British Columbia moves to revamp state board system

British Columbia moves to revamp state board system

Lengthy court battle hastens formation of new college to create 'fair, transparent process'
Jun 01, 2010

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA — After years of controversy and a record-length human-rights court battle, British Columbia (B.C.) officials are working to revamp their equivalent to the state board system.

Legislation was introduced in mid-April by B.C. lawmakers that would replace the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association (BCVMA) with a new College of Veterinarians of British Columbia. The new legislation would update the Veterinarians Act for the first time since 1967 and "refocus the organization by providing it with regulatory powers similar to those of other healthcare colleges," says Patrick Vert, a spokesman for the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

"The focus of these changes is to ensure British Columbians continue to have confidence in their access to safe, competent and ethical animal care," adds Agriculture and Lands Minister Steve Thomson in a statement on the new legislation.

The changes aim to create a "fair, transparent process" for registration, complaint resolution and discipline of B.C. veterinarians. The public would gain access to information about disciplinary outcomes through an online registry, which could open the door to further regulation of technicians and alternative animal-health therapies, according to Vert.

The new governing structure was created following a month-long public consultation period that garnered feedback from more than 580 people in the veterinary profession, plus comments from a 750-person petition that cautions the B.C. government against giving the BCVMA any additional powers to govern itself without public input.

BCVMA has been plagued with questions about its complaint process and has been fighting to raise enough money to maintain its operations and court defenses. The association's biggest critics are Indo-Canadian veterinarians who, beginning in 2002, alleged discrimination against the association. Their allegations have resulted in eight years of litigation and millions spent by BCVMA.

The BCVMA office did not respond to requests for comment on the new legislation, but those fighting the BCVMA have asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands to make sure the new college is composed of all new staff, without employing the same leadership from the current BCVMA.

There is no set date for when the new law will be finalized or take effect.