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Réflexions sur nos corporations professionnelles

Réflexions sur nos corporations professionnelles

Jean-Réal Cardin

Volume : 17-3 (1962)


Some Reflexions About Our Professional Corporations


If professional corporations are still in existance to-daw, many centuries after their birth during the Middle Ages, this is due to the fact that they have a vital role to play in our society. However, in order to be efficient, they must be well adapted to the socio-economic structure of every given society. The misunderstandings about, and the maladaptations of, the corporations give rise to ambiguities and problems which every society must solve in order that its institutions do not become useless, if not prejudicial.

We must therefore ask the question: Are our corporations well adapted to the present social trends? To do so, one must draw a clear distinction between present professional organization and the notion of corporation as expounded in the social doctrine of the Church as well as that elaborated by the militants of « corporatism » in our country during the thirties. In « Quadragesimo Anno » when Pius XI talked about corporation, he chiefly referred to the natural groups of individuals or enterprises representing the different sectors of economic activity, a notion that implies by far more than only one trade or profession. It is a similar idea that has been developped and advocated by our militants of the corporative action in the thirties. But such a model has never been implemented in our social context, whether it be in Canada or anywhere else. However, the idea itself has made a long way in the mind of social thinkers so that in the years following the promulgation of « Quadragesimo Anno » a large number of professional structures have been erected in our « milieu ». These new organizations are not, for the most part, strictly liberal professions. They represent rather but a kind or another of professional organization than true corporative institutions. These new « corporations » and to a growing degree, the old ones, because of an ever growing specialization and complexity of our economic and social structures, do not any longer comply with the full and exact notion of the corporation in the sense of the modern « neo-corporatism » as elaborated in the social doctrine of the Church during the thirties. Here lies the first ambiguity.

Under the present regime of employer-employee relations, a duality of status exists between workers and employers. Accordingly, within any « corporation », members of the same sector of activity must be represented according to their function and status on the labor market. Our «professional corporations » are no longer what they used to be and are no longer consistent with the model of the thirties whatever they still claim so. If a society overlooks such an evolution the consequences are that social maladaptation takes place and becomes a source of ambiguities and problems for the whole community. It would be worth mentioning some in this paper.


If we consider the problems from the industrial relations standpoint, we notice that, very often, most of our present professional corporations are looked upon as being the only and possible form of trade organization. From this assumption, corporations are given a monopoly of representation excluding the other types of professional association, whilst the differences of status and function on the labor market irresistibly calls for other types of association such as trade-unionism, as far as wage earners are concerned, for instance. The corporation, precisely because of the monopoly of representation it exerts towards its members, whatever be their status and function inside the profession, is not empowered to take care of the interests of its salaried members, when their own employers are also represented in, and often participate to the direction of the corporation. There is an incompatibility of responsibility, because the corporation cannot be judge and party at the same time. This has been decided by our Labour Relations Board: in order to be entitled to represent its salaried members in the process of collective bargaining, an association must be one in which entrance is voluntary. Clearly a « corporation » does not comply with this rule. A large number of our professionals are then deprived of all protection as far as the promotion of their own interests are concerned on the labor market. Consequently, we must not be surprised that trade unionism be so antagonistic to the creation of new corporations as long as our laws on labor are not radically changed on this matter.

The new corporations are also inclined to substitute the corporative form of association to the trade-union one because very often, trade-unionism is looked upon by their members as being unworthy of, and unadapted to, the « professional » status. The net result of such a way of thinking is that, instead of accepting trade-unionism as a normal form of association for their salaried members, new « professions » constitute themselves into « corporations » leading to monolithism and conflict of jurisdiction with already established corporations. So, the creation of many new « corporations » opens the way to political pressures and opportunism and lack of true professional representation.


As to the relations between corporations and universities, it is imperative to think over these relations in connection with the scientific progress actually made in the different disciplines taught in our universities and professionelly controlled by the corporations. Universities must remain free to assume the academic and scientific formation of the students entrusted to them. A corporation should limit its action to advise universities on the professional side of the curriculum, the needs of the practice and the control of practicing members as to ethics and skill.

Concerning a certain number of new disciplines, including the social sciences, there is a danger that corporations having full corporate status be prematurely established amongs the specialists of these disciplines. These sciences are still loosely delimited and in complete evolution; the establishment of too rigid an organization would imperil the dynamism necessary to their normal evolution.


In the present society, a system of completely autonomous corporations is unthinkable and retrograd. An irreversible socialization of the professions is taking place. Social interdependance is growing so much in our modern societies, that the use of particular rights is becoming more and more subject to the sanctions of the general rule of law, of which the State is the depositary. We can no longer need to have « states in the State », because of the ever growing role of public authorities in socio-economic matters, and its obligations to safeguard a balance of power between particular interests. No social group escape the consequence of such an evolution. Professional « corporations » are not here in a priviledged situation: they must also face the situation.


These few thoughts are only made to tackle some problems which confront the corporations to-day. Solutions are to be found; to do so, professional corporations must accept social changes. If they do so and adapt themselves in consequence, their place and functions, once re-evaluated appear to be most precious in the edification of a renewed professional organization, no longer conceived in terms of arbitrary and monolithic structures, but based on a free cooperation of the facing groups, using the actual institutions under the democratic control of the State.