OAA responds to CBC First Person opinion column

The Ontario Association of Architects has heard from a few of its members and others with respect to a CBC First Person opinion column published last week. The piece was a personal reflection written by someone who had practised as an architect in India and Dubai before coming to Ontario to seek employment. As President of the licensing body for architects in this province, I wanted to share further information about the various paths to licensure for internationally trained professionals.

In response to an identified need, and with the support of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the OAA and the other architectural regulators in Canada came together to develop a process specifically tailored to address a path to licensure in Canada for those trained and licensed elsewhere in the world. Launched in 2012, this Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect Program (BEFA) includes an online demonstration of competency through a portfolio submission, followed by an interview with an assessment panel comprising Canadian architects.

ROAC and the CACB have worked with the federal government’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to ensure information regarding the BEFA program is readily available. 

Foreign trained professionals may also choose to pursue licensure through the Internship in Architecture Program (IAP), which is the primary pathway for domestically educated individuals. In addition to administering the BEFA program, the CACB also certifies foreign professional qualifications, including academic degrees, on behalf of ROAC. This allows for assessment of a foreign professional degree in architecture in order to meet the education requirement for entry into the IAP and necessary for licensure. The CACB has a useful FAQ section and additional information for both those considering coming to Canada, as well as those already here in Canada.

The OAA continues to work with settlement groups such as JVS Toronto, which has a specific bridging program for architecturally trained professionals.

There are also Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with many U.S. jurisdictions as well as Australia and New Zealand, along with a tri-national agreement with the United States and Mexico. More of these MRAs are currently being explored in partnership with other international jurisdictions. 

The OAA regulates architecture to ensure the public interest is protected; this includes enabling confidence its members are appropriately qualified and meet the requirements to practise architecture in our province. In addition to the paths I mentioned, the Association has an Experience Requirements Committee (ERC), which can also determine if, in alternate ways, an applicant for license has met experience requirements specific to practising in an Ontario context. There is also the possibility for exemption requests from Council for specific criteria.

If you or someone you know has further questions about any of this, please don’t hesitate to contact the Office of the Registrar.

I also wanted to touch on another important issue raised in the CBC article—fair pay. For years now, the OAA has had a firm position regarding the treatment of all employees, including intern architects and students, at architectural firms. (For one example, you can read OAA Immediate Past-President Susan Speigel’s letter regarding the Working for Workers Act on the OAA Website.)

No one should be working for free at an architectural practice. The Association also continues to ask the provincial government to remove outdated exemptions for our profession in the Employment Standards Act. These requests for fair, balanced treatment of workers to both government and to OAA practices is the extent of our direct involvement on the issue, as our mandate remains within the authority of the Architects Act.

Nevertheless, our five-year Strategic Plan includes Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as a lens through which all OAA actions are viewed. Striving to ensure a fair, transparent path to licensure for qualified individuals, as well as demanding those holding various roles at firms are paid fairly, are critical in this regard.