Editorial: The Technologists’ Dilemma

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Twenty years ago, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) created a program that enabled technologists to become licensed professionals with the OAA. Licensed Technologists OAA had the legal right to design larger houses, low-rise apartment buildings, restaurants with a capacity of up to 100 persons, and other buildings that no person, other than a licensed architect, might otherwise design. To achieve this status, they underwent a process similar to architectural licensing: submitting educational qualifications, logging 5,580 hours of work experience, and completing comprehensive examinations and ongoing con-ed.

However, in parallel to this, the Association of Architectural Technologists of Ontario (AATO), a registered non-profit organization founded in 1969, has had a long history of seeking a legislated scope of practice for its members. The AATO regulates the use of titles including Architectural Technologist and Registered Building Technologist, but as all “acts of architecture” are currently controlled by the OAA, has no special ability to grant members an expanded scope of practice. “I came to the association in 2007, and all I’ve heard is that our scope should be expanded,” says Alonzo Jones, President of the AATO, who adds that he has aimed to come to a position of “mutual understanding and respect” with the OAA. According to Jones, the AATO has been in contact with the relevant ministries to pursue a legislated scope of practice, and with the OAA to request exemptions to the Architects Act for a class of architectural practitioners governed independently
by the AATO. 

Last fall, the AATO filed a Court application challenging the OAA’s authority to issue licenses to technologists via policy, rather than regulation, which its legal counsel Valerie Wise says was “unrelated” to the AATO’s ongoing pursuit of a larger scope of practice. OAA Council agreed to pursue good-faith negotiations with the AATO “in the goal of finding an equitable and fair resolution in the public interest,” writes the OAA on its website. “Unfortunately, these negotiations were unsuccessful.” This resulted in a court order on May 10, 2023, that discontinued the OAA’s ability to issue licenses through its technology program. The court order also voided all current Licensed Technologist OAA licenses—effective immediately.

These developments have been devastating—and disorienting—for the 150 people who held Licensed Technologist OAA licenses, including 44 with Certificates of Practice. While some were able to obtain or restore a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN), others have needed to hire architects to assume responsibility for their drawings, or have dropped work. “Applications from Licensed Technologists OAA are being rejected, and there’s a fear of being sued by clients,” said one Ottawa-based technologist I spoke to in the summer, who asked not to be named. “How many projects are being put on hold and impacted?” he added. “The most frustrating thing is that it’s not benefiting the AATO, the OAA, the public, or the people who lost their license or their practice.”

“Since May, those of us who lost our credential have been left without a clear path forward,” says Dana Séguin, a Toronto-based technologist. “It’s unethical that we lost our licenses suddenly and without warning. It’s unfathomable that our small businesses and status within our areas of employment ceased to exist without certainty for our existing members. It’s devastating that graduates of Ontario colleges’ Architectural Technology programs will not have the opportunity to hold professional status in the province they studied and work in.”

The OAA says that it is seeking legislative amendments to recognize a Limited Licence provision in the Architects Act, with a designated class of licence for these individuals. OAA Executive Director Kristi Doyle says that she’s spoken with many of the affected technologists personally, and understands their anger over how swiftly the licenses were removed. “We are working with government to work as quickly as possible to get the necessary legislative amendments made to get people their licenses back.”