Article

Judge tosses out current membership rules for British Columbia engineers

0 69 Labour

by Richard Gilbert

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia has been prohibited from granting professional membership to qualified applicants, due to a recent decision by the British Columbia Supreme Court.

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The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. has been prohibited from granting professional membership to qualified applicants, due to a recent decision by the B.C. Supreme Court.

Serguei Tchou-San-Da was refused membership in the APEGBC on four separate occasions between January 2001 and September 2006.

He then decided to take the association to court and challenged the validity of the Engineers and Geoscientists Act. Tchou-San-Da, who has a Ph.D in materials engineering from a research institute in Russia, was refused membership because he was not able to gain adequate North American experience.

Justice Johnston ruled on Sept. 21 that the association has the authority to weigh the qualifications of those applying to become professional engineers and geoscientists. However, “the fault has been in the lack of definition of what experience is necessary, and the failure of the [association] to articulate the nature and extent of experience it requires in a bylaw,” he stated in his written ruling.

Section 13 (1)(c) of the Act notes that experience requirements are established by the bylaws, whereas the corresponding bylaw, Bylaw 11 (e)(2), notes that the 4 years’ experience requirement is at the discretion of Council, thus establishing a circular relationship between the Act and the bylaws.

“This matter should be remitted to the Association so that it can articulate its experience requirements in a bylaw against which it can then apply the evidence provided by the petitioner,” concluded Johnston. As a result of the ruling, there is no longer a bylaw which outlines the requirements for becoming a professional engineer or professional geoscientist in B.C. An executive from the association said that they are working on rectifying the issue.

“We are in the process of incorporating all the guidelines and rules into a new bylaw, which will go to council shortly for review. Once approved by council, the new bylaw will go out to all our members by ballot,” said Derek Doyle, APEGBC executive director and registrar. “We are currently seeking council approval and expect a decision in 10 days.”

The whole process should be complete by January 2008. “As a short term measure, we will go to council to review whether we could issue people who qualify, a limited license until the bylaw is passed by council and goes through the goes through the process of ratification by members,” Doyle said. There will be little or no impact on students graduating this year.

“The decision won’t affect our students, because students who graduate this year won’t be affected for at least three years,” said Bruce Dunwoody, associate dean of engineering programs at the University of British Columbia. “However, the decision will affect people who graduated three years ago. They won’t be able to get membership until this problem is sorted out legally.” The UBC engineering program produces about 500 graduates a year. “We might have 300 people who are concluding engineer in training or going through the registration process,” said Doyle. “They are the group that is being delayed.”

All those registered prior to September 21, 2007 are unaffected by this change.

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