Health Canada
Santé Canada
Health Canada logo.gif
Department overview
TypeDepartment responsible for federal health policy in Canada
Employees11,223 (March 2020)[1]
Annual budget$3.9 billion (2021–22)[2]
Ministers responsible
Department executives
  • Dr. Stephen Lucas, Deputy Minister
  • Dr. Harpreet S. Kochhar, Associate Deputy Minister

Health Canada (HC; French: Santé Canada, SC)[NB 1] is the department of the Government of Canada responsible for national health policy. The department itself is also responsible for numerous federal health-related agencies, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), among others. These organizations help to ensure compliance with federal law in a variety of healthcare, agricultural, and pharmaceutical activities. This responsibility also involves extensive collaboration with various other federal- and provincial-level organizations in order to ensure the safety of food, health, and pharmaceutical products—including the regulation of health research and pharmaceutical manufacturing/testing facilities.

The department is responsible to Parliament through the minister of health—presently Jean-Yves Duclos—as part of the federal health portfolio.[3] The minister is assisted by the associate minister of health, and minister of mental health and addictions—presently Carolyn Bennett. The deputy minister of health, the senior most civil servant within the department, is responsible for the day-to-day leadership and operations of the department and reports directly to the minister.

Originally created as the "Department of Health" in 1919—in the wake of the Spanish flu crisis[4]—what is known as Health Canada today was formed in 1993 from the former Health and Welfare Canada department (established in 1944), which split into two separate units; the other department being Human Resources and Labour Canada.[5]


Health Canada's leadership consists of:[6]


The following branches, offices, and bureaus (and their respective services) fall under the jurisdiction of Health Canada:[6]

Partner agencies

In their responsible of maintaining and improving the health of Canadians, the Minister of Health is supported by the Health Portfolio, which comprises Health Canada as well as:

International collaboration

In December 2016, Health Canada approved the purchase of a new botulism antitoxin called heptavalent botulism antitoxin (BAT) from the American-based company Emergent Biosolutions, a global specialty biopharmaceutical company. The PHAC has identified botulism as a likely biological terrorist threat.[7]

Labs and offices



Compliance and Enforcement Directorate

The Compliance and Enforcement Directorate provides support to Health Canada by enforcing the laws and regulations pertaining to the production, distribution, importation, sale, and/or use of consumer products, including but not limited to: tobacco, pest control materials, drugs and medical devices, biologics, and natural health products.

The Directorate conducts inspections and investigations to ensure that products are safe, of good quality, and properly labelled and distributed, in order to better protect Canadians from potentially harmful products and consumables.

Compliance and Enforcement Directorate is divided into six distinct programs:[8]

Related legislation

Acts for which Health Canada has total or partial responsibility:[9]

Acts which Health Canada is involved or has special interest in:

Special access program

Health Canada has a special access program that health care providers may use to request medications that are not currently commercially available in Canada.[10]

COVID-19 response

The chief medical advisor of Health Canada, Supriya Sharma,[11][12] as of April 2021, oversees the COVID-19 vaccine approval process in Canada.[11][13] On 29 March 2021, Sharma supported the National Advisory Committee on Immunization's declaration of a pause for the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canadians under the age of 55.[12][14]


An editorial published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal has called for Health Canada to more strictly regulate natural health products. The editorial cited weaknesses in current legislation that allow natural health products to make baseless health claims, to neglect side-effects research prior to products reaching market, and to be sold without being evaluated by Health Canada.[15]

On 10 September 2012, a report on CBC television questioned the safety of drugs sold in North America.[16] The Brandon Sun reported that Health Canada is secretive about inspections about drugs manufactured overseas, leaving the public unsure about the safety of these drugs.[17]

Drug approvals process

Health Canada aims to provide responses to pharmaceutical innovators within 300 days of submitting a drug for review. However, for submissions filed between 2015 and 2019, only 33 percent received a response within that target. Fully 18 percent waited over a year, and almost 5 percent over two years. The average delay for a standard review was 335 days. Health Canada’s accelerated pathway for approval dubbed “conditional compliance” reduces its target timeline to 200 days, but its actual average delay was still 302 days, and only 8 percent of applicants received responses within the 200-day target.[18]

It has been suggested that government entities should make use of rolling submissions, as was done for COVID-19 vaccines, to proceed with the examination of partially complete submissions and accept new information as it becomes available, and also that drugs already approved in other jurisdictions should be approved more rapidly to avoid redundancy.[18]

See also

International counterparts


  1. ^ Health Canada is the applied title under the Federal Identity Program; the legal title is Department of Health (French: Ministère de la Santé).


  1. ^ "GC InfoBase". Retrieved Mar 5, 2021.
  2. ^ "GC InfoBase". Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  3. ^ "Health Portfolio". Government of Canada (2017). Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  4. ^ "Influenza, 1918-1919 | Canada and the First World War". Canadian War Museum. Canadian Heritage. 2017 [2008]. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  5. ^ Cheung-gertler, Jasmin H. (2014) [2008]. "Health Canada". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Health Canada's organizational structure". Health Canada. Government of Canada. 15 April 2020. Archived from the original on 2010-10-16. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Emergent BioSolutions Receives Health Canada Approval for Botulism Antitoxin". Yahoo Finance. 2016-12-12. Archived from the original on 2017-01-13. Retrieved 2017-01-11.
  8. ^ Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-05-19. Retrieved 2007-04-15.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Canada, Health (23 December 2002). "Health Canada's special access programs: Request a drug". Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  11. ^ a b Rabson, Mia (March 28, 2021). "'Unprecedented': How Canada approved five vaccines for COVID-19 in under a year". The Canadian Press. The National Post. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  12. ^ a b Cochrane, David; Tasker, John Paul (29 March 2021). "Immunization committee to recommend provinces stop giving AstraZeneca vaccine to those under 55: sources". CBC.
  13. ^ Ritchot, Mélanie (23 December 2020). "Nunavut to get 6,000 doses of Moderna vaccine in first shipment". Nortext Publishing Corporation (Iqaluit). Nunavut News.
  14. ^ Gillies, Rob (29 March 2021). "Canada pauses AstraZeneca vaccine for under 55". Chicago Daily Herald. Associated Press.
  15. ^ Gauntlet Editorial Board. "Editorial: Mis-informed consent". Editorial. The Gauntlet. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-03-29. Retrieved 2012-09-11.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Americamp=rss
  17. ^[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ a b Post, Special to Financial (2021-06-16). "Opinion: Let's have permanently quicker drug approvals". Financial Post. Retrieved 2021-10-18.