Kinesiology is a dynamic, growing profession in Canada. If you are considering becoming a kinesiologist in Canada, or just want to learn more about the field, it's important to understand how kinesiology is standardized across the country. Although kinesiologists in Ontario are regulated, the profession is governed by member associations in the rest of the country. So what’s the difference and what changes can we expect in the future?
In this blog post, I’ll describe the attributes of each type of governing organization and list the main Canadian kinesiology associations. I hope this information will be helpful for you as you explore kinesiology as a therapy or career!
What does it mean to be regulated?
One way to understand regulation in healthcare is to see a college and an association as opposing organizations. An association is an organization made of of voluntary members, and represents those members by acting in their best interest. A regulatory college on the other hand is legislated by the government and is mandated to protect the public interest with respect to the profession they oversee.
So what exactly are regulatory colleges? They're provincial boards of health professionals and members of the public called a council along with the 100’s or 1000’s of practicing members. The councils are usually people from three distinct groups: elected members, academic members and appointed members, appointed by the government. These members are from distinct geographical areas to make sure the college is adequately representing the public.
Most of the common health professions are regulated in each province. These regulated health professions include doctors or medicine, chiropractors, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, psychologists, anything with an “R” in front like RMT (registered massage therapist) and more. The College of Physiotherapists in BC requires physiotherapy students to meet certain academic requirements and pass an entrance exam to qualify. If a client has a complaint about their physiotherapist, they take it to the college of physiotherapists who judges the incident and delivers the disciplinary action for that physiotherapist.
Benefits to kinesiologists for being a regulated health profession
Besides protecting the public, another important feature of the legislation that underpins regulatory colleges is that it protects the title of those professionals. For example not just anyone can go around saying they are a doctor or a physiotherapist. Those titles are reserved for member practitioners who are admitted to the college, and ensure a high standard of care which elevates all kinesiologists' reputation.
The college sets the standards for regulated health professions, and this is very important when it comes to ethics and university programs. The college sets professional standards with a code of ethics and scope of practice. And with such a diverse range of approaches in teaching health professions, it’s important that the college shapes the curriculum offered in universities to students looking to join the profession. Again, kinesiologists benefit with a clear career path ahead.
There are two more details that make regulation very beneficial for kinesiologists in Canada: tax exemptions for services and recognition by insurance companies. The tax exemption is a CRA rule, meaning a portion of the cost of kinesiology services can be written off by individuals and businesses. The only province where this is possible is Ontario. Recognition by insurance companies means kinesiology services are recognized under 3rd party health insurance plans, again mostly available in Ontario. These two features have the effect of legitimizing kinesiology and incentivizing the public to seek out kinesiology services, which increases demand and helps kinesiologists grow their careers.
The College of Kinesiologists of Ontario
Ontario kinesiologists are regulated by the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario, a governing body legislated by the government of Ontario. The legislation was updated in 2013 and currently falls within the Regulated Health Professionals Act. The mandate of the college is to control entry to the profession, set standards of practice and handle complaints from the public.
The Ontario legislation and kinesiology college are unique in Canada. Why does the regulated health professions act include kinesiologists in Ontario only? That’s a complex and thorny issue, as most kinesiologists would prefer to be regulated. The process of regulation boils down to political will.
So what is a Kinesiology Association?
Most people, especially drivers, have heard of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). It’s an organization where members get extra insurance and their voice is amplified to the government towards better and safer driving. Same idea for kinesiology associations.
Each provincial kinesiology association is a non-government, non-profit organization. Think of it like a charity, without charitable status. Most funding is provided by the members themselves, making kinesiologist membership the lifeblood of their organizations.
In return for membership the associations organize their members and provide invaluable guidance and perks. These membership perks include career opportunities, access to continuing education and inclusion in their professional insurance plan.
Scope of practice for Kinesiologists
Kinesiology is yet to become a regulated health profession in any Canadian province except Ontario. Without government regulation it is incredibly important for a non-governmental organization to take the mantle of defining what a kinesiologist is, and what they are allowed to do.
Can a vet practice surgery on a human? No! Can a counsellor prescribe drugs to a client? Of course not. Each health professional needs to stick to their lane and focus on what they are trained to do, otherwise the public could be at risk. These professional lanes are defined in the scope of practice to protect public interest.
The scope of practice for kinesiologists within each province is a unique document, but follows a general outline. The College of Kinesiologist of Ontario provides a model for the rest of the country as it is already written into law in that province. The Canadian Kinesiology Alliance also supports each province’s association and assists in developing their scope of practice.
Generally, the scope of practice for kinesiology has 4 parts. It defines kinesiology, lists permitted treatment, lists restricted activities, and discusses insurance for professionals. Together these guidelines formalize what a kinesiologist can and can’t do, protecting both the member and the public.
Code of ethics
If one document sets apart professionals from the rest of society it's their code of ethics, also known as a code of conduct. In provinces where a healthcare college is lacking, professional associations maintain a code of ethics to guide their members' practice.
In the profession of kinesiology, this code informs professional decisions beyond human movement and performance; it describe professional responsibility. Each professional has a responsibility to protect the public, support their profession and treat their client with utmost dignity with the highest quality of service.
Being an unregulated health profession in most provinces means there is no legal framework for kinesiologists in that province. In fact, in 9 out of the 10 provinces anyone can freely go around calling themself a kinesiologist without any training whatsoever and without the risk of a malpractice lawsuit. Also there is no formal recourse for the public to issue a complaint against a kinesiologist. Although these situations are rare, they open the door to some serious consequences.
Members of kinesiology associations have a strong interest in becoming regulated health professionals because regulatory colleges better protects their clients and their own profession. That's why kinesiology associations are fighting for regulation in each province except Ontario where regulation and a college of kinesiologists already exists. The public also has a stake in regulation as it improves standards of practice and their overall healthcare.
To achieve regulation, the association and their members start by lobbying their provincial government to ask for regulation. Lobbying can take different forms, but building relationships within the health ministry and initiating letter writing campaigns through the kinesiology membership are important lobbying activities.
If you’re interested in kinesiology as a therapy or career, you probably see the benefits of regulation. Whether regulation means a better career prospect or that you’ll get your kinesiology sessions covered by your health plan, the benefits of regulation far outweigh the cost. If kinesiologists were successful with regulation in Ontario, that province is seen as a model across the country.
You can fight for regulation too. Contact your local MLA and tell them why you think kinesiology should be regulated. Find out more about what active therapy and kinesiology are in our next blog post here.
List of Canadian Kinesiology Associations
Here is a list of the Canadian Kinesiology Associations:
Ontario Kinesiology Association
6700 Century Ave., Suite 100, Mississauga, On L5N 6A4
British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists (BCAK)
#301 - 220 Brew Street, Port Moody, Bc V3h 0h6
Alberta Kinesiology Association (AKA)
P.O. Box 4358, Edmonton Ab T6e 4t3
Manitoba Kinesiology Association
Federation Des Kinesiologues Du Quebec (FKQ)
C.P. 6128 Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal (Qc) H3C 3J7
New Brunswick Kinesiology Association (NBKA)
Box 1510, Moncton, Nb E1C 8T6
Kinesiology Association Of Nova Scotia
6336 Jubilee Road, Halifax, Ns B3H 2G8
Newfoundland And Labrador Kinesiology Association
P.O. Box 29103, St. John's, Nl A1A 5B5
Kinesiology Prince Edward Island
Kinesiology Pel, Department Of Applied Human Sciences
550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, Pe C1A 4P3
Kinesiology Association Of Saskatchewan
Canadian Kinesiology Alliance
2647 Alta Vista Dr. Suite 419
Ottawa, Ontario K1V 7T5