Canadian Association of Practicing Healthcare Ethicists – Association canadienne des éthiciens en soins de santé

(more details of CAPHE-ACESS follow after the statement below)

CAPHE-ACESS Board statement on working to counter structural racism and oppression

The Board of CAHPE-ACESS acknowledges the ongoing harms to individuals and communities resulting from persisting structural racism and oppression that exists within Canadian society and elsewhere. While we may have become inured to longstanding inequities in the workings of public institutions, the impact of COVID-19 has exposed these oppressive forces in new ways.

Equally, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, has thrown enduring anti-black racism into stark relief.  It highlighted how structural oppression manifests in particularly egregious ways as racism. This is evident in a long history of injustice in many places, including in Canada.  That history continues as we see new examples of racism. Anti-black racism and anti-Indigenous racism continue in alarming ways. COVID-19 has revealed the extent of anti-Asian racism as well.

Systemic oppression also takes the shape of sexism, ableism, homophobia, ageism and other forms of marginalization, prejudice, and discrimination. It is compounded for those who belong to more than one of them. Addressing structural oppression in the work we do will require meaningful and ongoing work to be able to clearly recognize it around us and understand it from the perspectives of those affected by it.

As the primary objective of CAPHE-ACESS is to more precisely define and standardize the role and practices of healthcare ethicists, we believe the organization has a duty to ensure the products, tools and resources we create do not perpetuate oppressive and racist structures and biases endemic to our society. We recognize this can occur by virtue of our own ignorance of the implicit mechanisms of systemic oppression and racism. We realize that full awareness of the problem and its sources will require ongoing work as an organization and as individuals.

Together with other national health ethics organizations like the Canadian Association of Research Ethics Boards and the Canadian Bioethics Society, we share our own public commitment to identify clear objectives and processes that ensure our work upholds the inherent worth of all human beings. In addition, we must challenge the barriers that prevent people affected by our work to equitably access the benefits and protections we seek for all by applying ethics to healthcare practice.


CAPHE-ACESS is a voluntary professional association whose members have an interest in pursuing or contributing to the professionalization of practicing healthcare ethicists in Canada. CAPHE-ACESS was incorporated under the Canada Not-for-Profit Associations Act on April 11, 2014. Its inaugural annual meeting was held on May 30, 2014 in conjunction with the Canadian Bioethics Society (CBS) Conference in Vancouver.

What is its purpose?

The purpose of CAPHE-ACESS is to promote excellence in healthcare ethics practice. 

Why is CAPHE-ACESS doing this work?

The overarching aim of CAPHE-ACESS is to improve healthcare ethics practice, develop a shared definition of what we do as practicing healthcare ethicists, and promote high standards in how we are prepared for and engage in our practice.  We hope to promote consistencies across the field, as deemed useful by practitioners and those with whom we work.  This is intended to give the public, employers and others affected by our work a clearer picture of what to expect from us – in what we do and how we do it, in Canada specifically.  It is understood that while such standardization would create a shared baseline for expectations of our practice, there will always be some degree of variation across individuals and practice settings, as exists in all professions. 

What is it doing?

The CAPHE-ACESS Directors, in consultation with members, are:

  • Continuing to support working group activities (see group list below);

  • Prioritizing the drafting of certain documents, including a foundational values statement for the Association.


How does it operate?

A decision making framework based on deliberative engagement methodology is used for the development of professionalization-related ‘products’, such as practice standards and position statements.

How did it begin?

In January 2009, a grassroots group of healthcare ethicists who were practicing in Canada gathered in Kingston, Ontario.  They shared concerns about the lack of standardization in the field and had a strong interest in exploring professionalization.  This led them to form Practicing Healthcare Ethicists Exploring Professionalization (PHEEP).

Initial work included a pre-conference workshop with the CBS Working Conditions for Bioethics Taskforce (2009), a nation-wide survey of ethicists within Canada to solicit feedback/input on possible projects & future directions for PHEEP (2010), and a CIHR-supported symposium in Saint John, New Brunswick (2011).

PHEEP expanded over the years to include a governing Steering Group and four working groups: Conceptual, Empirical, Practice Standards, and Values.

A 2012 special issue of HEC Forum (Volume 24, Issue 3),  Getting Engaged: Exploring Professionalization in Canada highlights several aspects of PHEEP’s work, as well as providing different perspectives on important issues related to the discussion of professionalization. 

At the PHEEP meeting that was held in conjunction with the CBS Annual Conference 2013 in Banff, there was unanimous agreement to support the Steering Group in proceeding with the establishment of a voluntary professional association.  CAPHE-ACESS was formed soon after.

Who are the current members of the Board of Directors of CAPHE-ACESS?

Who can belong?

All CAPHE-ACESS members are expected to have an interest in pursuing or contributing to the professionalization of Canadian practicing healthcare ethicists. There are two types of members, full members and associate members, as described below.

I.     CAPHE-ACESS Full Members

Full Membership Criteria:

  • Meet the definition of a Practicing Healthcare Ethicist (PHE)1 and have been employed or self-employed as a PHE in Canada within the last 12 months

Full Membership Entitlements:

  • Voting privileges

  • Eligible to be Members and Chairs of CAPHE-ACESS constituent groups

  • Eligible to be Directors of CAPHE-ACESS


II. CAPHE-ACESS Associate Members 

Associate Membership Criteria:

  • Engaged in a formal practice-based PHE training program in Canada, e.g., a fellowship in healthcare ethics practice or

  • Do not meet the definition of PHE, but have relevant practice and/or education experience in, and/or meaningful connection(s) to, the fields of healthcare and/or healthcare ethics or

  • Meet the definition of a PHE, but have not been employed or self-employed as a PHE in Canada in the last 12 months (e.g., retired, leave of absence, work outside of Canada)

Associate Membership Entitlements:

  • Eligible to be Members of CAPHE-ACESS constituent groups

  • Eligible to be Directors of CAPHE-ACESS

  • Do not have voting privileges except where a Director

Definition of Practicing Healthcare Ethicist (PHE):

A practicing healthcare ethicist has dedicated work responsibilities within a healthcare organization to provide a variety of ethics-related services which include more than one of the following: clinical and/or organizational ethics consultation; policy development and/or review; ethics education for staff; management of ethics programs (including clinical ethics committees); mentoring of staff/learners; and conducting research ethics consultations.

This definition is not intended to include those whose primary ethics-related responsibilities are academic scholarly work and/or involvement with research ethics boards.

Who do I contact for more information?

Please contact us at for more information.