Syndicat Professionnel des HomÃ©opathes du QuÃ©bec
The SPHQ or Syndicat Professionnel des HomÃ©opathes du QuÃ©bec, since its beginnings, has been a particular and unique organization, in the small, but international world of homeopathy. It started out in November 1989 as a professionnal union of homeopaths, affiliated to the Federation of Professionals (FP) which is part of the ConfÃ©dÃ©ration des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN), which represents more than three hundred thousand unionized workers in the province of Quebec, Canada. The primary spirit of linking the needs to organize, socialize and professionalize homeopaths dispersed and isolated in a huge territory with the growing needs of the population of Quebec (the same as Canada’s) for complementary and alternative care, has always guided the course of social, political and legal actions taken by the SPHQ.
The SPHQ has grown, self-regulated and integrated larger circles of homeopaths, like the former ICCH (International Council for Classical Homeopathy) and actual ICH (International Council for Homeopathy), where it has for a long while represented Canada, being the oldest and largest organized body of professional homeopaths in Canada since the end of the eighty’s.
Like other national homeopathic organizations, we have felt the wave of the denigration of homeopathy after ‘The Lancet affair’ and have not fallen. On the contrary, we have acknowledged the weaknesses and have taken up the challenge to and heighten academic and professional training. Through our means (i.e.. professionalization of homeopaths and integrated health approach and projects in Quebec, Canada and elsewhere) we seek social, political and institutional recognition and try to create opportunities for more formal legalization.
We share below our knowledge and understanding of the historical presence and comparative development of professional homeopathy in Canada and Quebec.
HOMEOPATHS IN CANADA AND IN QUEBEC
The Canadian provinces1 where homeopathic practice seems to be presently more concentrated are (no order intented) British-Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
We do not have any recent data on the number of homeopaths in the country. Nevertheless, a survey done in 2001 assesses at 1200 the number of homeopaths members of professional associations, and about 500 students.2
1 The country is formed of 10 provinces and 3 territories, with 2 official languages, English and French, the later mostly concentrated in Quebec.
Provinces: British-Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New-Brunswick, Nova-Scotia, Prince-Edward-Island, Newfoudland
Territories : Nunavut, Yukon, Northwest Territories
2 Fournier, Denis et A. Taillefer, EnquÃªte sur l’homÃ©opathie et les homÃ©opathes chez les organisations membres de la Coalition canadienne de mÃ©decine homÃ©opathique (CCMH), mai 2002.
Note : the CCMH doesn’t exist anymore.
Although two historical periods are considered in this document, we do emphasize the efforts taken in Quebec by the Syndicat professionnel des homÃ©opathes du QuÃ©bec (SPHQ) to provide a space for professional homeopaths in Quebec’s society.
Homeopathy arrived in Canada in the province of Ontario around the year 1840, and 2 years later in Quebec. We can definitely distinguish two historical periods for homeopathy in Canada.
THE FIRST PERIOD witnessed the establishment of homeopathy in Canada, its recognition, its practice within hospitals, its decline between the two great wars and its total absence from society. Both in Quebec and Ontario, this evolution and decline took a parallel path during this period.
How it took place in Quebec:
It is only in 1863 that homeopathy truly starts to structure itself in Quebec with the foundation of the MHA (The Montreal Homoeopathic Association) following a project of a community clinic for the poor of Montreal. The MHA will count on only 81 members in Quebec. In 1865, a law will recognize the homeopathic practice for the members of the MHA. In 1894, the «Montreal Homeopathic Hospital » is founded. It will be active until its vocation change in 1952, confirmed by its new designation. Thereafter, it was known as the «Queen Elizabeth Hospital», exclusively medical therefore. By the end of the 1960s, the creation of the Quebec Health Care regime and the creation of the «Office des Professions du QuÃ©bec» (Professions office) marks the end of homeopathy in Quebec, at least for this first period.
Homeopathy during this period was mainly practiced by English-speaking homeopathic doctors even in Quebec, even if the population was French-speaking in a large majority. There will be during this period only a few French-speaking homeopaths. The greater number of homeopaths had an American training.
THE SECOND PERIOD is the rebirth of homeopathy in Canada, of the creation of professional associations and the beginning of efforts to obtain legal recognition.
The situation in Quebec
Thanks to the support of French European homeopaths and laboratories, homeopathy makes a come back in Quebec in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Non-doctors homeopaths will mostly be trained and many different schools of thought will be found (complexist, pluralist, unicist).
1989 is the year where the Syndicat professionnel des homÃ©opathes du QuÃ©bec (SPHQ) will be created, bringing together the vast majority of homeopaths in Quebec. Its objectives are to improve the structure of homeopathic practice in the province, on an academic and a professional level, aim for legal recognition and establish a means to protect the public. To reach these objectives, the SPHQ endows itself with a Charter of rules (Statuts et RÃ¨glements), a deontological code (Code de dÃ©ontologie), training standards, a disciplinary committee, training and admission boards as well as a scientific board, which aims to promote homeopathic research and development.
DIFFERENT LEGAL SITUATIONS IN QUEBEC AND CANADA
Apart from Ontario, no legal recognition exists for homeopaths in Canada. In the majority of the Canadian provinces, there is no law concerning homeopathy, except in Manitoba, where medical law recognizes its exercise by conventional doctors.
The federal government establishes law on health issues for the whole population and the provincial and territorial government act locally for their own population. Thus the federal level deals with regulation concerning food and drugs, dangerous products, inspection etc. The provincial and territorial levels of government have the responsibility to safeguard health locally: hospitals, healthcare supervision, healthcare programs, professional regulations and control, as well as public healthcare matters.
Hence, it is not possible to draw a uniform picture of the legal situation of homeopathy in Canada, since each province has jurisdiction on professional practice and power to create (or not) a profession. To this situation can be added the prohibition to practice homeopathy in one province (Quebec), according to the ethical code of the provincial medical profession.
Since June 2007, the Ontario province, recognizes homeopathy as a profession under College of Homeopaths of Ontario and restricts the title of homeopath to members of the College. The «Homeopathy Act» does not however allow homeopaths to perform restricted medical acts, which are the trademark of other health professionals in Ontario, namely conventional doctors. A transitional board, soon to be appointed, will see to the proper structuring of the homeopathic profession in Ontario. For more information on the «Homeopathy Act»:
The medical law does not recognize the homeopathic profession. In the 1990s, when the legal situation of homeopathy was imprecise, a judicial confrontation took place on the matter in a model-case opposing the SPHQ to the Medical College of Quebec (CollÃ¨ge des mÃ©decins du QuÃ©bec -CMQ). Although the ruling does not question the competence of the homeopath concerned by the model-case, the legal exercise of homeopathy was restricted to the sole members of the CMQ. The reason put forward was that homeopathic doctors are active in Quebec to offer their services to the population. Yet, they are very few and the deontological code of the CMQ prohibits the practice of homeopathy to its members. The population’s needs for homeopathic care is then fulfilled almost exclusively by non-doctor homeopaths in private practice, most of them members of the SPHQ.
You will find in appendix 1 of this document a list of the main actions carried out, up until this day, by the SPHQ to obtain the recognition of the homeopathic profession in Quebec.
Presently in Quebec, a special governmental office, l’Office des professions, regulates the creation of a new profession only if its practice can cause serious and long term prejudice to someone, has autonomy of field (rather than specific acts) and thus, cannot be integrated into an existing professional practice. Homeopathic practice, sharing the large field of health and disease, and unable to prove serious health damage, has not been able, so far, to match these legal demands.
PROSPECTIVES FOR CANADA AND QUEBEC
At the SPHQ, we have been questioned, perhaps even criticized, about what seems to be a separate trail for the recognition of professional homeopaths in Quebec, from elsewhere in Canada or North America. To understand what is common and can be shared, but also what is very specific and has to be respected in our different paths towards the same goal – professional homeopathy throughout Canada and Americas- we must look, not so much at the differences of language and culture (French for Quebec, English for the rest of Canada), but at the fundamental opposition between the conception and application of two very different legal systems governing Quebec (the Napoleon Code) and the rest of Canada (the Common Law). The reader must always keep in mind that in Quebec: