Dating all the way back to approximately 3000 BCE, several civilizations have recognized the healing power of touch, incorporating forms of massage into holistic health practices. Indian Ayurvedic principles included touch to restore the body’s natural equilibrium and self-healing ability, while early Egyptian tomb paintings chronicle individuals being kneaded and massaged by others. And between 800 and 700 BC, physicians in ancient Greece applied massage to athletes to keep their bodies in peak condition before competition - a precursor to modern athletic massage therapy. In Europe between the 17th and 19th centuries, scientists and physicians documented the health benefits of massage, helping to legitimize its inclusion in health practices of the time. However, it wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that North Americans began to acknowledge massage therapy as a powerful science-based, natural complement to modern healthcare. An increased focus on non-invasive holistic healing revitalized interest in massage therapy. In Canada, this trend has inspired a pioneering movement of provincial regulation, a call for a national accreditation body, and the advancement of massage therapy as a respected profession and focus for clinical research.
In 1919, Ontario was the first province to regulate the practice of massage.
In 1935 the scope of massage therapy was further refined and standardized under the Drugless Practitioners Act.
In 1991 the Regulated Health Professions Act was passed and the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario was born - setting a persuasive example for other provinces across the country.
In 1995, shortly after Ontario established a dedicated regulatory body for massage therapists, British Columbia adopted new legislation that recognized massage therapy as a profession in its own right - instead of including it under the Physiotherapy Act of 1946. The College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia was established to standardize both massage college curriculum and professional practice.
In 2002, Newfoundland and Labrador passed the Massage Therapy Act, which in 2005 led to the creation of the College of Massage Therapists of Newfoundland and Labrador.
In 2013, New Brunswick became the most recent province to embrace regulation by forming its own College, and aligning its goals for educational and professional standardization with those of the other participating provinces.
In 2017 the Accreditation Standards for Canadian Massage Therapy Education Programs were introduced, paving the way to accreditation of programs across the country.
Each of the Colleges sets strict standards of professional practice for RMTs, has established quality assurance programs and a code of ethics to protect practitioners and patients, and maintains rigorous standards for massage therapy training. In 2009, each of the three pioneering provinces agreed to mutual recognition, which means that each regulatory College acknowledges the other’s members, and registered massage therapists can travel and work in any of those regions - they need only pass a Jurisprudence exam.
Now that provincial regulation has gained traction, massage therapy stakeholders have set their sights on establishing a national accreditation body. Although participating provinces have worked hard to standardize massage therapist training there remain variations between jurisdictions. The Federation of Massage Therapy Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FOMTRAC) hopes to eliminate these inconsistencies by adopting national accreditation standards for massage therapy education in Canada. In 2013, FOMTRAC commissioned an action plan for achieving this goal, which led to the formation of the Canadian Massage Therapy Counsel for Accreditation (CMTCA). The CMTCA is currently establishing an interprovincial accreditation process that would standardize and improve access to quality education programs across the country. Increasing recognition and a growing emphasis on education and research makes now a very exciting time to join the massage therapy profession! What do you think the future holds for Canadian RMTs?