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By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych, CHRL

Over the last few years, there has been a sea change in the way the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) governs and regulates its members. Yet, much of this transformation has been and remains invisible to members. 

Here is a quick recapitulation of what has transpired over the last few years.

Although HRPA became a professional regulatory body in 1990 with the passage of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario Act, 1990, the realization of what this actually meant would take a long time. In 1990, the Act was seen as recognition of the then-new CHRP designation by the Ontario Legislature. It was, in fact, much more than that – it made HRPA a professional regulatory body, although HRPA hadn’t quite processed that at the time. Consider the following graph – it shows the number of times the words regulate, regulation, regulator or regulatory appeared in HRPA’s annual reports, excluding the instances when those words were used referring to something other than HRPA’s mandate as a professional regulatory body.


Although HRPA was a professional regulatory body, it certainly doesn’t look like it knew it was at the time.

Starting in 2008, there was a growing realization that HRPA was indeed a regulatory body. One turning point was when HRPA received a letter from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) informing HRPA that our professional occupation had been identified as being subject to the labour mobility chapter of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). The letter invited HRPA to participate in orientation sessions to discuss the implementation of what would become the Ontario Labour Mobility Act, 2010. Most notably, however, the letter began with “Dear Regulator.”

Already in 2008, the idea had begun to take hold that HRPA should one day pursue a public act. At that time, it was thought that this would be a 10- to 15-year project. Nonetheless, HRPA set out to upgrade its regulatory processes in anticipation of this possibility. The idea was that by doing all we could to regulate the profession under our private act, it would make it more likely that HRPA would be successful in getting a public act. This turned out to be a good idea.

The upgrade started with the HRPA Rules of Professional Conduct first published in January 2009 and taking effect in June 2009. Among other things, these Rules of Professional Conduct introduced the professional liability insurance requirement for members in independent practice. Also in January 2009, HRPA placed its public register online, which was by then already common practice among professional regulatory bodies in Ontario.

Soon after, in March 2009, the Legislature passed Bill 158 – An Act to repeal and replace the statutes governing The Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario, the Certified Management Accountants of Ontario and The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. Our 1990 Act was borrowed nearly word for word from the Certified General Accountants of Ontario Act, 1983, also a private act – if the Legislature was to upgrade the certified general accountants from a private act to a public act, why not human resources professionals?

Work began in earnest on a new public act to replace our 1990 private act. Bill 138, An Act Respecting the Human Resources Professionals Association was introduced in the Legislature on Nov. 23, 2010. Interestingly, this time around our new Act would be borrowed virtually clause-for-clause from the Certified Management Accountants Act, 2010, which itself was very close to the Chartered Accountants Act, 2010 and the Certified General Accountants Act, 2010.

Continuing with the idea that HRPA had to be what it wanted to become, HRPA set out to completely revamp its regulatory processes. HRPA knew that if it were to be regulated by public act, it would fall under the oversight of the Office of the Fairness Commissioner. In 2009, the HRPA Board of Directors made the commitment that HRPA’s registration and certification processes would comply with the Fair Registration Practices Code which is embedded in the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006 (FARPACTA). In fact, HRPA went so far as to draft a Fair Registration Practices report as if it had been subject to FARPACTA and presented this report to the Fairness Commissioner. No professional regulatory body had ever demonstrated voluntary compliance in this way before. It made an impression.

At the same time, HRPA began taking its place as a member of the regulatory community by participating in organizations such as the Canadian Agencies for Regulation (CNAR), the Council on Licensure, Enforcement & Regulation (CLEAR) and the Ontario Regulators for Access Consortium (ORAC).

In 2011, there was big push to update our by-laws to be in line with the bill working its way through the Legislature – well, as much as our private act would allow, anyway. By then, HRPA had realized that as a professional regulatory body, its hearings were subject to the requirements of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, 1990 – again, a big jump in terms of sophistication of our proceedings.

In 2012, the Good Character requirement was introduced as a condition of HRPA membership and its rationale outlined in a December 2012 Canadian HR Reporter article. In 2012, with the increased sophistication of its regulatory processes, HRPA introduced its Code of Conduct for Members of Adjudicative Committees and its series of training modules for members of adjudicative committees.

In 2013, HRPA’s focus shifted to updating our competency framework. But the big event of 2013 was, of course, the passage of the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013. Our new Act made it quite clear that promotion and protection of the public interest was HRPA’s primary object.

The following year, 2014, saw the completion of the HRPA Human Resources Professional Competency Framework and the launch of the new competency framework. At the same time, there was a growing realization that the professionalization of HR and HR professionals was the “big picture.”

The current landscape

So where are we now? Just as we had finally caught up with our 1990 private act, our new public act moved the goal posts on us. There are sections of our new Act that still need to be implemented – specifically, the registration and regulation of firms and the implementation of the bankruptcy section of our new Act.
At the same time, the topic of professionalism was starting to get some traction.

Although acts can be passed in a day, it takes much longer for the implications and ramifications of such acts to become clear. Just as it took years for the profession to realize the true meaning and impact of its first private act, it may take years for it to fully realize the meaning and impact of its new public act. The next steps in the evolution of our profession are just beginning to emerge. It will involve a maturation of our institutions, but it will also involve a mindset shift. For instance, we are just beginning to grasp what promoting and protecting the public interest might mean for the profession and for its members.

The HR profession has truly come a long way in a short period of time. If the transformation of HR as a profession continues at this pace, who knows how far we can get in the not-too-distant future.

Claude Balthazard is HRPA’s vice president, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar.

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