Spotlight on ... Canada

Spotlight on ... Canada

How many opticians are there in your country?

There are about 6900 opticians in Canada.

Healthcare and the regulation of health care professionals is a provincial jurisdiction. Therefore, an optician needs to apply for a license in each province in which they would like to practice. The Labour Mobility Agreement among the provinces provides for a more streamlined process if one holds a current license in any other province. All provinces in Canada require opticians to complete formal training and education in opticianry and then must pass competency examinations prior to receiving governmental licensure. Some provinces (Ontario and Quebec) require a single optician’s license that includes both the dispensing of eyeglasses and contact lenses, while the other provinces have two separate licenses, one each for eyeglasses and contact lens dispensing.

Recent changes to the British Columbia Opticians regulations allow qualified opticians in that province to test a person’s vision and prepare an assessment of the corrective lenses required for a client. Using the results of the assessment an optician can prepare and dispense eyeglasses or contact lenses. Opticians in Alberta are also permitted, under certain conditions, to refract and prepare and dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses. The changes in legislation in BC have also allowed for dispensing of glasses to become an unrestricted activity.

What are the optical organisations in your country? Are there different organisations for different regions?

National organizations:

The Opticians Association of Canada (OAC) is a non-profit organization, which was incorporated in 1990. The objective and purpose of the Association are to represent the common interest of dispensing opticians in Canada and to educate and inform consumers about matters related to eye care. It is composed of representatives from all 10 Canadian provinces and acts as an opticians’ advocacy group. As an example, the OAC undertakes initiatives related to education – including primary education, continuing education and advanced practice. The essential thrust of the OAC is to take a pro-active interest in all matters that have the potential to affect Canadian opticians both positively and negatively and to promote a favorable outcome for opticians. Funding for the OAC is based upon membership dues and monies raised from member benefit initiatives.

Mission Statement:

The object and purpose for which the Opticians Association of Canada (OAC) has been formed is to safeguard the common interest of the profession. To that end the OAC,

  1. Promotes and increases, by all lawful means and in the public interest, the delivery by its members of the highest quality of product and services.
  2. Supports and promotes the highest standards of education and licensing for, Canadian Opticians
  3. Provides a national medium through which a legislative voice speaking on behalf of Canadian Opticians may be heard.
  4. Grow the Market
  5. Advocates for all objectives not inconsistent with the public interest for the benefit of Canadian Opticians.

The National Association of Canadian Opticianry Regulators (NACOR)

The National Association of Canadian Opticianry Regulators (NACOR) is an organization of all the provincial opticianry regulatory bodies in Canada*. NACOR also administers Canada’s national opticianry examination(s). Since 2001 all jurisdictions have agreed to and signed the Mutual Recognition Agreement among Opticianry Regulators that ensures labour mobility to all opticians across the entire nation without need for further examination. All provinces (except for Quebec) require individuals to achieve a passing mark in a national examination as a requirement of licensure as an optician. Contact NACOR directly for information on Quebec exceptions.

Opticians Council of Canada

The OCC is an umbrella organization with representatives from all provincial regulatory bodies, associations and teaching institutions as participating delegates. Their meetings provide a forum for discussing issues of mutual interest.

Opticians Council of Canada Mission Statement: The Opticians Council of Canada is the forum for our member organizations to work toward achieving common goals that enhance vision care.

Our Member Organizations include:

  • Opticians Association of Canada
  • National Association of Canadian Optician Regulators and
  • Canadian Association of Optician Educators.

Provincial organizations

Most Canadian provinces have their own provincial opticianry association and regulator that look after the interests of their members at the provincial level, such as advocacy and legislation enforcement. Some provincial regulatory agencies have a dual role or purpose and serve as the association for that province. In addition to protecting their member’s interests, provincial associations also undertake public interest initiatives such as providing vision screening for children in schools, or organizing professional development seminars.

How do opticians receive their training in your country?

To become an optician in Canada, first students need to enroll in an Ophthalmic Dispensing Eyeglasses Program at one of the accredited educational institutions that offer opticianry programs:

  • Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) offers the following programs through Distance Learning: Optical Sciences Eyeglasses Diploma, Optical Sciences Advanced Practice Contact Lenses Certificate and Optical Sciences Refracting Optician. NAIT is the official partner of the Opticians Association of Canada. The OAC administers the NAIT optical sciences program outside the province Alberta. Contact the OAC directly for more information –
  • Douglas College (British Columbia) - Two year full-time accredited Opticianry program includes eyeglasses, contact lenses, automated refraction, and low vision aids.
  • Georgian College - Two-year full-time co-op accredited Opticianry program. Students receive training based on National Standards of Competencies for Opticianry which includes dispensing eyeglasses and contact lenses.
  • Seneca College - Opticianry Diploma Program offered by means of two-year full-time study and four-year part-time study. Students acquire the specialized knowledge and skills required to safely and competently dispense subnormal vision devices, contact lenses and eyeglasses.
  • Oulton College and Stenberg College also offer Opticianry programs

Once a student has successfully completed an Optical program, s/he is eligible to take the national licensing examination. Upon passing the licensing exam, students may apply for registration to their provincial regulatory agency, usually a college of opticians. An ophthalmic dispensing license currently allows an Optician to dispense eyeglasses (this may change). Depending on which province the student resides in, s/he may then decide to continue and become a licensed Contact Lens Fitter.

Tell us a bit about being an optician in your country:

Opticians are highly skilled eye care professionals who undergo rigorous and extensive training. They interpret written prescriptions from ophthalmologists (medical doctors) and optometrists (non-medical eye care professionals) to determine the specifications of ophthalmic appliances necessary to correct a person’s eyesight. They design and dispense eyeglasses, contact lenses, low vision aids and prosthetic ocular devices. Some registered Opticians also design and fit cosmetic shells and artificial eyes, grind lenses and design and manufacture specific spectacle frames and other devices needed by their clients. Opticians in BC Alberta and some in Ontario can refract vision care consumers. Assisted vison has become a more frequent service being provided by Opticians in Canada. We at the OAC believe this need will only increase in the coming years and we are advocating government for access to public funding to meet the demand. Opticians are found working in every aspect of the Optical environment from hospitals and clinics to retail location and even embedded in the wholesale and manufacturing industry.

What are the current challenges for opticians in your country?

The mergers and acquisitions are always something the OAC keeps an eye on (joke intended) – unregulated dispensing is a concern as well. That said though, we want to ensure consumers have choice. Opticians want consumers to know that although they are a component of retail their services and products are health related. Opticians are ethically and legally bound to provide the best vision care services to Canadians.

What are the biggest achievements for opticians in your country?

Scope of practice increase – Refraction, plus the shift in public awareness and trust that opticians part of the circle of care in terms of Vision Health

If people want to find out more about training as an optician in your country, what website can they visit?

If people want to find out about working as an optician in your country, what website can they visit?

Topic: Country spotlight