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National model guide: Principles for character investigations

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Date: 
February, 2014

Notice

Disclaimer

Engineers Canada’s national guidelines, model guides, and white papers were developed by engineers in collaboration with the provincial and territorial engineering regulators. They are intended to promote consistent practices across the country. They are not regulations or rules; they seek to define or explain discrete topics related to the practice and regulation of professional engineering in Canada.

The national guidelines, model guides, and white papers do not establish a legal standard of care or conduct, and they do not include or constitute legal or professional advice.   

In Canada, engineering is regulated under provincial and territorial law by the engineering regulators. The recommendations contained in the national guidelines, model guides and white papers may be adopted by the engineering regulators in whole, in part, or not at all. The ultimate authority regarding the propriety of any specific practice or course of conduct lies with the engineering regulator in the province or territory where the engineer works, or intends to work.  

About this Model Guide

This national model guide was prepared by the Qualifications Board (QB) and provides guidance to regulators in consultation with them. Readers are encouraged to consult their regulators’ related engineering acts, regulations and bylaws in conjunction with this guideline.

About Engineers Canada

Engineers Canada is the national organization of the provincial and territorial associations that regulate the practice of engineering in Canada and license the country's 290,000 members of the engineering profession.

About the Qualifications Board

QB is a committee of the Engineers Canada Board and is a volunteer-based organization that provides national leadership and recommendations to regulators on the practice of engineering in Canada by:

  • developing new national guidelines, model guides, and white papers on admission, training, practice and new areas of practice in Canada as well as maintaining the existing national guidelines and model guides;
  • developing and maintaining syllabi for the assessment of international engineering graduates;
  • organizing national events where professionals in similar areas of work can share information on similar issues as well as best practices; and
  • conducting research, monitoring and providing advice on key issues and trends for Engineers Canada and regulators.

Guide

The purpose of the good character requirement is the protection of the public, the maintenance of high ethical standards and the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.

Case law has defined the term good character as “that combination of qualities or features distinguishing one person from another. Good character connotes moral or ethical strength, distinguishable as an amalgam of virtuous attributes or traits which would include, among others, integrity, candour, empathy and honesty.”

Good character includes the following elements:

  • moral and ethical strength;
  • integrity and candour;
  • honesty and trustworthiness;
  • responsibility and accountability;
  • fairness and open-mindedness;
  • respect for others and tolerance of differences;
  • caring and citizenship.

Supplementary information on good character can be found in the National guideline on good character.

The principles listed in this document are intended to be used to investigate potential “bad” character, not to prove good character. In most cases, character is only investigated if indications of “bad” character are raised. Typically this will include circumstances that provide reasonable grounds to believe that an individual will not practise, or has not practised, engineering in accordance with the Act, Bylaws, Regulations or Code of Ethics. In particular, most regulators will investigate circumstances where they have reason to believe that an individual:

a) has contravened any statute related to the practice of professional engineering;
b) has committed a criminal offence for which they did not receive a discharge, and a record suspension has not been granted pursuant to the Criminal Records Act (see notes in Appendix A);
c) has been found to be at fault in a civil action relating to negligence in professional practice or a civil action which remain unsatisfied or undischarged;
d) willfully obtains or attempts to obtain registration/licensure or renewal of registration/licensure by cheating, fraud, or forgery, including making any material misrepresentation.

For the specific policies and events that would trigger a character investigation in your jurisdiction, contact your engineering regulatory body.

The following principles should guide investigations of character in those situations:

  1. Determinations of character shall be made in an objective, open, and transparent manner.
  2. All individuals shall be treated fairly and with due process.
  3. All evidence considered in determination of character must be validated or corroborated.
  4. All individuals shall be given an opportunity to respond to any concerns or issues.
  5. Consideration of any conduct tending to put character in question shall include, but need not be limited to:

a) the nature of the conduct and the parties involved;
b) the length of time elapsed since the conduct;
c) the individual’s attitude toward the conduct;
d) any rehabilitative treatment undergone since the conduct;
e) whether the conduct would constitute a breach of bylaws or regulations;
f) any explanation provided by the individual; and
g) any extenuating circumstances contributing to the conduct.

  1. The regulatory body shall respect the confidentiality of all parties and only divulge information as necessary or as required by law.
  2. While character evolves and a person may rehabilitate him or herself over time so as to overcome past character defects, the mere passage of time in the absence of other evidence does not necessarily establish that the character defect has been remedied.
  3. Determinations of character shall be free from discrimination on any basis as specified in the Human Rights Code that applies in the particular jurisdiction.

References

Certified Management Accountants of Ontario, “Determination of Good Character Regulation”. Retrieved from http://www.cmaontario.org/ProtectingthePublic/ActBylawsandRegulations/DeterminationofGoodCharacterRegulation.aspx on March 4, 2013.

Appendix A

Convictions, discharges, pardons and record suspensions

A “conviction” is a finding of guilt after trial or through a guilty plea. A conviction appears on a person’s criminal record.

A “discharge” is a finding of guilt, but not a conviction. Discharges are granted most often where the offender has no previous criminal record and the offence is minor. Discharges do not always appear on a person's criminal record. For example, a discharge would appear on a criminal record check done for the purpose of working with vulnerable persons.

A person who receives a discharge can honestly say that they have never been convicted of a criminal offence.

A “record suspension” (formerly called a pardon) allows people who were convicted of a criminal offence to have their criminal record sealed so that the conviction will not show up on a criminal record search.

A record suspension is granted pursuant to the Criminal Records Act, a discharge is granted by a Judge.

It is up to each regulator to decide what type of finding is used as the trigger for character investigations.