowledgeable about the certification process, and able to effectively and efficiently mentor applicants.
Amenable to devote the required time to provide a role model to provisional registrants.
Free of any actual or perceived conflict of interest in their relationship with the provisional registrant.
Provisional registrants are responsible to:
Propose and confirm scheduled meetings and initiate communication with sponsors as required.
Submit necessary information (e.g., application, engagement summaries, and references) to their sponsors in a timely manner.
Provide progress updates to their sponsors at specified time intervals.
Seek assistance, counsel, support and advice as necessary.
4.3 Student Registrants
Establishment of this category reflects an understanding that the certification body will formally recognize "approved educational programs." These educational programs will be offered by post-secondary educational institutions, employers, professional associations, and through other means, including online and distance delivery.
The proposed structure and process for formal accreditation normally includes the following steps:
External evaluation by the certification body and/or a third party.
The decision on accreditation.
Ongoing monitoring, reporting and evaluation.
Re-accreditation or de-accreditation.
Student members will normally devote at least a majority of their time to their formal studies, and be committed to pursue a career as an IP professional, initially as Administrators. They will most often practice under a General Registrant's supervision.
Students may remain in this category for up to three years, provided they are enrolled in an approved educational program. Following this time, they must progress to the provisional registrant category or reapply for continuing student membership.
4.4 Associate Members
Associate Members are individuals with an interest in the advancement of the IP profession, who are not inclined or are unqualified to apply as a General Registrants.
These individuals may be peripherally involved in IP matters, including occupational groups such as lawyers, human resources professionals, managers, academics, administrators, communications professionals, management consultants and others who are not actively practicing the profession. If they practice the profession, these individuals would normally be General or Provisional Registrants.
As noted earlier, "practicing the profession" includes provision of services directly to clients; managing and supervising IP professionals; providing legal, technical and other advice; and educating students of the profession and/or practitioners involved in the continuing competency program.
4.5 Honorary Lifetime Members
Honourary Members will be recognized by the certification body's Board of Directors as having provided exemplary contributions over an extended period as General Registrants.
4.6 Retired Members
Retired Members will be encouraged to contribute to the advancement of the profession through volunteer work, such as committee involvement, continuing competency program opportunities, preparing and/or supervising examinations, mentoring and policy development.
4.7 Corporate Members
The criteria for corporate membership will be defined by the certification body's policies, with the first principle being that corporate involvement must not be seen to undermine the certification body's mandate to "protect the public interest."
As noted previously, corporate members will be eligible to post advertisements on the certification body's website, and communicate their products and services at conferences and continuing education opportunities.
Although their contributions will definitely be welcomed, corporate members will not be allowed to vote, hold office or influence the certification body's strategic directions, budget, and policies and procedures.
Proposed Approach to Grandparenting
5. Proposed Approach to Grandparenting
5.1 The Concept of Voluntary Certification
Given the multi-disciplinary nature of the IP profession, one of the Working Committee's implicit principles is that the proposed certification will be voluntary. The eventual certification body will not prevent persons from practicing the IP profession.
With no exclusive right to practice contemplated, individuals will be free to continue to provide IP services following the emergence of the new certification body. As a result, being "grandparented" into the proposed new certification body will be voluntary.
Grandparenting is an informal expression often used to describe introduction of new certification standards to a formerly unregulated occupational group. It specifically applies to the assessment of existing practitioners' competencies, compared to the agreed upon competencies that new practitioners are required to demonstrate upon entry to practice - from a certain date forward.
A Canadian definition referenced in the professional certification literature is:
"A system, introduced at the beginning of a credentialing or certification program and generally time limited, where an experienced practitioner can be granted the credential based on his or her professional experience, rather than going through the steps of the credentialing process.
The grandparenting system involves establishing standards for training and years of experience; unique procedures for applying for the credential; marketing the credential; and setting up a board to handle applications and appeals."
(J. W. Altschuld, "Roles for Government in Evaluation Quality Assurance;" Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; April 2006; referenced by the Canadian Evaluation Society.)
5.3 Leading Practices Among Professional Associations
As noted in the appendix, Canadian and American professional associations were surveyed to determine leading practices in grandparenting. This analysis proved to be complex, as the majority of professional associations were mature, and their time limited periods (most often two years) for grandparenting had long since expired.
In part extrapolating from certification and licensing requirements, common themes in the literature with grandparenting emerged:
5.3.1 "Reasonable" Standard
Grandparenting and entry to membership in a professional association in the absence of ambitious, yet reasonable and attainable levels of competency frequently results in the emerging profession not meeting an objective, defensible and respectable standard.
This results in diminished credibility to registrants and to stakeholders.
Professional associations mandate a comprehensive review of the individual's academic and experience credentials - relative to the profession's competencies (where applicable).
5.3.2 The National Organization's Role
Certification most often involves standards negotiated with a national body, implemented by each province and territory.
Many organizations create national committees or task forces composed of senior professionals, practitioners and academics to translate the common body of knowledge to professional competencies, expected behaviors, professional practice standards and Codes of Ethics.
In most circumstances, the national body develops the common body of knowledge from educational course content, position descriptions, etc.
5.3.3 Relationship to Educational Institutions
Organizations that educate practitioners are most often independently accredited by third parties. These third parties collaborate and sometimes contract with the certification body.
Almost all professional associations develop the profession's body of knowledge and competencies from academic curricula, programs and courses.
5.3.4 Challenges to Grandparenting
An organization must have considerable resources, particularly highly competent volunteers, before developing a certification and grandparenting program.
A comprehensive policy framework is a prerequisite to a progressive, reasonable and defensible program.
In the transition period, grandparenting may be subject to real and apparent "false positives" (approving applicants for certification without the requisite competencies) and "false negatives" (denying certification to worthy applicants).
Certification bodies often struggle to cover the costs of administering, maintaining and refining the time limited grandparenting program.
Grandparenting often recognizes practitioner competencies retrospectively ("old and established" competencies), rather than prospectively ("new andemerging" competencies). This has the potential to temporarily impede the profession's ongoing development, maturity and progress.
Policies and procedures are needed to reduce reviewer bias and subjectivity in assessing applicants for grandparenting. This may prove difficult because of the reviewer's knowledge of applicants' work history and/or educational preparation.
5.3.5 Recognition of Academic Standing
Recognition of educational preparation includes whether the course or program meets accreditation standards; is consistent with the certification body’s objectives; the level of achievement of the program's past graduates; quality of faculty; and references from graduates or the certification body’s members.
Some organizations accept relevant academic credentials as a substitute for a portion of experience.
5.3.6 Recognition of Experience
The most commonly accepted evidence is the verification of claimed experience by the applicant's sponsor, supervisor or current employer, including position descriptions and components of performance reviews.
Inordinate attention to an applicant's prior experience has the potential to undermine the profession's common body of knowledge acquired through formal post-secondary courses. This however may be a reasonable short term and time limited accommodation.
Almost all organizations require some practice experience before awarding a credential or designation. The norm seems to be about three years of direct or closely related experience within the preceding five years, in lieu of taking the organization's entry to practice examination.
Other methods of verifying experience include submission of engagement summaries that document experience, a sample of projects (at least one in the previous 12 to 18 months); a resume that details current and past job descriptions and summaries of performance reviews; and a logbook of work experience and involvement in the continuing competency program at specified intervals throughout the application process. A sample of applicants' documents would be formally verified for accuracy.
5.3.7 Other Aspects
All organizations obligate applicants to demonstrate they are prepared to abide by the profession's Code of Ethics, professional practice standards and other professional requirements. This often includes completion of a short course of studies and/or an examination, rather than merely signing an application form.
Some professions require applicants to complete engagement summaries to demonstrate their competencies. Engagement summaries are often templated, and include the:
- project's name, date and approximate number of professional practice hours expended.
- applicant's specific role.
- objectives of the engagement.
- methodology and steps taken to complete the engagement.
- results of the engagement relative to the initial objectives.
- applicant's demonstration of competence.
- plans for the applicant's ongoing professional development.
5.4 Proposed Approach
The proposed IP grandparenting should obligate applicants to submit:
A comprehensive account of their education and employment, including official transcripts, position descriptions, summaries of performance reviews, and letters of reference from instructors and/or employers.
The certification body will need to develop policies to define relevant work experience.
Engagement summaries that demonstrate the applicant's achievement and maintenance of competencies - relative to their current role as Administrator, Executor and/or Advisor.
Details of contributions to IP member, employer and other relevant associations.
Willingness to adhere to the certification body and provincial/territorial organization's Code of Ethics, professional practice standards, principles and policies.
Other relevant professional designations where analogous competencies are required.
Formal recognition that achieving certification is not an "endpoint," rather is one step in certificants’ ongoing professional development.
Proposed Registration and Entry to Practice Standards
6. Proposed Registration and Entry to Professional Practice Standards
6.1 Role of the Certification Body in the Registration Process
The role of the certification body includes the establishment, maintenance and enforcement of standards for registration. Professional association literature references three major avenues for registration:
Meeting the requirements set out in the certification body's legislation (if applicable), bylaws, policies and procedures.
Being registered with a profession in another jurisdiction recognized by the certification body.
Presenting with "substantially equivalent competencies."
The Board of Directors will set the requirements for entry to practice for new professionals, and for a time limit period, existing practitioners through grandparenting. Legislation (if applicable), bylaws and policies will obligate the Board to be satisfied that the registration process reflects the required competencies.
The Board will also recognize educational programs for the purpose of entry to practice. That is, graduates of recognized programs will be deemed to have the requisite competencies to challenge the registration examination.
6.2 Assessment of Practitioner Competencies
6.2.1 Components of the Registration Process
Applicants must submit:
Two letters of reference detailing their abilities relative to the agreed-upon competencies. One referee must be a current or previous immediate supervisor or faculty member/instructor. One referee must ideally possess the certification body's designation in good standing.
A self-evaluation focusing on the applicant's relevant abilities, education and experience.
A signed declaration demonstrating the applicant's adherence to the certification body's professional practice standards and Code of Ethics. Many certifying bodies obligate all applicants to successfully complete self-directed studies (e.g., online courses) to demonstrate their comprehensive understanding of the importance of these key professional concepts.
A several page written submission, where the applicant identifies their strengths and developmental needs, as well as how they propose to improve their competencies through involvement in the continuing competency program.
Upon entrance as a provisional registrant, the next step is passing the entry to practice examination within six months. Many certifying bodies make use of secure on-line examinations, with supervision in a controlled environment such as a boardroom or classroom.
After passing the entrance examination, the applicant begins a self-directed learning component, which consists of writing two discussion papers, similarly addressing relevant competencies.
Many certification bodies recommend and/or develop and administer self-study distance delivery courses, textbooks, sample examination questions, study skills, and assessment preparation strategies. These courses often obligate applicants to demonstrate how they would resolve professional and ethical dilemmas encountered by practitioners.
6.2.2 Defensibility of the Examination
If a certification body develops its own examination, the Board of Directors must be assured that the examination is developed according to recognized psychometric principles. There must be a clear and defensible link between the examination and the required competencies.
6.2.3 Role of the Psychometrician
Most certification bodies arrange with a psychometrician to enhance the validity and reliability of their registration examination. Psychometrics is the branch of psychology dealing with the design, administration and interpretation of quantitative tests.
Psychometrics involves the precise construction, refinement and ongoing evaluation of instruments and procedures for measurement. For example, one dimension of psychometrics is the classical distinction between reliability and validity - essential elements for determining the quality of any test.
Registration examinations must be reliable and valid, in part because they are subject to appeal. A reliable measure is measuring something consistently; a valid measure is measuring what is supposed to be measured accurately.
6.2.4 No Sub-Delegation
If a certification body chooses to approve an external examination (most commonly a national examination), it must similarly be assured that the examination properly reflects the required competencies. Where established by legislation, the majority of certification bodies are bound by a requirement not to sub-delegate their authority.
That is, the certification body cannot transfer its responsibility to a third party (such as an educational institution) for the crucial function of objectively assessing applicants for entry to professional practice.
6.2.5 Accountability Framework
Many certification bodies make use of a formal or informal accountability framework to ensure that students receive an optimal educational experience, which positions them well for the registration examination, and ultimately successfully functioning as professionals. An accountability framework implies:
Defined roles and responsibilities.
Formal and informal agreements and expectations.
Goals and objectives.
Mechanisms to ensure continuing quality improvement.
6.2.6 Common Concerns About Registration Examinations
There is often uncertainty, particularly among educational institutions, about examination development and administration processes, and their relationship to the approved competency profile.
Stakeholders may express displeasure about the apparent subjectivity or "disconnect" among the theoretical and practical portions of the registration examination, the apparent lack of justification for marks, student pass/fail rates, and inadequate feedback by the certification body to educational institutions and students.
Student pass/fail rates may vary significantly among educational institutions. Certification bodies often provide statistical reports and additional relevant information to educational institutions to increase the registration examination's acceptance.
Educational institutions need informative statistics, and structures and processes that respond to changes in practice patterns, competencies, teaching methodologies, legislation, case law and policies.
With certification bodies that use practical examinations, perceptions of subjectivity and bias often exist, as well as concerns about examiner inter-rater reliability. The criteria and process for selection of examiner faculty must be transparent and defensible.
In circumstances where there is a lack of agreement on the common body of knowledge and a rapidly expanding knowledge base, confusion and disagreement may occur among certification bodies and educational institutions in translating the approved competency profiles. This presents significant challenges to educators charged with developing curricula and method of training delivery.
6.3 Accreditation of Educational Programs for Entry to the Profession
6.3.1 Inherent Tension and Role Conflict
As noted previously, certification bodies traditionally recognize educational programs for the purpose of entry to the profession. However, certification bodies do not have direct jurisdiction over educational institutions, and are not capable or authorized to determine the content of, duration, delivery method, instructional staff or any other aspects of training programs.
This accountability without a direct opportunity to influence often sets the stage for tension and role conflict among certification bodies and educational institutions. Unhealthy competition among educational institutions can also result, particularly when educational institutions compare how well their programs train students for the registration examination.
Many certification bodies attempt to promote accountability and collaborative working relationships with educational institutions through involving third party accreditation agencies. Educational programs are accredited for defined time periods.
Common features in the accreditation process include but are not limited to (adapted from the Canadian Medical Association Conjoint Accreditation Services):
The educational program has competency-based objectives that address all competencies required in the approved profile.
The program is responsive to stakeholders' needs, particularly employers.
The program evaluates whether students increase their competencies in relation to the stated objectives. This program evaluation process results in timely improvements.
The program collects outcome data, including from students, employers and other stakeholders, which identifies strengths and areas for improvement. The program acts upon the results of these performance measures in a timely and methodical fashion.
The program provides prospective and recently enrolled students with accurate information, and its policies, procedures and practices are consistent.
Students are given timely access to support, counsel and advice - while at the same time protecting their privacy.
There are formal, objective and published policies and procedures to address student concerns.
The program has instructional staff with relevant and current academic credentials, professional certification, and work experience.
Sufficient instructional staff are assigned to ensure effective student supervision and timely evaluation of student learning throughout the program.
The program ensures that the roles of employers and other stakeholders involved in student education are defined through written agreements, and that these responsibilities are fulfilled.
The Proposed Continuing Competency Program
7. The Proposed Continuing Competency Program
The contents of the March 27, 2007 Phase I report defined the Continuing Competency Program as "... participation in mandatory continuing education and achievement of required practice hours, consistent with the requirements for ongoing maintenance of certification."
Continuing competency programs ideally result in the incremental maintenance, development and broadening of competencies required for professional practice. Participation in continuing competency program implies registrants being involved in initiatives over and above their regular employment or other paid work.
Certifying bodies' approaches to continuing competency programs differ, but usually include:
Continuing education (a certain number of credit hours per year or over a two to three year period).
Self-directed learning, self-assessment and evaluation.
Relevant on-the-job experience (practice hours).
7.2 Guiding Principles
Principles for continuing competency programs include that the activity:
Broadens or enhances professional growth, including as part of a career path, and maintains the practitioner's competencies.
Improves service delivery.
Contributes to the profession.
Leads to learning or gaining insight from other professionals.
Broadens the scope of the professional's current practice beyond their daily functional responsibilities.
7.3 Historical Emphasis on Remediation and Discipline
Professional certification bodies historically have demonstrated a predominant emphasis on outliers (the "bad apple" theory), rather than enhancing competencies of the practitioner group. Certification bodies mostly limited their approach to registrant competencies to managing complaints, investigations and discipline.
Their investigative and disciplinary processes dealt with professionals demonstrating unprofessional conduct. Continuing competency was seen as an individual professional responsibility, with few certification bodies assuming an active role, monitoring or facilitating.
Certification bodies initially began sponsoring and subsequently mandating participation in continuing competency programs about 15 years ago. The two most common reasons for developing continuing competency programs evident from the early days were public protection and enhancing professional growth - leading to more competent practice.
The current philosophy is that an effective continuing competency program should be designed to do more than identify and promote remediation of incompetent and/or unethical professionals. It should instead raise the current knowledge base, performance and competency of the profession as a whole.
7.4 Common Principles
7.4.1 Continuing Education
Registrants are obliged to obtain a minimum number of continuing education credits in a specific period, often two to three years. These activities may include courses, workshops, conferences, study groups, presentations, teaching, volunteer professional work, and self-study or activities.
7.4.2 Continuing Education Credits
Certification bodies often divide continuing education activities into two or more categories. The first category most often pertains to educational activities directly related to the practice of the profession. The number of continuing education credits must be printed in the event's program brochure, with the certification body's logo and a formal statement.
Registrants can also obtain category 1 credits by volunteering for activities directly related to the certification body's governance and/or management. This includes serving on the Board, and participating in the certification body's committees, task forces or advisory groups and/or in a management or administrative role.
Category 2 credits apply to activities not directly related to the practice of the profession, yet which provide professionals with developmental activities or permit registrants to contribute, outside their expected professional duties, to growth of others in the profession.
Examples of category 2 activities include:
Conferences and programs offered by other related organizations, for example project management and human resource management.
Articles written, papers presented or educational sessions delivered on related topics that do not form part of one's professional duties.
Mentoring in an organized and planned fashion outside one's professional duties.
Serving in a policy development or decision making capacity with another related organization.
7.4.3 Distance Delivery
The fulfillment of continuing competency program requirements is often challenging, particularly to professionals working and residing in rural and remote areas. These practitioners may have difficulties accessing educational opportunities in major urban centers.
Many certifying bodies have responded with innovative solutions such as teleconferencing, videoconferencing, e-mail forums, and other distance delivery and Internet-based opportunities.
7.4.4 "Practicing the Profession"
Continuing competency programs most often obligate registrants to remain current in the practice of the profession. This term was defined in the Phase I document as:
"The provision of information and privacy services across various practice settings, including but not limited to:
Directly to clients (including internal clients).
Legal, technical and other advice; auditing; interpreting; and consulting.
Educating students of the profession and/or practitioners participating in a continuing competency program."
Registrants must verify that they are actively practicing the profession over an extended time period. The presumption with this concept is that "practice makes perfect." Conversely, insufficient practical experience will result in attrition of competencies and failure to integrate leading practices over time.
7.4.5 Self-Assessments and Reflective Practice
Self-assessment and reflective practice are terms often used synonymously. Reflective practice implies relating one's practice to theory and providing knowledge-based professional services. These terms normally include:
Assessing one's practice relative to the professional practice standards and Code of Ethics.
Collecting feedback about one's practice from supervisors, peers, direct reports and others.
Prioritizing learning goals.
Developing and implementing learning plans.
Recording and collecting evidence of professional development activities and achievements.
Evaluating the impact continuing competency activities have on an individual's practice.
Repeating this process on a yearly basis, and retaining documents for a specified period - to be available for potential audit.
7.4.6 Professional Portfolios
Professional portfolios are often considered a variation on the self-assessment approach. Professional portfolios are a written record of what an individual has completed and learned through their professional career.
Professional portfolios demonstrate that the registrant is maintaining their competencies. Major components of a professional portfolio include a:
Summary of professional education, employment and career.
Record of professional-related committee, volunteer, community work, membership association and other activities.
Record of professional development.
Self-assessment of educational and developmental needs, with a plan to meet these needs.
A major criticism of professional portfolios is that many professionals experience challenges developing a portfolio and directing their own educational activities. Consequently, if professional portfolios are contemplated by the proposed certification body, professionals should receive appropriate training and opportunities to develop the necessary self-assessment skills.
7.4.7 Provisions for Confidentiality
Certification bodies with legislative status most often have strong confidentiality provisions for their continuing competency programs. One of the major concerns is that registrants may not be fully transparent about their "deficient competencies," if this information could be used in professional conduct matters or civil litigation.
In circumstances where a profession is authorized by legislation, practitioners are required to share their continuing competency information only with designated individuals in the certification body. Where there is enabling legislation, practitioners currently or previously participating in the program cannot be compelled to give evidence in any legal proceeding about their involvement in the program. Similarly, they cannot be required to produce any record relating to the program for legal proceedings.
Where continuing competency programs are authorized by legislation, no individual who has access to or possesses this information must use the information except to carry out the duties specified in the legislation. Any person who has access to or comes into possession of information about the continuing competency program must not publish, release or disclose the information - except in summarized or statistical form, the contents of which cannot be attributed to a particular individual.
7.4.8 Relationship to Investigation and Discipline
In extraordinary circumstances, a certification body's competency committee, registration committee or registrar may believe that a registrant has intentionally provided false or misleading information in attempting to comply with a continuing competency program. In these situations, they must refer this information to the complaints director. (These concepts will be explored in Phase III).
Registrants who fail to maintain their continuing competency program requirements may, following investigation and discipline, have their certificates suspended or even revoked, or there may be conditions attached. They will be unable to use the protected title. Their employment may be in jeopardy if they are obliged to be a certificate in good standing.
Normally, using an abbreviated process, within a three year window from the time when the certification designation was terminated, practitioners whose certificant status has been revoked may apply for reinstatement. Subsequent to this three year window, they will be required to complete a refresher program.
7.5 Provisions for Exemptions
A registrant believing they will be unable to meet the requirements in the two to three year timeframe due to special circumstances must apply to the certification body in advance, for a deferral of up to one year. Applications must be made prior to the end of the reporting period.
If approved, the registrant must meet the total continuing competency program requirements within the allocated timeframe.
Registrants who exceed the total number of points per year may carry over the excess points to the next reporting period, for a maximum of one year.
Registrants certified within a calendar year will not be required to start their continuing competency program until the year following the designation being granted.
Situations may occur that render completion of the continuing competency program a major challenge or even impossible. Examples include:
Periods of approved leave of absence for personal reasons when the professional is not actively practicing the profession (e.g., maternity or paternity leave).
Periods of extended family and/or personal illness or disability.
The certification body must develop fair and reasonable policies and procedures to accommodate registrants in these circumstances.
7.6 Ongoing Evaluation
Registrants will be responsible for documenting their professional development activities. This obligates them to complete records, usually entering information into an approved template.
Registrants must certify compliance as part of their annual certificate renewal process. This information is useful for ongoing program evaluation, as well as monitoring registrants' compliance.
Certification bodies often evaluate the impact of their continuing competency programs through performance indicators such as:
The percentage of registrants complying and expressing satisfaction with various dimensions of the program.
The number and percentage of registrants formally inquiring about the program.
Ease of access to registrants to continuing competency program activities.
The number of members of the public seeking information about the program.
Registrant compliance with the professional practice standards and Code of Ethics.
Monitoring and tracking of complaints against registrants.
The percentage of registrants for whom remediation is recommended or required.
Investigations and if necessary discipline initiated resulting from the process.
Professions routinely assess the effectiveness of their continuing competency programs, and provide updates in their Annual Reports.
7.7 Critique of Continuing Competency Programs
The literature suggests that continuing education, minimum practice hours and/or self-assessment likely have at best a modest influence upon competency and practice enhancement. Considerable skepticism about the relevance of formal continuing competency programs is consistent with the following themes:
Many registrants believe that they are "already competent” and view their involvement in continuing competency activities as unnecessarily intrusive.
What professionals know from the literature and continuing education opportunities and what they actually do in practice often vary. Leading practices may contradict what a professional believes.
There is often a tendency to search for evidence that confirms prior assumptions - rather than modify one's practice patterns.
Some registrants perceive that continuing competency programs are time consuming, costly, administratively burdensome, and irrelevant to professional practice.
There is a tendency for professionals to focus on measurement and attainment of program requirements, rather than to reflect upon implications for improved practice.
Certification bodies often are able to devote only modest financial and human resources to obligating compliance with, evaluating and improving continuing competency programs.
There are significant complexities because of variations in practitioner competencies, practice settings, and specializations.
Certification bodies must carefully balance their promotion of leading practices vis-à-vis reinforcing potential punitive consequences for non-compliance.
There are often lengthy periods during which non-compliant professionals continue to practice.
Requirements for mandatory continuing education are established in the belief that professionals know what they need to learn, participate fully in their education, and apply what they have learned to their practice. Yet, even the best intentioned professional may not accurately assess their abilities. Without objective measures, the assessment rests with the individual's interpretation of the required information.
As noted previously, this lack of knowledge and/or the ability to self-assess is likely the greatest drawback to self-assessment instruments. Professionals should ideally be provided with objective diagnostic feedback on their strengths and weaknesses, and resources to overcome their limitations. They should be able to assess their abilities in a supportive environment to overcome these limitations.
A review of the literature suggests that it is largely ineffectual to pursue continuing competency programs without prior competency assessments, coursework to address demonstrated deficiencies, and rigorous testing to ensure that desired competencies have been assimilated into practice.
Some professions, particularly in the United States, have moved toward objective assessments of professional competencies at periodic intervals and compulsory remediation. One high profile example is the historic highly structured airline pilot simulator training and retesting program.
The circumstances of a normally very small percentage of professionals who do not maintain their competencies present certifying bodies with a dilemma. This is more often the case when professionals practice the profession relatively infrequently and in isolation. They may be unaware of their limitations and may not appreciate or recognize the need to continue to grow professionally.
While registrants can be forced to participate in education, they cannot be "made to learn."
7.8 Building the Certification Body's Continuing Competency Program
Recommended aspects of an optimal continuing competency program include:
An overall philosophical approach where competency is embedded across the continuum - from entry to practice, maintenance of competencies, remediation, and intervention where professional practice is below expected standards.
Where applicable, new registrants will participate in continuing competency program activities in collaboration with their mentor.
Initiatives are more likely to be accepted by the profession and to be successful where there are formal arrangements among certification bodies, registrants, members, employers, member-driven associations, educational institutions, and other stakeholders.
Registrants understand and value self-governance, and the obligation to remain current. Certification bodies share accountability and responsibility for continuing competency with their registrants.
From the inception of the program, registrants should be clearly informed that the assessment is designed to identify their strengths and areas for professional growth, and provide direction for remediation where required. An indirect consequence and motivation is to enhance the profession's credibility and public profile.
Computer-based objective diagnostic assessment tools are preferable. These allow the registrant to schedule their assessment on a date and time that best meets their career and personal needs.
Assessments may include multiple choice and case studies, and the opportunity for registrants to provide detailed narratives on their self-development activities.
The provision of reliable and valid diagnostic feedback on the professional's strengths and weaknesses in key practice areas.
An individualized remedial plan that includes relevant and accessible resources.
Certification bodies need to be creative and allocate sufficient resources to their continuing competency programs. These programs should be manageable, transparent, fair, reasonable, cost effective, efficient and administratively realistic for certification bodies and their registrants. They must promote public confidence in professional self-governance.
7.9 An Example of Leading Practices in Continuing Competency Programs
The Canadian Society of Association Executives offers their members online educational programs based upon association management competencies. The ten tutorials are short and intensive programs that provide busy executives with instant access to valuable information and skill development.
Members can begin a tutorial at any time, and online access is provided for 90 days. Each self-directed online tutorial requires approximately five to eight hours to complete, and includes:
An introduction and learning objectives.
Topic content and readings.
A knowledge check to test learning.
Access to additional resources by electronic mail.
An evaluation opportunity to provide the association with feedback.
7.10 Costs to Registrants
Registrants are obligated to pay for their own continuing education commitments, and the certification body should not subsidize continuing competency program opportunities. Employers are not required to provide financial support for professional development, although most promote employees drawing upon their "learning accounts."
Many certification bodies have arrangements with major employers and professional associations to formally recognize educational opportunities. In other circumstances, registrant educational opportunities are subsidized by certification bodies and/or employers.
Employers most often view their employees' participation in continuing competency program activities as having an excellent "return on investment." That is, employers benefit from having more competent employees, by virtue of these professionals' involvement in mandated continuing competency programs.
7.11 Next Steps
Steps to building a quality continuing competency program include but are not limited to:
Based upon the approved competency profiles for Administrators, Executors and Advisors, identifying the program's purposes, goals and objectives, as well as supporting components. The certification body's program will need to make allowances for the divergent interests of Administrators, Executors and Advisors.
Designing the program and developing an implementation plan.
Identifying resource requirements and addressing concerns about confidentiality.
Developing policies and procedures based on stakeholder input.
Consulting and communicating with stakeholders.
Pilot testing the program with a small volunteer group of practitioners.
Refining and implementing the program, in consultation with practitioners.
Evaluating the program, its results and outcomes on an ongoing basis.
It is recommended that a committee reporting to the Board of Directors oversee the program's development, implementation and ongoing evaluation.
The Terms of Reference, membership, goals and objectives, and process for arriving at the committee's operational plan will be described in Phase III - development of the governance structure, accountabilities and processes.
Complaints, Alternative Complaint Resolution, Investigation and Discipline
8. Complaints, Alternative Complaint Resolution, Investigation and Discipline
8.1 The Privileges of Self-Governance
Individuals regulated by the proposed certification body will be privileged to be self-governing. There is a corresponding responsibility for all practitioners to adhere to legislation establishing the certification body, professional practice standards, Code of Ethics, Bylaws and policies. This includes enforcement action against practitioners who appear to have been involved in "unprofessional conduct."
The proposed certification body must assume an impartial and objective view in dealing with complaints. The investigation will focus on the facts and evidence, and a determination will then be made about how the complaint will be addressed. The certification body will deal with investigations, complaints and discipline - independent of and at times in parallel with employer-initiated disciplinary action.
8.2 Conduct That May Result in a Complaint
Complaints likely giving rise to referrals to the certification body may in part be extrapolated from professional discipline literature. Considerable policy development work will be necessary in this area.
For certificants, these complaints might include, in conducting IP work:
8.2.1 Addictions and Mental/Physical Health Issues
Unmanaged substance abuse or addiction.
Impaired mental and/or physical health.
8.2.2 Interpersonal and Communications Issues
Failure to communicate appropriately.
Incomplete or inaccurate documentation.
8.2.3 Breaches of Professional Practice Standards and Code of Ethics
Ongoing poor judgment or unskilled practice.
Routinely practicing far beyond the member's level of competency and/or authorization.
Abandonment of responsibilities without a reasonable excuse.
Breach of trust and/or the confidentiality of records, including misuse and/or release of personal information in a manner that contravenes legislation.
Fraud, theft or misrepresentation.
Physical, verbal or sexual abuse.
Intentional destruction of, failing to locate and/or misrepresenting the contents of formal records.
Falsification of dates (e.g. receipt of requests), in part to comply with legislatively required processing deadlines.
Failure to comply with a Commissioner's orders.
Intentionally withholding information in contravention of legislation, even if ordered to by the employee's supervisor, manager and/or senior official.
Being in a conflict of interest, including but not limited to receiving bribes and inducements.
Purposefully and systematically engaging in errors of omission and/or commission that are intended to thwart the legislation's intent.
Purposefully engaging in errors of omission and/or omission, with the intent to tarnish an individual’s reputation, reveal third party identities, undermine competitive interest, etc.
8.3 Decision Making
In considering the complaint’s disposition, the certification body's Complaints Director will normally consider:
Is there evidence of specific behaviors or incidents that would likely support a finding of "unprofessional conduct?"
Has the investigated practitioner potentially breached the professional practice standards and/or the Code of Ethics?
Has there been a pattern of unacceptable behavior and/or unprofessional conduct, and if so, is it likely to continue?
If applicable, what have been the outcomes of the certification body's previous attempts to remediate the professional's conduct?
8.4 The Concept of Natural Justice
Investigative, alternative complaint resolution and disciplinary processes are governed by the principles of natural justice. Natural justice is a legal philosophy that implies that:
A person accused of a legal infraction, or at risk of some form of loss of privileges, should be given adequate notice about the proceedings, including the specifics of any charges. Accused individuals must know the precise allegations, in order to defend themselves.
Decision makers should declare any personal interest they may have in the proceedings.
Decision makers should be unbiased and act in good faith.
Proceedings should be conducted so they are fair to all parties, and the other side should be heard. Practitioners are owed a hearing before an impartial and unbiased tribunal, who have not pre-judged the issues.
Each party to a proceeding is entitled to ask questions and contradict the evidence of the opposing party. This includes cross-examining witnesses, providing supportive witnesses and documents, and advancing comprehensive arguments.
Decision makers should take into account relevant considerations and extenuating circumstances, and ignore irrelevant considerations.
"Justice should be done and seen to be done."
8.5 Alternative Complaint Resolution - Relative to Complaints of Potential Unprofessional Conduct
Alternative Complaint Resolution (ACR) allows a complainant and an investigated practitioner to resolve a complaint or dispute where appropriate, without resorting to a disciplinary hearing, and all of the attendant formalities and expenses to all involved parties. Participation is voluntary, and participants may exit at any point.
Investigated practitioners may be accompanied by their legal counsel, representative and/or support person. The certification body must ratify the ACR process, and the outcome must be seen to be in the public interest.
Agreements reached through the ACR process are enforceable in the same way as a Hearing Tribunal's order.
Complaints addressed by ACR will be considered satisfactorily resolved, following implementation of the agreed upon disposition. Complaints deemed unsuitable for alternative complaint resolution will be dealt with by the chair of the complaints committee - as complaints of unprofessional conduct.
8.6 Settlement Agreement
At any time after the chair of the Complaints Committee refers a matter to a Hearing Tribunal and before the commencement of the hearing, the investigated practitioner may tender a settlement agreement to the Complaints Committee. The settlement agreement must acknowledge unprofessional conduct and the investigated practitioner's consent to a specified disposition. The Hearing Tribunal must approve the settlement agreement.
The complaints committee may recommend or refuse to recommend acceptance of the proposed settlement agreement to the Hearing Tribunal. Where the complaints committee refuses to recommend the proposed settlement agreement, the Hearing Tribunal must proceed without any reference to the proposed settlement agreement.
8.7 Powers of the Complaints Committee
Options available to the chair of the complaints committee include:
Dismissing the complaint if it is frivolous, vexatious or malicious.
Referring the complaint to a Hearing Tribunal.
Immediately suspending the investigated practitioner's license or imposing restrictions.
Convening a meeting with the complaints committee and investigated practitioner, and confirming, varying or terminating the suspension or restrictions.
A complaints committee may receive information that indicates an investigated practitioner may be guilty of unprofessional conduct. If the complaints committee concludes that it is in the public interest to suspend from practice or restrict the practice of the investigated practitioner, the complaints committee may:
Suspend the investigated practitioner's license temporarily, or
Temporarily impose restrictions on the investigated practitioner's license.
This suspension or license restriction will remain in place following a meeting with the investigated practitioner, until a Hearing Tribunal addresses the matter. The hearing must occur within 30 days, unless the investigated practitioner requests an extension of time.
8.8 Hearing Tribunals
The Board of Directors of the certification body must appoint a Hearing Tribunal to conduct a hearing into any matter referred to it by complaints committee, or to consider an investigated practitioner's appeal from a complaints committee's decision to impose a sanction.
The Hearing Tribunal is similarly bound by the principles of natural justice, noted earlier in this document.
8.9 The Hearing Tribunal
The investigated person has the right to be represented by legal counsel, at his or her own expense (not the certification body's expense). Witnesses, including the complainant, may be called at a hearing. They will be provided with formal notice that sets out the allegations, as well as the hearing's date, time and location.
The certification body's legal counsel will usually prepare Association witnesses by providing general information about the hearing process, questions that the certification body's legal counsel may pose, as well as questions that may be anticipated from the investigated practitioner's legal counsel.
Witnesses are generally excluded from hearings until they are called to give their evidence. The order of a hearing is generally:
The chairperson deals with any preliminary matters.
Allegations are read and the practitioner is asked to respond. If the allegations are denied or partially denied, the hearing proceeds to determine whether the allegations are true. If the practitioner admits to unprofessional conduct, then the hearing proceeds to determine appropriate sanctions.
The certification body's legal counsel is asked whether they wish to make an opening statement, usually a brief summary of the issues and evidence to be called.
Opening statements are not considered evidence. They are simply a summary of what evidence is expected to be called. Evidence can only be considered if it is given under oath.
The certification body's representative is then asked to make an opening statement.
There may be documents which both counsel for the certification body and the practitioner's representatives agree can be marked as "Exhibits." There may also be an "Agreed Statement of Facts."
The certification body's legal counsel calls the first witness, and requires the witness to respond to questions.
The investigated practitioner may cross-examine the witness.
Legal counsel for the certification body is then asked if they have any questions arising from the cross-examination. The re-examination should generally only deal with issues raised during the cross-examination which were not covered in earlier testimony or are required to clarify testimony which appears inconsistent.
Committee members may question the witness for clarification.
Legal counsel for the certification body and the practitioner are asked if they have any questions for the witness arising from the questions asked by the committee members. Any questions should similarly be restricted to issues directly raised by the witness' responses to committee members’ questions.
The questioning process is repeated for each witness called by the certification body legal counsel. After all the witnesses are called, the certification body legal counsel advises that they have closed their case.
The investigated practitioner's legal counsel then begins a similar process of starting the case, examining witnesses, cross-examining by the certification body's Council, and questions from the Committee.
After all witnesses are called, the investigated practitioner's legal counsel advises the committee that they have closed the case. The certification body's legal counsel is provided the opportunity for any rebuttal evidence.
After rebuttal evidence is completed, the chair asks both legal councils to present their closing arguments. Committee members may ask questions for clarification.
The chair then declares the hearing to be completed and advises both legal counsel that a copy of the decision will be sent to all parties by registered mail. The committee then commences its deliberations on the investigated practitioner's guilt or innocence, as well as penalty (if found guilty).
8.10 Potential Disciplinary Outcomes
Options available to the Hearing Tribunal include ordering that the investigated practitioner:
Pay a fine to the certification body within 30 days, or face suspension.
Be responsible for the costs of the proceedings, or a portion of the proceedings.
Undergo treatment, re-education and or practice enhancement.
Have their license to practice suspended or restricted for up to one year, on certain terms and conditions. (Please note that the individual would still be free to maintain employment, unless certification was mandatory).
Be permanently barred from practicing the profession. (Please note that the individual would still be free to maintain employment, unless certification was mandatory).
The Hearing Tribunal must report its findings and disposition to the Board, the investigated practitioner, and the complainant.
The Hearing Tribunal's decision may be appealed to the Board.
Some professional associations and regulatory authorities notify the public when one of their practitioners is formally disciplined - through a newspaper advertisement and/or a notation on the website.
Canadian Association of Management Consultants.
Canadian College of Health Services Executives.
Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations.
Canadian Fund Raising Executives.
Canadian Information Processing Society.
Canadian Evaluation Society
Canadian Society of Association Executives.
Certified General Accountants Association of Canada.
Chartered Accountants of Canada.
Ethics Practitioners Association of Canada.
Financial Planners Standards Council.
Insurance Institute of Canada.
International Association of Privacy Professionals (United States).
National Association of Parliamentarians.
Order of Privacy Officers.
Privacy and American Business Corporate Privacy Officers Program.
Purchasing Management Association of Canada.
Society of Management Accountants.