A policy statement taken by the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) is a public stance on a given issue(s) and one that serves to guide the decisions and actions of the association. All policy statements of the CPA must be based on psychological knowledge and expertise that bear directly on the subject of the statement. Further, the statement must be useful in informing public debate and consideration of the issue(s). All CPA policy statements shall be guided by the ethical standards of the science and practice of psychology as defined in the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists. CPA remains the sole author and publisher of all policy statements of the association and assumes responsibility for their translation and dissemination. The Board and/or its delegates also assume responsibility for the review and revision of CPA’s policy statements as needed.
Click here for the CPA’s Public Policy Guidelines and Definitions of Policy Statements, Position Papers and Discussion Papers.
The following are Policy Statements that have been approved by the CPA Board of Directors for the Association.
- Gender Identity in Children and Youth
- Conversion/Reparative Therapy for Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity in Adolescents and Adults
- Violence against Women
- Bullying in Children and Youth
- The Presence of Involved Third Party Observer in Neuropsychological Assessments
- Public Statements
- Physical Punishment of Children and Youth
- Ethical Use and Reporting of Psychological Assessment Results for Student Placement
- Convictions based solely on recovered memories
- Public Statement by Paul Cameron on Homosexuality
- Equality for lesbians, gay men, their relationships and their families
- Inclusion of Unpaid Household Activities in 1996 Census
- CPA Response to Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women
- Child Care
- Death Penalty in Canada
- Prejudicial Discrimination
- Minority Groups
- Discrimination on Sexual Orientation
- Sexual Harassment
- Discrimination in the Employment Areas
- Psychology of Women
- Female Role Models
- Education of Graduate Students
- Autonomous Profession
- Psychology in Hospitals
- Prepaid Health Schemes
- Psychologists Providers of Health Care
- Decriminalization of Illegal Substances in Canada (September 2023)
- Promotion of Gender Diversity and Expression and Prevention of Gender-Related Hate and Harm
- Mental Health Care for Canadian Children and Youth: The Role of School Psychologists
- Addressing Climate Change in Canada: The Importance of Psychological Science
- Inappropriate Psychological Test Use: A Public Safety Concern
- Recommendations for Addressing the Opioid Crisis in Canada
- Health and Well-Being Needs of LGBTQI People
- Recommendations for the Legalization of Cannabis in Canada
- Psychologists Practicing to Scope: The Role of Psychologists in Canada’s Public Institutions
- Neuropsychological Services in Canada
- Issues and Recommendations about Advertising and Children’s Health Behaviour
- Same Sex Marriage
The following are Policy Statements that have been approved by the CPA Board of Directors for the Association.
In 1990, the Board of Directors adopted the following policy for the approval of CPA Policy Statements:
1990 – Policy Statements
The Board of Directors shall be responsible for developing and adopting policy statements of the Canadian Psychological Association.
Policy statements may be developed and adopted in response to information or requests from Members, or other organizational components of CPA, or from individuals and organizations external to CPA.
Individuals and/or organizations can make a written request that CPA develop and adopt a specific policy statement. Such requests shall include information on:
- the relevancy of the issue to psychology in Canada as a profession and/or science;
- documentation, based on facts and knowledge, in support of the need for the proposed policy statement;
- the relevancy and consistency with the CPA Code of Ethics.
The Board and its designated officers shall act expeditiously on all requests. (November 1990, Revised November 2007)
The Canadian Psychological Association supports all children and youth in exploring and expressing their gender identity – including through the use of names and pronouns that affirm their gender and having access to supportive families, schools, and communities dedicated to helping each child develop their most authentic self.
The Canadian Psychological Association opposes stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination based on gender identity or expression in exercising all basic human rights.
The Canadian Psychological Association opposes any therapy with the goal of repairing or converting an individual’s sexual orientation, regardless of age. Conversion therapy, or reparative therapy, refers to any formal therapeutic attempt to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals to heterosexual (e.g., Nicolosi, 1991; Socarides & Kaufman, 1994). It can include prayer or religious rites, modification of behaviours, and individual or group counselling (Bright, 2004; Nicolosi, 1991).
Click here to read the full Policy Statement.
The Canadian Psychological Association affirms that all adolescent and adult persons have the right to define their own gender identity regardless of chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role. Moreover, all adolescent and adult persons have the right to free expression of their self-defined gender identity.
The Canadian Psychological Association opposes stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination on the basis of chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role, or on the basis of a self-defined gender identity or the expression thereof in exercising all basic human rights. (October 2010)
Awareness of the pervasive nature of violence against women as a global problem has led to an international focus on freedom from gender-based persecution as a basic human right. The Canadian Psychological Association recognizes that violence against women is a serious issue in Canadian society that must be addressed. Aboriginal, immigrant and visible minority women are particularly vulnerable. All women have a fundamental right to equality, and they have the right to be safe and free from harm in their relationships. Eradication of this prevalent societal problem requires a multipronged, integrated approach with a focus on research, prevention, and remediation. It is the responsibility of the Canadian government, psychologists in Canada, and all Canadians to ensure that these rights are protected and that violence and abuse against women is eliminated.
The rationale for the policy statement is here.
Bullying is a problem in relationships in which power is used to cause distress to another. It may be physical, verbal, nonverbal, or social, and may include racial, religious, homophobic or gender-based harassment. Bullying may occur in many ways, including face-to-face, in writing form, and through electronic media.
All children and youth involved in bullying may be negatively affected by it, whether they are engaged in bullying others, being bullied, or witnessing bullying.
The Canadian Psychological Association recognizes that bullying is wrong and hurtful. Being safe in relationships is a fundamental human right. All children and youth have the right to be safe and free from harm in their relationships. Therefore, all adults have a shared responsibility to promote healthy relationships and eliminate bullying in the lives of children.
Bullying requires relationship solutions. Effective responses to bullying focus on the behaviour, rather than labeling children as bullies or victims, promote healthy relationships, and employ formative rather than punitive consequences. Interventions should begin early and be tailored to children’s age, gender, and diverse needs and capacities. Interventions must include all children and youth involved: Those who bully, those who are victimized, and those who witness bullying.
The rationale and context for this policy statement are detailed here.
It is not permissible for involved third parties to be physically or electronically present during the course of neuropsychological or similar psychological evaluations of a patient or plaintiff. Exceptions to this policy are only permissible when in the sole professional opinion of the assessing psychologist, based on their clinical judgment and expertise, that a third party would allow more useful assessment data to be obtained. Typical examples may include the inclusion of a parent or caregiver until a full rapport is gained. The presence of these observers should be cited as a limitation to the validity of the assessment.
The rationale and context for this policy statement are detailed here.
Public statements on behalf of CPA may be made by the President and/or Executive Director of CPA and/or their designate. Such statements shall be limited to CPA
- policy and/or
- guidelines, codes or activity and/or
- the knowledge base and expertise of the science and practice of psychology
Physical punishment has been consistently demonstrated to be an ineffective and potentially harmful method of managing children’s behaviour. It places children at risk of physical injury and may interfere with psychological adjustment. To reduce the prevalence of physical punishment of children and youth, public awareness campaigns must deliver a clear message that physical punishment may place children at risk of physical and psychological harm. Second public education strategies that increase Canadians’ knowledge of child development should be supported. Third, evidence-based programs for developing parenting skills should be supported.
It is often the case that funding for, and access to, special services and placements in schools are contingent on psychological diagnoses that are derived, in part, from scores obtained on standardized psychological and educational tests. In some provinces, regulations are specific in requiring that such identification should be based, not on a full psychological assessment, but rather on a single score obtained on a standardized intelligence test designed for use only by appropriately educated and certified individuals. In the hands of highly skilled professionals, psychological tests and other assessment strategies may offer considerable insights into a student’s specific difficulties, strengths, and needs. However, an approach that is limited to the exclusive use of single test scores to identify and classify students with learning, behavioural and emotional issues certainly will lead to a number of problems for the professionals working within such a system as well as to a disservice for affected students.
Of primary concern is the fact that there is no single psychological construct, test, or test score that can capture the complexity and totality of a student’s personal, social and educational needs. When placement and funding decisions are based on a single test score on a standardized instrument, an accurate and comprehensive picture of the student’s abilities and challenges cannot be obtained. Such a practice is inappropriate, therefore, and does not serve the best needs either of the student or of the educational system.
Psychologists are placed in an ethical confound when school personnel request that they use psychological instruments for inappropriate purposes that violate professional standards as well as best practices guidelines. In complying with such a request, psychologists are being asked to contravene the Code of Ethics for Psychologists (2000) with respect to proper use of psychological knowledge and with respect to appropriate care of the client. Specifically, such limited use of psychological test results to label and place students is a breach of the following ethical principles:
Principle I – Respect for the Dignity of Persons
#7 Make every effort to ensure that psychological knowledge is not misused, intentionally or unintentionally, to infringe on human rights.
#9 Not practice, condone, facilitate or collaborate with any form of unjust discrimination.
#10 Act to prevent or correct practices that are unjustly discriminatory.
Principle II – Responsible Caring
#5 Make every effort to ensure that psychological knowledge is not misused, intentionally or unintentionally, to harm others.
Principle IV – Responsibility to Society
Development of Society
#23 Provide thorough discussion of the limits of their data if their work touches on social policy and structure.
#26 Exercise particular care if reporting the results of any work with vulnerable groups ensuring that the results are not likely to be misinterpreted or misused in the development of social policy and practices (e.g., used to manipulate the persons concerned).
It is the position of the Canadian Psychological Association that psychological assessment in schools is a process of approaches, comprised of various assessment strategies and tests, intended to better understand the cognitive, social, emotional and academic functioning of a student. This comprehensive process is employed to determine strengths, needs and appropriate services for the individual student. Within the variety of approaches used, there should be formal and informal assessment tools, including interviews with teachers and parents, student work samples and file reviews, curriculum based assessment, and standardized psychological and educational tests. No single measure or test score is comprehensive enough to fully represent the student’s psychological, social and educational functioning, and hence, no single measure should be used to determine programs or placement for students.
Psychologists providing services in schools are aware of their professional and ethical responsibilities, and employers must respect the psychologists’ duties to their clients and to the profession. Psychologists have an obligation to inform employers of appropriate uses of psychological instruments for placement and other critical decisions.
The Canadian Psychological Association recognizes the very serious concern of child abuse and child sexual abuse in our society. The Canadian Psychological Association also recognizes that justice may not have been served in cases where people have been convicted of offences based solely upon “repressed” or “recovered” memories of abuse, without further corroborative evidence that the abuse in fact occurred. Developments in the state of our knowledge about repressed or recovered memories suggest that such memories, if they exist, may not be sufficiently reliable to serve as the sole basis for a criminal conviction. To the extent that some people may have been convicted of offenses based solely upon the testimony of people’s recovered memories, the Canadian Psychological Association urges the Minister of Justice to conduct a special inquiry into this category of convictions.
The Canadian Psychological Association takes the position that Dr. Paul Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism and thus, it formally disassociates itself from the representation and interpretations of scientific literature in his writings and public statements on sexuality. (August 1996)
The Canadian Psychological Association supports the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected ground of discrimination against lesbians, gay men, their relationships and their families in all human rights legislation, public policy, regulation, procedure and practice; and
The Canadian Psychological Association strongly opposes prejudice, bias and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all areas including spousal and family relationships, benefits and privileges, employment, goods, services, facilities, housing and accommodation.
The Canadian Psychological Association applauds and endorses the inclusion of unpaid household activities in the 1996 Census. Psychologists are very involved in supporting the mental health of families, both by providing therapy and by participating in community programme development. This change in the census is seen as one way of supporting families and promoting the health of our communities.
Home managers care for their children and aging parents in their homes. The economic costs for individuals who choose to work as home managers are compounded by our society’s widespread failure to recognize the importance of unpaid work. Psychologists recognize that home managers, who are mostly women, often feel minimized, isolated, and undervalued in their work, often to the point of needing professional support and intervention.
Official recognition and valuing of the work of home managers will encourage more people, in particular men, to see home management as an important and legitimate occupation. People who feel better about being at home will transmit those feelings to the children and old people for whom they provide care.
The Canadian Psychological Association affirms the tremendous importance of the unpaid work carried out by women and men, and congratulates the Government of Canada for this step forward in recognizing the work of caring for families. (December 1995)
Representatives of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Psychological Association have studied the Declaration of the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women. In response to the Declaration and on behalf of the members of the Canadian Psychological Association, the Board of Directors adopts the following policies, which are consistent with Principle 1 of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists.
Equality and freedom from violence are rights of all women, and it is the responsibility of every individual member of the Canadian Psychological Association to respect and protect these rights. (December 1995)
The Canadian Psychological Association supports the need in Canada for more child care, more affordable child care, and child care of higher quality. (February 1987)
Whereas; use of the death penalty is against our professional, ethical, and scientific values; and whereas; in our scientific judgement studies of the effects of capital punishment on homicide rates have shown no evidence whatsoever for deterrence; be it resolved that; the membership of the Canadian Psychological Association opposes the reinstatement of the death penalty in Canada. (June 1987)
The Canadian Psychological Association endorses the policy that use or misuse of current knowledge which implies that there is scientific evidence that justifies prejudicial discrimination against any individual based on age, sex, gender socio-economic status, physical and mental abilities or handicaps, ethnic origin, marital status, parental status and sexual preferences are unethical. (February 1984)
The Canadian Psychological Association endorses the principle that when making recommendations affecting the welfare of individuals, particularly when making recommendations concerning members of minority groups, psychologists take care to distinguish between their scientific and clinical expertise and their own values. (October 1983)
The Canadian Psychological Association endorses the principle that there be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (a) recruitment; (b) hiring; (c) salary; (d) promotion rate; (e) fringe benefits; (f) assignment of duties. (February 1982)
1982 – 2 Discrimination on Sexual Orientation
The Canadian Psychological Association endorses the principle that there be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – in the education of graduate students with respect to: (a) recruitment of graduate students; (b) acceptance of students into graduate programmes; (c) recommendation of students for scholarships, fellowships, loans, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. (February 1982)
The Canadian Psychological Association endorses the principle that psychologists do not condone or engage in sexual harassment in their relationships with clients, supervisors, colleagues, students, employees, or research participants. (October 1981)
The Canadian Psychological Association endorses the principle that there be equitable treatment – i.e., no discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, or on the basis of marital or parental status – in the employment areas of: (a) recruitment; (b) hiring; (c) salary;(d) promotion rate; (e) fringe benefits; (f) assigment of duties (e.g., in academia: course loads, community service, committee service). (October 1981)
The Canadian Psychological Association recognizes that courses in and research on the psychology of women constitute a legitimate component of the discipline of psychology. (October 1981)
The Canadian Psychological Association recognizes the importance of female role models – i.e., women in senior faculty and administrative positions – for female graduate students and for women in junior staff positions. (October 1981)
The Canadian Psychological Association endorses the principle that there be equitable treatment – i.e., no discrimination on the basis of marital or parental status – in the education of graduate students with respect to: (a) recruitment of graduate students; (b) acceptance of students into graduate programmes; (c) recommendation of students for scholarships, fellowships, loans, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. (October 1981)
The Canadian Psychological Association takes the position that Psychology is an autonomous profession, not dependent upon, subservient to, nor ancillary to any other profession. This fact must be recognized when regulations of any kind affect professional psychology. (June 1979)
The Canadian Psychological Association adopts the official position that psychologists can best contribute to the work of the general hospital if psychological services are provided though separate autonomous departments of psychology, having equal status to and accorded the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as the medical specialties. (June 1979)
The Canadian Psychological Association adopts the position that consumers of prepaid health schemes should have equal access to all health service providers. When psychology is excluded from payment schemes such as Medicare, it is a discriminatory practice which CPA cannot support. (June 1979)
The Canadian Psychological Association does not recommend that psychologists be included under “umbrella” health legislation. However, recognizing that provinces may choose to include psychology, only those psychologists identified as providers of health care should be included under such legislation. (June 1979)
Led by Co-Chairs, Dr. Andrew Kim, Dr. Keira Stockdale and the late Dr. Peter Hoaken, the CPA Board of Directors recently approved a position paper The Decriminalization of Illegal Substances in Canada developed by the Working Group on Decriminalization. In addition to seven actionable recommendations for governments and relevant stakeholders, the report calls for criminal penalties associated with simple possession of illegal substances be removed from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and strongly recommends that the determination of the quantity of “personal use” should be made in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including people with lived and living experience with substance use.
The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) through its Code of Ethics and policy statements, has long held a commitment to human rights, social justice, and the dignity of persons. Despite this commitment, echoed in amendments to Canada’s Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, gender-based stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination continue to persist across social systems and services (e.g., education, health, justice).
With the rise of gender minority hate and violence worldwide, this policy statement outlines the discrimination that people of gender minority face, as well as the changes that need to be made to redress it. The CPA commits to helping to bring about these changes and calls on legislators, policy makers, and agencies and individuals who deliver health and social services to assert their commitments to join us.
Mental health and wellbeing which include the range of social, emotional, intellectual and behavioural functions upon which we all rely day to day, are critical to the success of people and the places in which they live, work, learn, and play. This is especially true for children, for whom mental health services and supports bring the biggest return on investment. School psychologists play an essential role in the mental and cognitive health and wellbeing of students in school and non-school settings, particularly, as we continue to live with the impacts of far-reaching societal events, like the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Societal responses to climate change include limiting the degree of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating the effects of climate change, and adapting to new conditions. Psychological science is key to the success of these efforts. Research findings in the field of environmental psychology demonstrate how natural and built settings affect human health and wellness and how human behaviour and individual decision-making in turn affect the natural and built environment. An understanding of human behaviour and decision-making must inform government policies that aim to conserve nature, promote energy-efficient building practices, and help Canadians make environmentally sustainable decisions in all their activities.
The assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of physical and mental health disorders are regulated health services under the authority of provincial and federal bodies. In recent years, there has been growing concern that the safe use of specialized psychological tests and measures in clinical practice has become compromised by their increased availability to unqualified users in an unregulated marketplace. The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) is deeply concerned that the availability and use of diagnostic tests by unqualified individuals puts public safety at risk.
Canada is in the midst of an opioid crisis that has resulted in increasing morbidity and mortality, with devastating effects for people, families, and communities. There were more than 10,300 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada between January 2016 and September 2018. Critically, there was nearly a 40% increase in apparent opioid‐related deaths in Canada between 2016 and 2017, and the number of opioid related deaths in the first 9 months of 2018 exceeded the total in 2016. In 2016‐17, there was an average of 17 hospitalizations every day in Canada due to opioid poisonings. Opioid‐related harms continue to grow at alarming rates.
The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) has endorsed a statement of the International Psychology Network for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Issues (IPsyNet) advocating for greater awareness of the health and well-being needs of LGBTQI people in care, research, the media and public policy. The statement was the product of more than five years of work sponsored by IPsyNet to develop an empirically grounded affirmation of LGBTQI human rights and a commitment from psychology organizations to advance and support affirmative and inclusive research and service methods focused on the LGBTQI population.
The statement was released at the 29th International Congress of Applied Psychology at a reception co-hosted by IPsyNet and the CPA’s Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
A position statement of the Canadian Psychological Association with recommendations in response to the steps taken by the federal government to legalize recreational use of cannabis.
At its June 2016 meeting, the CPA Board of Directors approved a position paper entitled Psychologists Practicing to Scope: The Role of Psychologists in Canada’s Public Institutions.
A position statement of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) and the Association Québécoise des Neuropsychologues (AQNP)
There is significant public and government concern about the incidence and prevalence of lifestyle and behaviour-related chronic diseases among Canadians. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) maintains that many chronic diseases that result in death can be prevented or delayed. In September of 2010, provincial, territorial and federal ministers of health agreed that in order to help Canadians live longer in health, there is a need to promote and support behaviours in children that include healthy eating and maintaining healthy weights. Unhealthy behaviours in childhood not only pave the way for ill health in adulthood, but the disorders associated with such behaviours (e.g., Type II diabetes) are increasingly being diagnosed in childhood. (May 2011).
In 2003, the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) supported Bill C-38, the federal government’s legislation legalizing same-sex marriage across Canada. CPA’s support was initiated in response to public debate about the effect of same-sex marriage on children. CPA’s review of the psychological research led us to conclude that the children of same-sex parents do not differ from the children of heterosexual parents in terms of their psychosocial development, their gender development and their gender identity.