The Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors (CAGC) is committed to ensuring that persons seeking genetic counselling services in Canada are receiving these services from an individual with a high level of competency. The process of certification and recertification has been adopted by most professional organizations as a mechanism for assessing and maintaining the knowledge and skills of its practitioners.
In this spirit the CAGC established an arm’s length Certification Board in 1994. The first nation-wide certification exam was held in 1998 and a system for continuing-education credits instituted in 1999. Genetic counsellors granted the credential CCGC (Canadian Certified Genetic Counsellor) and/or its French equivalent CGAC (Conseiller(ère) en génétique agréé(e) du Canada), have demonstrated standard knowledge and practice competencies.
The CAGC has always recognized that the mission of its association is different to that of a certification board; while the CAGC mission is to promote and support Canadian genetic counsellors, the Certification Board’s mission is to protect the general public.
The Professional Governance Committee (PGC) of the CAGC was formed in 2011 to address questions from the membership regarding regulation of genetic counsellors in Canada. In 2014, the PGC was commissioned by the CAGC to report on recommendations that would promote the autonomous practice of genetic counsellors in Canada. In its report “Toward Autonomous Practice of Genetic Counsellors in Canada: Recommendations to the CAGC”, the PGC recommended “the establishment of a clear process for identifying certified genetic counsellors as soon as possible, either as a National Registry of Genetic Counsellors in Canada or an entity within the CAGC”. Until recently the small number of genetic counsellors in Canada has been prohibitive to the formation of a certification organization separate to the CAGC.
In 2017, the CAGC Board of Directors mandated the creation of an independent body to oversee national certification of genetic counsellors. At the end of 2018 a task force began working on this and the Canadian Board of Genetic Counselling-Conseil Canadien de Conseil Génétique (CBGC-CCCG) was created. The CBGC-CCCG was incorporated on July 12, 2019 and is responsible for the national certification of genetic counsellors practicing in Canada.
The genetic counselling profession is currently unregulated in Canada and, as such, practitioners are not governed by provincial and territorial legislation, which ensure safe, competent, and ethical practice in the interest of public protection. The national certification credential is an important basis for the evolution of professional legislation and regulation in Canada.