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Protecting the Public: The Role of Canadian Regulatory Bodies

Regulatory bodies play a pivotal role in safeguarding the public’s interests and well-being. Canadian regulatory bodies ensure that regulated professionals operate ethically, and responsibly, and in accordance with established laws and regulations.

But what exactly does it mean to protect the public from a Canadian regulator’s perspective? Let’s explore their role and why all of us – regardless of where we work, live, study, and play – should care about these organizations.  First, we’ll look at how four Canadian regulatory bodies explain their role.

The Nova Scotia College of Nursing regulates Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Registered Nurses (RNs), and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) across Nova Scotia. They regulate these nursing professions on behalf of the public. If you visit their website, they explain their mission this way:

We protect the public of Nova Scotia through regulating nursing services. Here are some of the ways we do our work:

  • We set practice standards;
  • We register and license those qualified to practice nursing;
  • We approve nursing education programs;
  • We intervene to preserve safe practice;
  • We govern and operate with the highest integrity.

Visit the Nova Scotia College of Nursing (NSCN) online for more information:

The Law Society of Ontario regulates the thousands of lawyers and paralegals across Ontario. The organization describes its role this way:

Created by an act of the Legislative Assembly in 1797, the Law Society of Ontario regulates Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers and paralegals who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct.

The Law Society has a duty to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario, and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

The Law Society regulates, licenses and disciplines Ontario’s more than 57,000 lawyers and over 10,000 licensed paralegals pursuant to the Law Society Act and the Law Society’s rules, regulations and guidelines.

Visit the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) online for more information:

The College of Dental Surgeons of Alberta also has a “mission of public protection”, which they explain as follows:

The College of Dental Surgeons of Alberta (CDSA) registers Alberta’s dentists and ensures that the dental health of Albertans is advanced through safe, available, quality and ethical dental services.

Public Protection is managed through three key aspects of the CDSA’s functions:

  • Registering dentists and enforcing standards for registration and continuing competence
  • Establishing a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for dentists in Alberta
  • Acting on concerns and complaints about dentists in Alberta

Visit the College of Dental Surgeons of Alberta (CDSA) online for more information:

Let’s also review how the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia describes their mandate:

The mandate of the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC) is to regulate the delivery of veterinary medicine in the province of British Columbia to ensure the public and animals are served by a competent and ethical profession.

All veterinarians working in British Columbia must be licensed by the CVBC which sets and enforces standards of veterinary practice and conduct.

The Veterinarians Act creates the CVBC and sets out its general powers and duties relating to the regulation and advancement of the veterinary profession in B.C. The Act also prohibits the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine by any person who is not a registered member of the CVBC. The CVBC will intervene in clear cases of unauthorized practice.

Visit the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC) online for more information:

Here are the key themes that emerge from these descriptions provided by four regulatory bodies in different Canadian provinces:

  • Regulators set the standards that people need to achieve to enter a regulated profession.
  • Regulators enforce professional conduct by ensuring legislation and codes of conduct are followed.
  • Regulators oversee and manage a complaint and discipline process.

These themes relate to all self-regulating regulatory bodies in Canada.

What’s “self-regulating”? Most regulators are non-profit organizations that were established by legislation. Provincial and territorial governments put their trust in professions to oversee their profession (self-regulate) and ensure their peers fulfill their professional duties. Visit the Canadian Regulatory Guide, a resource developed by MDR Strategy Group, to learn more about Canadian regulators.

Self-regulating regulatory bodies in Canada set the standards that people need to achieve to enter a regulated profession; enforce professional conduct; and oversee and manage a complaint and discipline process.

There are a few Canadian regulators that aren’t self-regulated. This includes “delegated authorities” like the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), the regulator of motor vehicle sales in Ontario, and the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO), the organization that regulates bereavement services in Ontario, and “independent government agencies” like the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC). BSCS enforces British Columbia’s Securities Act which regulates how businesses raise money and how securities such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are bought and sold. There are several other securities commissions like BCSC nationwide.

Regardless of the type of regulatory body, whether self-regulating, a delegated authority, or an independent government agency, protecting the public is at the very heart of what they do.

Regulatory bodies, whether self-governing, a delegated authority, or an independent government agency, all have a mandate to protect the public.

Regulators from coast to coast to coast should also promote transparency and accountability which is key to maintaining public trust and confidence in the work they do. Prioritizing open communication, accessibility, and providing the public and their other key stakeholders with clear information to help them make informed decisions about the professionals they decide to work with are all crucial aspects of what regulatory bodies need to do.

Regulators need to evolve as the sector evolves and must remain agile and forward-thinking to continue to uphold their public protection mandate in our ever-changing world. They should aim to:

  • Educate themselves on how modern technologies (like AI) will impact the profession(s) they regulate and their work as a regulator.
  • Operate while being mindful of shifting societal expectations.
  • Embrace emerging regulatory trends such as embedding equity, diversity, and inclusion principles in regulation; embracing the importance of kindness in regulation; and sustainability.

Protecting the public is more than standard setting, enforcement, and managing a complaint and discipline process, though these are essential. Protecting the public also includes a commitment to transparency and accountability. Regulators must be able to adapt to modern technologies, shifting societal expectations, and other important trends affecting and influencing the sector.

As guardians of public trust, Canadian regulatory bodies play a vital role in shaping a fairer, safer, healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable society for us all.

This article explores the significant role regulatory bodies in Canada play in terms of protecting the public. This was originally posted on, the worldwide site for opportunities in regulation and consumer protection.