Many Quebec naturopaths as well as their patients are leaving the province in order to give – and receive – the kind of treatment they want without fear of reprisals.
Since her lumpectomy for breast cancer, Lise Bégin has been spending three days a week at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre, where she is undergoing supportive naturopathic therapies in conjunction with a more conventional course of chemotherapy at the Ottawa hospital.
"I was put on a series of different supplements," said Bégin, "all implemented to fight off what I have."
She's doing so following discussions with her oncologist, in consultation with two naturopaths.
"Naturopaths on the Ontario side have so much more to offer and are able to give so many more ways to healing you that you can't get on the Quebec side," said Bégin.
One of Bégin's naturopaths is Dugald Seely, the founder and executive director of the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre - also known as the OICC.
'Nobody is watching,' says patient
Seely is also from Quebec, but he moved to Ontario to practice his profession because naturopathy is not recognized nor regulated in his home province.
"I was completely constrained in terms of the kind of therapy," said Seely. "I can't even make a diagnosis. I can't even draw blood for a blood test."
Technically, Quebec naturopaths are not even allowed to take a patient's blood pressure or recommend a course of vitamin supplements, without the risk of facing charges for practicing medicine without a license.
In Ontario and in most other provinces, naturopaths are governed by a regulatory body. There is oversight, continuing education and avenues for patients to file complaints if something goes wrong.
In Quebec, the lack of regulation means anyone can call themselves a naturopath, and an estimated 5,000 people do just that.
"There is a huge variety of people who claim to be naturopaths - with various levels of training," said Seely.
"On the Quebec side...nobody is watching," said Bégin. She is confident her Ontario naturopath has the training and skill to help save her life.