In Quebec, to practise a profession or hold a professional title governed by the Professional Code, a person must have a permit and be a member in good standing of the professional order that governs the exercise of the profession. Quebec has 46 professional orders that supervise the practice of 54 regulated professions.
In response to recommendations in the Charbonneau Commission report on granting and management of public contracts in the construction industry, on May 11, 2016, the Quebec government tabled Bill 98, An Act to amend various legislation mainly with respect to admission to professions and the governance of the professional system, to amend the Professional Code. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts establishing certain professional orders.
The bill has several goals. The legislation aims to strengthen governance and ethics in professional bodies and above all, to better protect the public. It also aims to encourage professionals such as lawyers, engineers and architects to denounce irregular situations and wrong acts within their profession and transactions.
The proposed law would:
- Make it easier for the province to investigate complaints of professional misconduct and give Quebec’s Office des professions more power to initiate its own investigations; to adopt standards of ethics and professional conduct for directors on the board of directors of an order and the power to implement corrective measures if it considers it appropriate.
- Give the disciplinary trustee (Syndic) the power (under certain conditions) to grant immunity against disciplinary complaints if it relates to an offence in which he or she participated.
- Allow the Office des Professions to investigate on its own initiative a professional without having to obtain prior approval from the Minister of Justice.
- Extend the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, but not exceeding seven years from the commission of the offence.
- Simplify the procedure for updating professional skills.
- Mandate ethics and professional conduct training for candidates to a profession and to require professional bodies to provide such training to members of their order.
- Require the directors of the board of an order to undergo training on the role of a board of directors of an order, including on governance and ethics.
- Give more power to the trustee to request the disciplinary council, where a professional is prosecuted for an offense punishable by five years’ imprisonment or more, to suspend or limit temporarily for the professional right to practice or use the reserved title.
- Amend the Notarial Act and the rights of the registry offices Act to update the provisions on the signature of notaries.
It was reported in several media outlets, that a group of lawyers, professors and political figures announced the creation of an independent, non-partisan committee to keep track of what recommendations are being implemented.
The independent committee will release its first report on how well the inquiry’s recommendations are being acted upon on November 26, 2016, to mark the first anniversary of the Charbonneau report. It also intends to release updates every six months after that.
The independent committee is formed of the following members:
- Luc Bégin, professor at l’Université Laval and director of the Institut d’éthique appliquée
- Peter Dent, president of Transparency International Canada
- Gilles Ouimet, former Liberal MNA and president of the Quebec Bar
- Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon, lawyer and columnist
- Peter Trent, mayor of Westmount
- Denis Saint-Martin, professor in political science at the Université de Montréal
- Martine Valois, law professor at the Université de Montréal