New regulations proposed to govern the practice of traditional Chinese medicine in Ontario discriminate against the most qualified practitioners, say representatives of the profession.
About 300 traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and their supporters staged a peaceful protest march Sunday along Dundas St. W. between Spadina Ave. and University Ave., to demand action from the province over their grievances.
In 2006, Ontario passed the Traditional Chinese Medicine Act to create a self-regulating profession, similar to the bodies that govern doctors, nurses, chiropractors and physiotherapists. Traditional Chinese medicine involves the use of acupuncture, herbal remedies and a holistic approach to treatment.
However, a transitional council appointed by the government in 2008 to establish the regulations and standards to be overseen by the new governing body isn’t working in the best interest of the profession or the public, protestors said.
The majority of people on the transitional council are not qualified in traditional Chinese medicine and therefore not in a position to be drafting the regulations, said Dr. Mona Zhang, speaking for the 2,000-member Federation of Ontario Traditional Chinese Medicine Associations.
Zhang and fellow members are demanding that the health ministry dissolve the council and appoint properly qualified representatives to draft non-discriminatory regulations.
Her group is also calling into question the authenticity of one council member’s qualifications and wants the province to investigate.
One proposal would require practitioners of acupuncture to work under the supervision of a regulated profession such as physicians, chiropractors or physiotherapists — something traditional Chinese medicine practitioners say they can’t accept under any circumstances.
“They are prepared to engage in civil disobedience to protest this racist policy,” said Jon Alexander, a Carleton University political science professor who is serving as an adviser for the protestors. “They won’t allow themselves to be supervised by needling amateurs.”
He added: “They would much rather go to jail.”
While most traditional Chinese medicine providers have years of training, they will end up being supervised by other unqualified health care professionals, he said.
The province decided to regulate the profession because of the potential for harmful reactions between western drugs and herbal treatments, concerns some herbs may be toxic or of poor quality and fears that practitioners might cut corners in the sterilization of needles, a problem that happened in Quebec several years ago when officials warned 1,100 patients to get tested for HIV and hepatitis.