Ontario backtracks on plan to deregulate traditional Chinese medicine

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The government heard from members of the Chinese-Canadian community and the ‘first complaint’ was that people who spoke Chinese languages ​​as their first language were not able to enter the profession

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TORONTO — Ontario is backtracking on a plan to deregulate traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, saying it will instead require the professional regulatory college to offer licensing exams in Cantonese and Mandarin.

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The government said on Monday it would remove the section of a recently tabled labor bill that sought to reduce the profession’s regulatory body.

“The goal was to break down barriers,” Government House Leader Paul Calandra told the Legislative Assembly. “We will ensure that Chinese Canadians have access to the same traditional Chinese medicine they brought to this province once and for all.

The deregulation plan had drawn criticism and safety concerns from practitioners who said they were not consulted. Critics remained skeptical of the government’s motives even after Monday’s reversal.

Premier Doug Ford last week defended the proposed change, saying people who speak only Cantonese or Mandarin were not allowed to take licensing exams under the existing system.

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Calandra said Monday that the next version of the bill, which recently passed first reading, would direct the regulatory college to offer testing in Mandarin and Cantonese to remove the language barrier.

He repeatedly referred to the language issue when explaining the government’s initial plan and subsequent decision to offer testing in more languages.

The government heard from members of the Chinese-Canadian community, Calandra said — singling out his own riding of Markham-Stouffville and a number of other Toronto-area Progressive Conservative ridings — and the “first complaint” was that people who spoke Chinese languages ​​as a first language could not enter the profession.

“It’s something, an oversight, that we’re fixing now so more people can get in there (and still) have the protections to keep it safe,” he said.

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But critics, practitioners and the college have raised questions over the government’s explanation that language barriers were the main justification for the move.

The College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario, which was established in 2013, said it welcomes applications from those who are not fluent in English or French.

“Since 2013, not a single applicant has been denied enrollment due to lack of language proficiency,” college CEO Ann Zeng wrote in a post on the college’s website on Friday. .

More than 100 of the college’s approximately 2,700 members said they were not fluent in English or French, Zeng wrote, and those members are enrolled in a written language plan to ensure they work with a translator and work to improve their skills.

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Earlier Monday, practitioners and students of the profession gathered in the rain outside the provincial legislature to protest the deregulation plan before the government announced it was changing course.

Mary Wu, president of the Toronto School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said she disagreed with the language barrier explanation. She said many students with limited English abilities have overcome their difficulties to pass the exams and pointed to the accommodations that already exist for applicants.

“It was just an excuse to do this,” she said. Wu called the plan disrespectful to the profession and said those who rallied on Monday to oppose deregulation represent the “majority” of practitioners who have not been consulted on the issue.

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“They owe us an explanation,” she said of the government’s plan.

New Democrat health critic France Gelinas said she was glad the government had “corrected its mistake” in deregulating the college, but said the original plan was lasting harm to the profession.

“Nothing good came of it. They had a reason for doing it and they don’t share it with us. That leads me to believe it’s because it’s something they’re not too proud of” , Gelinas said.

Liberal House Leader John Fraser, whose party created the college, said there was no good security reason to deregulate the profession and that the government should fully explain why it wanted to take the step.

“Who eliminated college was going to benefit,” he said. “Who whispered in the prime minister’s ear and told him it was a good idea?”

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