Ministry Reports

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in Ontario


Executive Summary

Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in public interest in alternative approaches to health care. These alternatives are seen by Ontarians to offer highly complementary approaches and added dimensions to traditional treatments. The government understands the value of these alternative choices to the public and importance of having access to safe, quality services.

One of the alternative approaches that Ontarians have a growing interest in is traditional Chinese medicine or TCM. It is well known that the history of TCM and acupuncture spans thousands of years. Several countries have regulated providers of these services and recognized this modality of care.

In Ontario, the practice of TCM and acupuncture is not regulated. Currently, no standards exist on who may practise TCM or perform acupuncture. There are no statutory public protection mechanisms in place relating to registration qualifications, complaints and discipline processes, and professional standards. Additionally, there is no governing body to which these practitioners are held accountable.

In June of 2004, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care stated in the Legislature "that the government will move forward to regulate traditional Chinese medicine so that the therapeutic benefits of it can be provided to those Ontarians who wish to take advantage of that opportunity... in a fashion which provides for their safety first."

Among the objectives of regulating a health profession is to ensure that individuals have access to safe, quality services provided by health professionals of their choice and to ensure public protection from unqualified, incompetent persons.

Through professional regulation, the government provides consumers with an accountability framework for regulated health care practitioners that reassures consumers that they meet high standards and demonstrate continued competency. This framework also provides for a formalized complaints mechanism in the event the consumer is harmed by the health services being provided.

On March 10, 2005, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care asked four Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to undertake, on his behalf, consultations with Ontarians regarding TCM and acupuncture. Tony Wong, MPP Markham, chaired the Consultation Group and was joined by Mike Colle, MPP Eglinton-Lawrence, Peter Fonseca, MPP Mississauga East, and Richard Patten, MPP Ottawa Centre. Ontarians were asked to provide their views on education and training, the use of acupuncture, and the use of Chinese herbal remedies.

The MPP Group heard from almost 100 presenters during the consultation and received over 200 written submissions on TCM and acupuncture. Regulated health care practitioners, representatives of TCM and non-TCM organizations, health regulatory colleges, practitioners, students, and the general public participated in the consultation process. The MPP Group also heard from professionals familiar with the regulation of TCM and acupuncture in other jurisdictions including British Columbia, China, and Australia, and met with representatives of Health Canada's Natural Health Products Directorate to discuss the federal Natural Health Product Regulations. The MPP Group reviewed literature from the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (HPRAC), the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as literature from national and international jurisdictions.

Participants from the TCM and acupuncture community indicated they possess varying education and training levels. Some were trained in various parts of the world, such as China, Korea, Taiwan, the United States of America, and others were trained in Canada. Participants suggested a wide range of education and training programs should be acceptable for entry to practice and registration with a future regulatory body. While having a diverse opinion on acceptable education and training, most participants agreed that high education and training standards should be set for entry into the profession for both those currently practising TCM and for future practitioners. It was noted that British Columbia among other jurisdictions has established educational standards that Ontario may wish to refer to should the need arise to establish its own.

During the consultations, acupuncture was a key focus of discussion. Participants indicated that there is a need to regulate acupuncture and limit its use to regulated health care practitioners in order to ensure that the public can be confident that the treatment they are receiving is being performed by competent and qualified practitioners who are accountable to a regulatory body.

The discussions pertaining to acupuncture may generally be divided into two distinct areas: acupuncture within the TCM context, and acupuncture within a western context. Significant disagreements between the two areas exist on the use of acupuncture. However, participants were generally in agreement that acupuncture may be harmful when performed by unqualified persons.

On the topic of Chinese herbal remedies, concerns were raised with respect to the potential dangers of their usage, such as improper identification and inferior quality control in the manufacturing or preparation of Chinese herbal remedies by unqualified persons. A common theme was heard that only qualified practitioners with expertise in this area should be able to use Chinese herbal remedies as a treatment modality in the course of their practice.

In providing this report and recommendations, the MPP Group hopes that the province will proceed with regulating the practise of TCM and acupuncture, recognizing its value to many Ontarians who choose to receive these services. By building confidence in, and enhancing protection for Ontarians who use complementary and alternative health care, we will help to achieve the goal of ensuring a healthier Ontario.

The full report may be downloaded below. This executive summary is also available for download in Chinese.

See also: Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council

Document Download

Full Report
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in Ontario
22 pages | 111 kb | PDF format

Executive Summary - in Chinese
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in Ontario
4 pages | 163 kb | PDF format

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July, 2005

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