A series of interactive forums hosted by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) in cities across the nation are raising awareness about the role that voluntary standards play in the lives of Canadians, and more importantly, their potential to do more.
Aimed at reaching out to a cross-section of public officials not familiar with the National Standards System or the work of SCC, the informational forums, are an opportunity for participants to provide feedback and ask questions about their role in Canadian standardization activities.
At each stop, the forums have been customized to address issues of particular interest to the audience. In both Saskatoon and Toronto, a focus on the role for standardization in regulation of the food sector was emphasized. The potential for voluntary standards and conformity assessment to serve as a tool for developing responsive and efficient regulations for alternative energies was discussed in Nunavut. In Edmonton, the focus was on Smart Regulation. A discussion of climate change and Canada’s commitments under the Kyoto Protocol was part of the Halifax session. Similar themes were also on the agenda in Quebec City.
“Having these sessions gives the participants a much better understanding of the breadth and depth of the issues and of the possibility of using standards as an alternative to regulation. And, it raises the bar in terms of quality and assurance of public safety,” says Israel Lyon, an SCC Council member and Chairman of its Provincial-Territorial Advisory Committee (PTAC).
“SCC did a tremendous job bringing some realistic information to what can be a subject that most people do not pay any attention to,” said Robert Cormier, Fire Marshall and Director of Public Safety for the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour, of his experiences with SCC’s “Standardization Across Canada Forum”, and in particular the event he helped organize in Halifax.
For Cormier, a member of the National Public Safety Advisory Committee (NPSAC), his presentation at the Halifax forum was a chance to highlight an issue he cares about deeply – safety. He says that although safety isn’t always top of mind for Nova Scotians, this is because the systems in place to protect them are working well.
Going into the forums, Cormier recognized that there is a feeling among some regulators that standards are created by an out-of-reach body that does not take into account ordinary people. But, from the feedback he received, Cormier said the presentations were successful in beginning to dispel these myths.
“There’s no problem right now, so everybody looks at it and figures they just won’t worry about it,” he says. “I believe the forums did provide a better understanding.”
The idea for the forums was a collaborative effort of PTAC and NPSAC, the national body working to promote the adoption of safety codes and standards. The concept was first raised during a joint meeting of the committees held in conjunction with the 2004 National Standards System Conference in October 2004. Additional sessions are anticipated for other Canadian cities.