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B.C. Greens table legislation to enable the regulation of counsellors and social workers

June 02, 2021

VICTORIA, B.C. –  Today the B.C. Greens will introduce legislation to amend the Health Professions Act. The proposed amendments would allow for fuller regulation of counsellors, therapists, and social workers as part of a push for stronger social and mental health care in British Columbia by increasing public protection, accountability, and oversight. 

“Joining other Canadian provinces in fully regulating these professions is a crucial step towards recognizing that mental health care is health care and that the government is taking the mental health needs of British Columbians seriously,” said B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley.

“Anxiety, stress, fear, and loneliness are having significant impacts on our mental health. British Columbians have reported significant impacts to their mental health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions we’ve all faced to our lives. As we imagine a brighter future, we believe that access to safe, effective, and accessible mental healthcare is a critical part of that path forward for British Columbians.”

Counsellors are unregulated in our province - meaning that anyone, regardless of experience, can call themselves a counsellor. Social workers in heath care are regulated; however, others have a patchwork system of regulation under the Social Workers Act that exempts workers caring for some of our most vulnerable people. The Health Professions Amendment Act (2021) would close loopholes in legislation that have delayed the regulation of counselling therapists and all social workers as part of the broader health professions umbrella.

“We are calling for the B.C. NDP to finally listen to these requests for action and are proposing practical, community-led and evidence-based steps.”

Quotes

Dr. Glen Grigg, Chair, The Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in BC (FACTBC)

“FACTBC enthusiastically supports this legislation because it aligns with our mission to protect people by making mental health services safe, available, and accountable. Lack of clarity in the current legislation has allowed successive governments to avoid their duty to protect the public by delaying, delegating, and deferring statutory regulation of counselling therapy. This amendment closes those loopholes, spells out the duty of the Minister of Health to act, and makes clear that mental health is an essential part of the health care system.”

Michael Crawford, President, BC Association of Social Workers (BCASW) 

"Regulation of health care professionals is necessary to protect the public and the decision to extend regulation to professions must be based on an assessment of the potential harm to the public" says Michael Crawford, President of the BC Association of Social Workers. "Social work is not a fully regulated profession however, consideration of the public interest should lead the BC government to require that all social workers be registered with their regulatory college by removing all exemptions prescribed in the Social Workers Act Regulation."

Quick Facts

  • Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Alberta have all regulated counsellors and therapists. By not requiring oversight of the profession, the government allows for anyone to call themselves a counsellor. This can cause untold damage to those seeking mental health care and placing trust in their provider. 
  • When government regulates healthcare professionals, they ensure that practitioners are competent and ethical. This protects the public from incompetent practitioners who may take advantage of them and the system.  
  • Designation of a profession under the Health Professions Act sets out a mandatory process and regulatory college that oversees educational requirements, sets standards of conduct and practice, investigates complaints, conducts disciplinary actions, and encourages ongoing professional development.

Background

  • FACTBC represents 14 professional associations and 6,000 counsellors and therapists in the province. In December 2020, FACTBC submitted a formal application for designation under the Health Professions Act to the Honourable Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. Their application was returned without action taken in February 2021. 
  • BCASW has advocated for stronger protection of the public interest through strengthening social work for nearly six decades. In January 2020, the BCASW submitted a request to be included in a revised Health Professions Act to the Steering Committee on Modernization of Health Professional Regulation
  • For over a year the B.C. Greens have pushed for stronger, more accessible mental health care. The initial push focused on psychologists, already regulated under the Health Professions Act. The proposed changes are a first step in the eventual inclusion of counselling therapists and social workers under MSP, getting people access to the mental health care they need.
  • Under the current Health Professions Act, the Minister of Health can refuse to consider an application for regulation made by an association on behalf of their profession. Meaning the Minister of Health can disregard what is in the best interest of the public. Amendments to the Act would ensure that when the Minister receives an application for designation by a health profession, they must make a decision based on nothing but the public interest.

Petition for affordable & accessible mental health care. 

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Media contacts 

JoJo Beattie    
Press Secretary 
B.C. Green Caucus 
+1 250-882-6187 | [email protected]  

Dr. Glen Grigg
Chair
Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists BC (FACTBC)
+1 604-986-0534 | [email protected] 

Michael Crawford
President
BC Association of Social Workers (BCASW)
+1 250-682-1132 | [email protected] 

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