Interpretation Policy

An interpretation policy is an overarching document that outlines the commitments, practices, and tools to be applied by a department or agency when providing Canadians and businesses with information and guidance on regulatory obligations to be met. It also identifies the conditions under which written responses to questions will be provided.

Departmental/Agency Context

Health Canada is the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, while respecting individual choices and circumstances. Health Canada will endeavour to provide information to assist stakeholders' understanding of their regulatory requirements. The following describes the Department's commitments in the areas of Predictability, Service, Stakeholder Engagement and Improvement.


Plain Language Commitment

  • Health Canada commits to providing guidance in plain languageFootnote 1 to the fullest extent possible.
  • Health Canada has developed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for their most accessed Regulations and is committed to the publication of FAQs for all new or amended regulations that have business impacts.

Providing Guidance and Building Awareness

  • Health Canada communicates regularly with its stakeholders through a variety of means to facilitate the development of guidance documentation, and more broadly to ensure awareness of regulatory compliance requirements. Guidance documents and other relevant information can be accessed on the Health Canada website. Information related to the Health Products and Food Regulatory Modernization and Health Canada's Regulatory Transparency and Openness Framework, are also available on the Health Canada website.

Responding to Questions

  • Health Canada responds to enquiries by stakeholders in a clear, consistent, and professional mannerFootnote 2,Footnote 3, in the official language of their choice and the form that enquiries are made, whether orally or in writing, or as appropriate. Recurring enquiries are responded to through written FAQs.
  • Health Canada commits to responding to enquiries in a timely manner. Service standards with respect to timeliness vary across the Department depending on the volume of enquiries a Program receives and the complexity of the enquiry itself. For example, the Food and Drugs Act Liaison Office strives to acknowledge receipt of all mail or toll-free line enquiries within 24 hours. Within a week of receiving the initial enquiry, the Office then examines the nature of the request and communicates the approximate time frame it will take to respond.
  • Health Canada does not provide legal advice about how specific regulations may apply to particular circumstances.

Service Commitment

  • Health Canada commits to excellence in service when dealing with all stakeholders, by providing professional, courteous and respectful service.

Service Accountability

  • Health Canada will address concerns raised by stakeholders related to their understanding of regulatory requirements through existing feedback or complaints processes. For example, the Food and Drugs Act Liaison Office serves to improve relations between external stakeholders and representatives of Health Canada, as well as to increase openness and transparency in the regulatory process.

Staff Training

  • Health Canada commits to ensuring that staff responding to enquiries have the necessary skills and technical knowledge to provide quality service and accurate information on regulatory requirements.

Stakeholder Engagement

Commitment to Stakeholder Engagement

  • Health Canada commits to engaging stakeholders, as appropriate, when developing, reviewing and/or refining practices and materials for providing information and guidance on regulatory compliance and answering questions.

Stakeholder Engagement Mechanisms

  • Health Canada communicates regularly with its stakeholders through a variety of means in the regulatory development process. For example, consultation opportunities may be found on the Consulting with Canadians website and also on the Health Canada Forward Regulatory Plan. Health Canada also leverages public involvement through the use of its Advisory Committees that advise the department in various ways.


  • Health Canada has assessed its currently interpretation practices, and, with its stakeholders, has identified several areas of improvement.
  • Health Canada will implement these improvements over the next two years and will update Canadians progress annually until March 31, 2017.
  • Performance metrics are to include progress against, or completion of, these areas of improvement.

Existing Government of Canada policy frameworks support the above policy and should be read in conjunction with those policies footnoted.

Related Reports

For More Information

To learn about upcoming or ongoing consultations on proposed federal regulations, visit the  Canada Gazette and  Consulting with Canadians websites.

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