2. The Canadian Engineering Profession

2.1 Objectives

- to provide a free reference to engineering law and ethics that permits self study. This will only heighten the sense of professionalism in engineering.

- to take advantage of computers to enhance distribution. This reduce any real or perceived barriers to the topics. Also, in an unprecedented manner, this will allow the material to be updated and corrected as a living text, unlike that frozen on paper.

- by itself this will not be a complete reference, but a guide to those wishing to develop a good framework for the lifelong process of legally and ethically correct practice.

- I want to promote active participation of others who can help add new sections, alternate sections, alternative viewpoints, and corrections. A copyright notice has been added so that the document can be developed consistently. I would encourage additions in the terms of other web documents that are maintained at the authors home sites.

2.1 D.L. Marston, Law for Professional Engineers, third edition, McGraw-Hill Ryerson

2.2 G.C. Andrews and J.D. Kemper, Canadian Professional Engineering Practice and Ethics, second edition, 1999, Harcourt Canada.

2.3 (obsolete) C. Morrison, P. Hughes, Professional Engineering Practice; Ethical Aspects, McGraw-Hill Ryerson

Please keep in mind the following maxims while reviewing the material,

1. The ethics and legal aspects of professional engineering can often be subjective, and single clear-cut solutions should not be expected. In other words there are always two sides to every argument.

2. The distinction between ethics (society based) and morals (personally based) principles. We may be called upon to perform tasks as engineers that we are compelled to do, but object to morally.

3. Criminal law looks at absolute guilt, whereas civil courts look at proportion of responsibility. In civil court you may be found responsible for actions that you have not directly caused.

4. Engineers are assumed to be technically competent and are responsible for all technical decisions. Like surgeons, mistakes are of great concern.

2.2 Definition of Engineering as a Profession

Engineering is when an individual or group participates in an activity that involves technical skill, but also involves observing the effects to the general public.

Some elements worth discussing: an engineer must understand all of the scientific principles behind a technology. The engineer will understand the manipulation of these principles to provide function to members of the general public. Appreciating that the public is unaware of the technical and scientific details behind engineering, we must also endeavor to protect them from the results of our decisions.

In comparison we can think of the medical profession that must also use sciences such as physiology and pharmacology. Knowledge of these areas is used to benefit patients. One primary difference is that physicians are ultimately responsible to their patients, whereas engineers are responsible to the general public. A simple (naive) anecdote of this difference can be found is the over-prescription of antibiotics. Physicians are encouraged to over-prescribe antibiotics to any patient who shows need to protect the patient. An engineer in the same situation would be encouraged to prescribe only as needed, to reduce the chance of breeding resistant forms of bacteria. To carry this example further, the physician is obliged to protect the patients privacy, but the engineer may disclose confidential information to protect the general public. There are also some important similarities between engineers and physicians. Both groups are self regulated by associations of their peers. These groups are legally recognized, and given certain limited powers to investigate and enforce legislation.

2.2.1 Associations and Titles

CCPE (Canadian Council of Professional Engineers): The provincial engineering associations are all members of the CCPE. This allows the associations to also have voice at a federal level, and for international affairs.

P.Eng. (Professional Engineer): The designation given to an engineer licensed by a professional association. A typical examples of usage might be ‘Joe Smith, P.Eng.’, ‘Joe Smith, B.A.Sc., P.Eng’, ‘Dr. Joe Smith, P.Eng.’, etc.

E.I.T. (Engineer In Training): A temporary designation to describe an engineer who is registered with an engineering association, but not yet licensed. The engineer registered this way will receive limited access to the local chapters and the services of the PEO.

C.E.T. (Certified Engineering Technician):

The Engineers Ring: This ring is not an official symbol, but is commonly worn by those engineers that graduated from Canadian universities. Those who wear the ring do so remembering that it is a reminder of the horrific results of poor work.

• an engineer will need to show that they have a degree from an accredited university or other equivalent criteria have been met.

2.2.2 Technical

CEAB (Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board): a national review panel that examines engineering programs for adequacy. If a student graduates from an accredited program their technical adequacy will be accepted by any of the provincial associations.

Technical Internship: Every engineer is obliged to practice for some time under the observation of a licensed professional engineer before they apply for a license. Letters of recommendation are required to verify that the candidate has been exposed to the practice in general, and that they are of good character. At present the maximum period is between 2 to 4 years.

Academic Requirements Committee (ARC): In some cases engineers have not come from an accredited engineering program. They apply to a technical assessment committee. They will examine the candidates background, and accept the candidate as adequate, or more frequently make further requests. These are often in the form of special examinations, review of theses, etc.

2.2.3 The Professional Practice Examination (PPE)

• This exam will review both the ethics and law knowledge of the engineer.

• The PPE must be passed within 2 years of application for a license.

• The PPE is only written once all of the academic requirements have been satisfied.

2.2.4 The License

The Stamp: This is an unquestionable mark of support by an engineer. The stamp includes the engineers name, and the licensing association. When applied to a drawing, report, or other document, it indicates that the engineer has reviewed, and fully agrees with the contents. In some cases engineers are requested to stamp the work of others, this should only be done after careful consideration of the work, anything less is malpractice. There are three stamps commonly in use: the members seal; the licensees stamp; the specialists stamp.

Professional Engineer: A “professional engineer”, as opposed to an engineer is licensed to practice. The title engineer alone is used by many individuals, but the title professional engineer can only be used by a licensed engineer. The engineering associations actively prosecute individuals misrepresenting themselves as professional engineers.

Discipline Committees: When an engineer has been accused of professional misconduct, they will be called in front of a review panel to review technical and ethical details of the charges. The proceedings are published and sent to all association members. The committee can levee fines, revoke licenses, require testing, etc. This is separate from the other courts, and any results here do not preclude further court actions.

Engineering Corporations: Any company that puts itself forward as an “engineering” company must have the permission of the associations and must have a professional engineer in a controlling position.

Consulting Engineers: This is a step beyond a basic license. The intent is to distinguish between a recognized specialist, and a basic practitioner. The license holder is permitted to use the title “consulting engineer”.

Limited License: a person of some technical background might not qualify to become a professional engineer, but as a result of extensive experience (10 years or more) will be given a limited license. This is typically limited in both scope of practice and use (e.g. restricted to current employment).

Member of the PEO: a fully licensed engineer as opposed to a temporary or limited licensee.

Temporary License: a license that is granted to an engineer who would be fully qualified for a provincial license, but only requires one for a short term job. For example, an engineer from Alberta might require a temporary license to work on a project in Ontario. In some cases the limited license might be required to collaborate with a member of the PEO.

Branch of Registration: the primary discipline of education. Although an engineering license is not limited to a specific discipline, the practitioner is expected to only work in areas they are competent in.

Certificate of Authorization: a certificate will be issued to an engineer with a normal or temporary license to offer services to the public. This typically requires registration with the PO. If the certificate is for an individual, proof of liability insurance is required. If the certificate is for an engineering corporation/partnership, the engineer directing the company will be listed.

Insurance: to offer services to the public a Certificate of Authorization must be held. Indirectly this means that the public can always count on a licensed engineer, and liability insurance. In Ontario this is $250,000 minimum per suit and $500,000 per year.

• The basic requirements for a license are,

permanent residence in Canada

18 years of age

academic adequacy


of good character

2.2.5 Discipline and Enforcement

• Problems that can be reviewed are,



• penalties may include,


suspension of license

termination of license


imposed limitations or conditions


• Decisions can be appealed to the civil courts

• The discipline committee will investigate allegations about any license holder and consider,

decisions in other courts

medical/psychological disabilities

technical inadequacy via expert review

investigations of events


• negligence is an example of professional misconduct that is basically a failure to uphold professional standards, both technical and personal conduct.

• Complaints about an engineer are first submitted to a complaints committee. This committee can then refer the complaint to the discipline committee.

2.2.6 Experience and Character

• Character is assessed by confidential letters of reference. These are obviously somewhat arbitrary, but the best letters are from senior colleagues familiar with the guidelines of professional practice (i.e., P.Eng’s).

• Experience is required, previously this was 2years minimum (with one year allowed for graduate degrees). This is now increasing to four years. The main reason for this change is that after only two years the experience gained is not sufficient for the autonomy allowed by a license, and in some cases the public might be at risk.

• Experience is gaged as some employment in an engineering environment where the basic elements of professional practice are carried out. By necessity this would require that another professional engineer is “looking over the shoulder” of the candidate. This experience should also be primarily gained in the jurisdiction where the candidate intends to practice.

2.2.7 Professional Conduct

An engineer is obliged to an number of basic elements in their practice,

conduct themselves in an ethical manner

ensure technical adequacy of all work

observe all legislative requirements

follow standards and codes where available

endeavor to maintain technological competency

2.2.8 The Professional Image

• There are a few points that could be kept in mind when acting professionally (an alternative to Morrison & Hughes, pgs. 50-53),

1. When forming opinions: make sure you have sound reasons, have considered all options, and are confident in the results.

2. Don’t Waver: don’t allow theatrics and scare tactics to change your opinions, follow step #1 here.

3. Admit when you are wrong: this conflicts with #2.

4. Don’t make sudden decisions: once a decision is made it is hard to be objective or take it back (see #1).

5. Try to listen first and be open to suggestions.

6. Stay calm.

7. Keep an arms length: don’t mix personal obligations into professional conduct.

8. Think ahead: be prepared.

9. Don’t try to become over involved: let things happen (technically and personality based) and only step in when it is required.

2.2.9 The Overlap of Engineers and Architects

• In cases where engineers oversaw construction projects they were convicted for acting as architects. [Rex v. Bentall] In other cases this was not so. [Regina v. Margison and Associates, Limited]

• A Joint Practice Board was set up between the PEO and OAA (Ontario Association of Architects) to resolve disputes involving members and questions about the boundaries of the professions.

2.3 The History of Professional Engineering in Ontario

(****** If anyone wants to contribute information for other associations I would be delighted)

1922 The APEO (Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario) was formed under a provincial statute, but did not go as far as making licences mandatory.

1937 At the urging of members of the engineering profession the provincial government changes the engineering act to make licences mandatory, and setting up the APEO as a self regulating body allowed to impose regulations and maintain discipline.

1961 A referendum approved regional chapters. These act as local organizations that provide programs of interest and communicate as groups with council via the regional congresses.

1970 The role of the Council is redefined in the Professional Engineers Act, Chapter 366, Revised Statutes of Ontario 1970. (The Council governs the PEO). The membership was expanded to include one layperson, and one member of the Ontario Bar.

1984 The Professional Engineers Act, Statutes of Ontario is now the currently active legislation

2.3.1 The Role of The PEO

• It’s primary role is to “govern the practice of engineering to serve and protect the public”

*Note: The PEO is not a labor union for collective bargaining.

• Self governing

• responsible to the people of Ontario for,

registration and licensing

maintenance of professional standards

social implications

providing a code of ethics

• The engineering act is a “closed” practice statute including control of,

engineering titles

admission to the PEO

setting of qualification standards

professional misconduct

the ability for the PEO to offer certain services

• the PEO allows entry of engineers, and then later can hold judgement if they are questioned technically or ethically.

• the engineering act can only be changed by the Ontario legislature, while the bylaws, that are administrative in nature, can be changed by membership referendum.

• the council membership is 23,

5 are appointed to represent disciplines (3 year term)

chemical and metallurgical



mechanical, aeronautical and industrial

mining and geology

1 is an appointed member of the Ontario Bar (3 year term)

1 appointed layperson (3 year term)

10 elected regional members (2 year term)

2 elected members at large (2 year term)

4 executives,


past president

1st vice president

2nd vice president

• generally council,

oversees administration of the PEO

reviews all applications for registration

defines misconduct

provides specialist and consultant designations

may put forward by-laws for membership referendum

directs various boards and committees


• council meets 4 times a year. An interim council consists of the,


past president

1st vice president

2nd vice president

• Each year for election of the president, 1st and 2nd vice president and councilor-at-large, a central nominating committee proposes candidates. Other nominations are welcome. Regional nominating committees suggest regional candidates.

• There are 5 regions (and congresses) that have 2 regional councilors and two delegates, as well as locally elected councils.


eastern central

west central



• Main departments of the PEO include,

Director of Admissions/Registrar

Director of Member Services

Director of Legal and Professional Affairs

Director of Finance (accounting)

Executive Director (administration)

General Secretary (administration)

• Other services offered by the PEO are,

employment counseling: this group de-emphasizes placement and focuses on placement, advice, criticism, etc.

salary surveys: frequently published statistics of earnings

Dimensions: a monthly publication of the association sent to all members.

publications of relevance to the mandate of the PEO are also available.


ethics counseling: a sounding board for engineers in unclear situations.

• The Engineers Act of Ontario allows regulations to be made by the council. These regulations include details involved in issuing licenses, etc.