Chapter 1.6
Organization of the Profession in Canada

Historical Overview

Organization of Canada’s architecture profession began in the 19th century, following trends similar to those in Europe. The Industrial Revolution in the early part of the century, together with technological and societal changes, led to the emergence of architectural societies which responded to the need for:

  • regulation of the profession;
  • promotion, support, and professional fellowship.

Regulation was required to safeguard public health and safety. Support and promotion were deemed necessary to foster a high standard of professional competence and to influence colleagues and the public.

The first architectural society in Europe was the Society of British Architects, formed in 1834, which became the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1837. Canada followed suit 50 years later with the Architectural Guild of Toronto, established in 1887. The next step was the founding of the Ontario Association of Architects in 1889 and its incorporation in 1890. In Québec, the Province of Québec Association of Architects was created in 1890, later to become the Ordre des architectes du Québec.

By the turn of the century, demand arose for closer professional ties between provincial groups of architects in Canada. This led to the formation in 1907 of a national organization, the Institute of Architects of Canada. The organization was incorporated under the name the Architectural Institute of Canada, by act of the Dominion Parliament on June 16, 1908. The new Institute formed an alliance with its British counterpart, the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1909, after receiving permission to adopt the prefix “Royal,” the Canadian organization became known as the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).

Over the next 80 years, architectural associations developed in all other provincial jurisdictions of the country as well as the Northwest Territories.

National Organizations

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC)

After operating as a federation of provincial licensing organizations, the RAIC became a voluntary national professional organization in 1980. Its current vision and mission are as follows:


The RAIC is the leading voice for excellence in the built environment in Canada, demonstrating how design enhances the quality of life and addressing important issues of society through responsible architecture.


The RAIC’s mission is to promote excellence in the built environment and to advocate for responsible architecture. The role of the RAIC is to:

  • affirm that architecture matters;
  • celebrate the richness and diversity of architecture in Canada;
  • support architects in achieving excellence;
  • act as a national forum;
  • provide practice support and leading-edge professional development for architects;
  • disseminate leading work in the field of architecture and architectural practice;
  • encourage critique and debate;
  • recognize excellence;
  • facilitate communication among the professional associations and link the profession at the local level to a national and international network for information-sharing and advancement of professional issues.

The RAIC fulfills this role by running programs which span the full spectrum of design, technology transfer, and practice:

Publications: publishes technical and practice-oriented publications, newsletters, and directories including electronic publications;

Practice Support: develops and maintains standard forms of contract for architectural services, and updates and publishes the Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects;

Symposia: organizes national roundtables and regional events;

Lobbying: lobbies the federal government and other client groups to protect the professional interests of all architects in Canada;

Festival of Architecture: organizes the annual Festival of Architecture, which provides professional development courses and a forum for architectural issues, and promotes public awareness of architecture;

Member Services: provides discounts on professional publications and tools, professional tours, and a website for posting jobs and résumés;

Awards: recognizes excellence within the profession through the Governor General’s Medals in Architecture, the RAIC Gold Medal, the Allied Arts Medal, and the RAIC Awards of Excellence and other awards;

Career Development: encourages the next generation of architects through the RAIC Student Medals, the RAIC Honour Roll, and the RAIC Syllabus Program.


The RAIC College of Fellows

The mission of the RAIC College of Fellows, founded in 1941, is to strengthen and reinforce efforts of the Institute in its endeavour to enhance and develop the profession of architecture.

The College of Fellows formally recognizes members and distinguished laypersons who have made outstanding contributions to the profession. Fellowship in the RAIC is an honour conferred on members singled out for their contribution to research, scholarship, public service or professional standing to the good of architecture in Canada, or elsewhere.

The investiture of fellows, or the induction ceremony, is normally held at a convocation of the College during the RAIC’s festival or conference.

The College also oversees the Institute’s Honours and Awards Program.


The RAIC Foundation

The RAIC Foundation was established in 1964 as a charitable organization to receive tax-exempt financial contributions from RAIC members and the public at large. The foundation, which is a responsibility of the RAIC College of Fellows, has the following objectives:

  • to promote and increase the knowledge, skill and proficiency of the profession;
  • to provide grants for research by Canadians or to undertake research in Canada in the field of architecture and in allied arts and sciences;
  • to provide scholarships, bursaries and fellowships to Canadian architects and Canadian architectural students.

Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (CALA)

Established in 2008, the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (CALA) is a nationally recognized committee which represents the eleven provincial and territorial regulators of the profession of architecture in Canada. These regulatory bodies are responsible for setting the standards for entry into the profession and for issuing registration/licences to those who meet established standards of qualifications and practice. These regulators individually regulate the practice of architecture so that the public interest is protected within their respective province or territory.

Through CALA, the Canadian architectural regulators work collectively to develop and adopt nationally recognized standards and programs which meet their regulatory responsibilities as well as the needs of the architectural profession.

Every architect practising architecture in Canada is required by law to be registered as a member of a provincial and/or territorial regulatory body and to be governed by its rules. These associations are established by provincial or territorial law with the mandate to protect the public and ensure that people are served by architectural professionals who meet high standards of competence and professional conduct.

CALA members collaborate to organize programs and initiatives that relate to admission to the profession, licensure, and regulation at a national level. Those programs include:

CALA replaced the Committee of Canadian Architectural Councils (CCAC).

The Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA)

The Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA) is a coordinating committee of the Canadian schools of architecture. It is comprised of the heads (or designates) from each of the 12 universities offering professional degrees in architecture. The CCUSA meets semi-annually to coordinate academic matters of national interest and offer a platform for collaboration and coordination among the 12 schools.

A representative of the Council sits as a representative to the RAIC Board of Directors. The CCUSA also selects one of its members or former members to be Canadian Director on the Board of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. A founding partner of the Canadian Architectural Certification Board, the CCUSA makes an annual financial contribution to the CACB’s operating budget and directly appoints three of its members.

The Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB)

See also Chapter 1.5 - Admission to the Profession for a description of the composition and role of the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB).

In 1976, nine of the 10 provinces recognized the need for common professional standards and established the CACB. The Ordre des architectes du Québec joined the CACB in 1991. In 2001 the Northwest Territories also joined. The CACB’s purpose is to assess and certify academic qualifications of individuals who hold a professional degree or professional diploma in architecture and intend to apply for registration or licensure, and the accreditation of the Canadian University Schools of Architecture.

The CACB provides the following services:

The CACB is a not-for-profit corporation whose members include the provincial and territorial licensing authorities; it maintains an office in Ottawa.

Provincial and Territorial Associations of Architects


Under the provision of the Constitution Act, the licensing and regulation of architects is carried out under provincial mandate. To practice architecture in Canada, an architect must be granted a licence by a provincial or territorial authority. Architects, like other professionals (such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers), are self-governing and self-regulating.

The provincial and territorial legislatures or parliaments have enacted legislation or “architects acts” which establish mandatory professional associations of architects, enabling these associations to set standards for admission to the profession. This privilege is granted in exchange for safeguarding the public.

By contrast, in some other countries, licensing is controlled by government bodies rather than by self-regulating organizations. For example, in the United States, state government agencies license and regulate professionals.

The provincial and territorial associations of architects have been established by provincial or territorial statute.

See the charts at the end of this chapter for a list of these associations and the respective enabling legislation for each association.

Note that the territories of Yukon and Nunavut do not regulate architectural practice. For further information about architectural practice in these territories, please refer to

In this Handbook, “provincial association” is also used to refer to the Ordre des architectes du Québec (OAQ) and the Northwest Territories Association of Architects. This name and acronym have not been translated into English.

The provincial and territorial associations are governed by councils which may make regulations and/or by-laws, subject to the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, concerning the following matters:

  • admission standards, including education, practical experience, and examination (see Chapter 1.5 –  Admission to the Profession);
  • codes of conduct and ethics;
  • professional standards of practice and performance;
  • discipline of members for professional misconduct;
  • licensing requirements, including temporary licences, Certificates of Practice;
  • authority to administer a program of liability protection for the public;
  • the operation of the governing council and the election of the council;
  • committees and their operation;
  • other matters related to the advancement of the profession and the practice of architecture.

Although the provincial and territorial licensing authorities (architectural associations) may be involved in other activities, including advocacy and promotion of the profession, their primary purpose remains the licensing of architects to ensure their competency and ability to provide proper professional services to the public.

In Québec, the Professional Code establishes the Office des professions du Québec, which oversees and regulates all of the professional orders of Québec (professional associations), including the OAQ.

Advocacy Organizations

Some jurisdictions in Canada have moved to separate the role of advocacy from regulation of the profession. The role of advocacy and promotion of the profession is sometimes undertaken by organizations other than the licensing authority. For example, in Québec, the Association des Architectes en pratique privée du Québec (AAPPQ) is an organization independent of the Ordre des architectes du Québec (OAQ). It was created to promote and advocate for the architectural profession. The AAPPQ develops a fee schedule for architectural services and forms of contract for use in Québec. In Alberta, the Consulting Architects of Alberta promotes architecture and architectural practice. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial government created two corporate bodies: Architects Licensing Board of Newfoundland and Labrador (ALBNL) and Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Architects (NLAA). The Licensing Board regulates the practice of architecture, whereas the Association acts as an advocate for the profession. Other jurisdictions, such as the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), have elements of advocacy embedded in their legislation, allowing the regulator to advocate for the practice of architecture in the public interest.

Other organizations may exist with specific focus in some communities. Individual chapters of the RAIC undertake specific objectives in a community. As well, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has formed a Canadian chapter to promote architecture and form a collegiate body of AIA members in Canada.

At a local level, there are architecture societies. For example, the Toronto Society of Architects (TSA) has thousands of members and provides education sessions to architects as well as walking tours and events to the general public.

Allied organizations often include architects or are related closely to advocacy work for architecture. This can include local, provincial or national heritage associations; planning institutes such as the Canadian Urban Institute; Construction Specifications Canada (CSC); and many more.