Every discipline that has relatively autonomous control over its entry requirements, training, development of knowledge, standards, methods, and practices does so only within the context of contract with the society in which it functions. This social contract is based on attitudes of mutual respect and trust, with society granting support for the autonomy of a discipline in exchange for a commitment by the discipline to do everything it can to assure that its members act ethically in conducting the affairs of the discipline within society; in particular, a commitment to try to assure that each member will place the welfare of the society and individual members of that society above the welfare of the discipline and its own members. By virtue of this social contract, psychologists have a higher duty of care to members of society than the general duty of care that all members of society have to each other.

The Canadian Psychological Association recognizes its responsibility to help assure ethical behaviour and attitudes on the part of psychologists. Attempts to assure ethical behaviour and attitudes include articulating ethical principles, values, and standards; promoting those principles, values, and standards through education, peer modelling, and consultation; developing and implementing methods to help psychologists monitor the ethics of their behaviour and attitudes; adjudicating complaints of unethical behaviour; and, taking corrective action when warranted.

This Code articulates ethical principles, values, and standards to guide all members of the Canadian Psychological Association, whether scientists, practitioners, or scientist practitioners, or whether acting in a research, direct service, teaching, student, trainee, administrative, management, employer, employee, supervisory, consultative, peer review, editorial, expert witness, social policy, or any other role related to the discipline of psychology.


Request for Comment

Consistent with the commitment of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) to regularly review and update the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists, the Association’s Committee on Ethics has developed a draft revision following an extensive review process. Comments on the draft revision are now being invited and would be very much appreciated. The deadline for comments is 25 May 2015. Please send all comments by email to ethicscttee@cpa.ca, or by surface mail to:

Chair, Committee on Ethics
Canadian Psychological Association
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 702
Ottawa, ON K1P 5J3

Background information and a link to the draft revision can be found below. A line-by-line comparison of the draft revision with the 2000 Code (showing tracked changes) for those wishing to have that level of detail for comment purposes is also provided below.


The Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists was first adopted by the Canadian Psychological Association in 1986, with revisions in 1991 and 2000. A review of the 2000 Code was begun by CPA’s Committee on Ethics in 2010. The review process included:

  1. review of all comments/inquiries regarding the Code since 2000;
  2. review of international and interdisciplinary ethics literature since 2000, with identification of new issues, areas of activity, and events related to ethics; and
  3. two rounds of consultations with CPA members, Canadian psychology organizations, and Canadian university psychology programs.

The rounds of consultations indicated strong endorsement of the following features of the Code:

  1. its emphasis on ethical decision making, including provision of a model for decision making
  2. the aspirational and flexible nature of the Code;
  3. the four ethical principles and the organization of the Code around these principles; and
  4. the ordering of the principles.

However, four broad themes appeared in the consultation responses regarding what needed to be added, updated, or enhanced:

  1. personal and cultural influences on ethical decision making;
  2. increased use of electronic and digital technologies;
  3. increased collaborative/interdisciplinary relationships and methods; and
  4. increased emphasis on diversity and the impact of globalization.

Some of the major changes made in the Draft Revision in response to the above review activities include:

  1. More emphasis on the role of virtue, character, emotional reactions, and personal background on ethical decision making.
  2. Increased reference to and examples of the use of electronic and digital technologies, collaborative and interdisciplinary activities, and attention to diversity.
  3. Incorporation of the concept of “peoples” throughout the Code, including adding it to the name of Principle I. (See Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles for Psychologists, ratified by CPA in 2008.)
  4. Clarification of the role of cultural differences in dual/multiple relationships.
  5. Updates consistent with changes to the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.
  6. Updates to the Code’s section on “Care of Animals” (Principle II) consistent with the thinking reflected in recent national and international documents on this topic.
  7. Updated definitions, including some related to differentiation between types of clients.

As with all previous drafts versions of the Code over the years, comments are welcome from individuals or groups, from psychologists or members of other disciplines, and from members of the public.

Links to Draft Revision