How the APGO is protecting the public and raising the profile and reputation of geoscience in Ontario

Andrea Waldie P.Geo., was a geologist long before she was an Executive Director. Andrea has always taken pride in her profession, and is not afraid to say so. It’s no wonder – professional geoscientists could be said to be the glue that holds Canadian exploration and mining companies together.

When Andrea got the call to take on the ED role with the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO) a few years back, her husband, Craig Waldie had been outside of the home six or more months out of the year for his work in the mining and exploration sector. Craig’s move to employment in regulation now had him working in the vicinity of home and knowing a new step like taking on the executive director’s role at APGO would keep her involved in her chosen profession, and seeking a career challenge, Andrea decided to take the leap. Andrea is now one of the primary spokespersons for the APGO Canada-wide.  She regularly attends conferences and tradeshows to promote professional registration, the profession of geoscience, and the critical role geoscientists play in the various sectors including mining and exploration and the environmental geosciences. Most recently she was at the Prospectors Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto, speaking about the APGO.

The APGO is the regulating body for the profession of geoscience in Ontario. The Association has always operated lean and mean, and until only recently has been staffed by a team of three. However, hundreds of dedicated volunteers work every year to help the APGO raise its profile, increase the visibility of the profession of geoscience and deliver the geoscientists’ message: you need to be registered in Ontario in order to practice geoscience in Ontario; indeed you need to be registered in all provinces and territories in Canada to practice geoscience with the exception of the as yet unregulated jurisdictions of Prince Edward Island and the Yukon Territory.

Sara Kopamees: What is the primary mandate of the APGO?
Andrea Waldie: APGO’s regulated mandate, to put it simply, is protection of the public. APGO represents member interests, but the primary purpose of the Association is as a regulator.

SK: What is so important about your role being “protection”? Aren’t all geoscientists well-educated professionals?

AW: Yes, geoscientists are well-educated; however, anyone who practises professional geoscience in Ontario needs to be registered with the APGO to practice in Ontario. Prince Edward Island and the Yukon do not yet regulate the profession of geoscience, however all other jurisdictions in Canada are regulated. Prior to the Professional Geoscientists Act, 2000 being enacted, geoscience was not a regulated profession in Ontario. Since 2000, geoscience has been a regulated profession in Ontario and there are Canadian Geoscience Standards Board Knowledge Requirements to be met as well as a geoscience work experience requirement. A professional designation indicates to the public that the individual has met the documented knowledge and experience requirements and will be held accountable for his or her actions as a professional. Geoscience has now been a regulated profession in Ontario for almost a decade!

SK: Well I suppose companies involved in mining exploration and production can rest easy then, knowing that geoscientists who are registered have met the knowledge and experience requirements, and are able to make the right calls.

AW: Absolutely. APGO doesn’t just represent geologists in the mining and exploration sector. APGO members include environmental geoscientists, geophysicists, hydrogeologists, geomorphologists, mining analysts, academics and the list goes on. Anyone out there in Ontario now that is practicing should have the P.Geo. designation, and anyone who isn’t… well, that’s why there is an Enforcement and Compliance process.
As well, an open complaint system has been set up to protect the public – and by public I don’t just mean the general public but all stakeholders including investors, employers, other geoscientists, etc. If an employee, an organization, or any member of the public comes across a registered practicing geoscientist who’s not qualified or that is acting unethically, they can lodge a complaint with the APGO. The process is meticulous – but that’s because we need to be thorough in these instances, if any should arise. And the review process once a complaint is filed is done through panels. These panels are peer groups and include public representatives – not paid APGO employees – so they will be representative of the profession and the public.  If the complaint does go through to the discipline stage, it can be a lengthy process. But it takes time to do it openly, properly and fairly. It’s not a railroading; cases can be dismissed if they’re not valid.
Basically, we’re here, if you have an issue. And I have faith in this system.

SK: I suppose to be involved in a regulated profession that is so central to this country’s mining industry; you have to really be devoted to your profession.

AW: (Chuckling) Oh yes – geoscientists – they love what they do. I love what I do, and why would anyone do it if they didn’t love it?

SK: So having qualified geoscientists is really important to the smooth operation of a mining camp. What’s the impact, then, on the bottom line? Why should businesses be so careful?

AW: Here’s the thing. APGO is not here to tell the geoscientist or the company, how to write a contract or run a business, but the Association is here to make sure that you are qualified to practice. The Association makes sure that every geologist can look at the management team of an organization and say ‘I have undergone a peer review and it has shown that I have the educational background, the right science background and the experience to make a sound decision in this scenario’. Top company administrators are not necessarily geoscientists and they need someone that is qualified to assist in the decision making process. Often those at the top are wonderful at raising funds, at administration of the business, and have a gift for promoting the company, but they need a professional geoscientist who can make the right calls. Many in Canada are not aware that being a registered geoscientist is a legal requirement – it’s not a wish list, a club, you can’t buy in. It’s legislated, and the public has a right to know the APGO is here for all stakeholders and investors.

You can rely on the P.Geo. designation because it shows that a geoscientist has the education and experience to be confident and current – and make sound decisions for your organization. It’s a self-regulated profession, and it’s a proud profession.

The APGO has a mandatory continuing professional development program, to help geoscientists stay current. The organization also posts jobs and resumes on their website and is available to students who want more information about how they can get into geosciences. For more information on the association, visit www.apgo.net.

Who Needs to Register
Ontario’s legislation under the Professional Geoscientists Act, 2000 (the Act), requires registration with the APGO of anyone wishing to practise geoscience in Ontario, or already practising geoscience and using the professional designation of the profession (P.Geo., P.Geol., P. Geoph., G.P., or géo.), or otherwise representing themselves to the public as a professional geoscientist in Ontario.

Professional geoscience is defined as any activity that requires the knowledge, understanding and application of the principles of geoscience and that concerns safeguarding the welfare of the public, including the life, health, and property of individuals and of the natural environment. To learn more about professional geoscience and how registration applies to you, please refer to the pamphlet: Interpretation, Explanation and Selected Examples of “Professional Geoscience” as Defined in the Professional Geoscientists Act, 2000.

Do I Need to Become a Member and Register as a Professional Geoscientist?
In order to practise geoscience in Ontario, an individual must be registered in Ontario. Examples of job titles for which you need to become a registered professional geoscientist in Ontario include: Geoscientist, Geologist, Geophysicist, Geochemist, Geomorphologist, Earth Scientist, Hydrogeologist, Environmental Geologist, Environmental Geoscientist, and either Vice President, Director, or Manager of Exploration. The use of these job titles and any other job titles not listed, that suggest to the public that an individual is trained in the geosciences and is a professional geoscientist is illegal unless that individual is registered with APGO.

Licensed in another province/territory?
If you are a licensed P.Geo., P.Geol., P.Geoph., G.P, or géo., member in good standing in another association/ordre in Canada, your application for APGO licensure is currently governed by either the Inter-Association Mobility Agreement (IAMA), or the Quebec-Ontario Inter Association Mobility Agreement (OGQ-APGO Mobility Agreement). As such you are not required to solicit or provide references to support your application, or provide transcripts or a work experience record. Note: Under certain circumstances, however, APGO may request these documents from the home jurisdiction or from the applicant. For more information on how to apply for registration under the OGQ-APGO Mobility Agreement visit www.apgo.net.

– By Sara Kopamees 

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