Osteopathy in Canada

The osteopathic profession has developed internationally in two streams: the non-physician osteopathic manual practitioners and the full scope of practice osteopathic physicians (for more information on the differences between these two streams, see Osteopathy as a Profession Worldwide).  In Canada, both types of osteopaths offer services to the public.

Osteopathic physicians are licensed medical doctors who have trained at one of 29  osteopathic medical schools in the U.S. accredited by the American Osteopathic Association. Osteopathic physicians are regulated by the medical colleges in the provinces  in which they practice and have the legal rights and responsibilities of medical doctors, such as providing medical diagnosis, using the reserved title of “Dr.”, and performing a number of reserved medical acts. The costs of their services are covered by provincial governments’ public health plans. In some provinces, such as Ontario, the title of “Osteopath” is reserved for osteopathic physicians, which means that practitioners who have not completed training at a U.S. osteopathic medical school may not legally call themselves “osteopaths.” While osteopathic physicians have been practicing in Canada for over 100 years, there are currently very few osteopathic physicians practicing in Canada.

Non-physician osteopathic manual therapists have trained at private osteopathic colleges in Canada or abroad. Their training is not recognized by provincial medical colleges and they are not licensed to practice medical acts. The costs of their treatments are not covered by provincial public health plans. In Canada, osteopathic manual practitioners far outnumber their physician counterparts, mostly because there are a number of private colleges offering osteopathic training in Canada. The first osteopathic college was opened by a French osteopath in Quebec, and Canadian osteopathic education and treatment resembles the European style osteopathy much more closely than the American one. In Ontario, many osteopathic manual practitioners use the title “Diploma of Osteopathy, Manual Practitioner” (D.O. (MP)).

At this time, there is very little governmental regulation of the training or practices of non-physician osteopathic manual practitioners in Canada. The quality of osteopathic education in Canada varies widely, with some schools offering diplomas after one year of study and others requiring up to six years of study including a thesis project. In most provinces, osteopathic associations have been created by osteopathic manual practitioners who wish to maintain what they believe to be high enough standards for practice amongst their members. While these associations have no legal status as regulatory bodies, a handful of them have become recognized by private health insurance plans as the institutions that maintain benchmark standards for osteopathic manual practice in Canada, and will only reimburse clients for treatments given by their members. In addition, some of these associations are lobbying for the governmental regulation of osteopathy in their respective provinces.

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