L'auteur interroge la déontologie de la profession, ses moyens de mise en œuvre et ses difficultés d'application.
In Quebec, only associations created in conformity with the Professional Code may use the title of professional corporation. The PC admits two types of profession: those exercising exclusive jurisdiction over their designation and their field of activity, and those exercising exclusive jurisdiction over the former but not the latter. The purpose of such corporations is to protect the public interest through their attention to the competence and professional conduct of their members. This approach to legislative policy has favoured the emergence of legislation regarding the professions the main thrust of which is professional ethics. The Corporation of Industrial Relations Counsellors (IRC) is a corporation in the second sense of the PC noted above.
The law in question defines the activities of Industrial Relations Counsellors as: «the art of establishing, maintaining and changing relations between employees, between employers or between employers and employees». The present author addresses himself to the questions of professional ethics, ways of application and difficulties of enforcement.
According to the terms of the PC, the professional corporation must adopt a code of ethics. The resulting code must require of the professional in question duties of both a general and a specific nature designed to cover activities, functions and inadmissible acts. The code of the IRC stipulates duties and obligations with regard to the public, the client and the profession. The concerning the public require of the
Counsellor to exercise his profession with respect for human dignity. He must moreover, favour measures encouraging the quality of services through education, information and research. As regards the client, the Industrial Relations Counsellor can only accept a mandate falling within areas of his competence. Included also are specific rules dealing the quality of the professional act (integrity, availability and application), conflict of interest, confidentiality and fees. Obligations toward the profession involve the prohibition of discrimination and unbecoming behaviour.
The Corporation of Industrial Relations Counsellors must see to it that the code of ethics is respected. In turn, the Corporation is responsible before the Office des professions. The Corporation exercises its role through professional inspection, disciplinary measures and arbitration. A professional inspection committee is established. This committee can take measures to disbar a member, require him to enrol in a programme to improve and update his professional knowledge, or give directives concerning the keeping of records.
The disciplinary powers are of a semi-judicial nature. Each complaint is submitted to the Committee on discipline whose decisions are subject to appeal before the Tribunal des professions. In addition, a client convinced of unwarranted or excessive billing by a Counsellor can have recourse to conciliation by syndic followed by intervention of the Council for the arbitration of accounts.
As in the case of all other corporation, the Corporation of Industrial Relations Councellors is confronted with people who refuse to become members or decide to withdraw, in order to avoid its controle. At the same time, they continue to exercise their profession with impunity under another professional designation than that reserved for members of the Corporation. It is for this reason that there are a great number of demands for exclusivity of practice.
For the author, this solution does not seem to the most opportune, unless the working group on administrative tribunals reserves for lawyers the right of access to administrative tribunals as members or legal counsel. In this eventuality, it appears clear that the Corporation should demand a professional field shared by its members as well as those of the legal profession regarding labour courts.
It should be noted that the most serious threat to the profession originates in contexts where the Counsellor, acting as a salaried employee of a firm or union occasionally ignores professional ethics because of a supposed threat to the career. For this reason, the present author suggests that the law should be modified to provide protection against the use of administrative or disciplinary measures where the professional refuses to perform acts contrary to the code of ethics (for example: prepare a biased test, declare an illegal strike, refuse to hire Corporation members, etc.).
It is clear that the Corporation is required by law to subject its members to rules of competence and application. And it is in the best interests of the general public to encourage the initiative taken by the profession to further the development of a code of ethics.