Raison d'être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d'être

Health Canada regulates specific products and controlled substances and supports innovation and information sharing in Canada's health system to help Canadians maintain and improve their health.

The Minister of Health is responsible for this organization.

Mandate and role

At Health Canada, our role is to help Canadians maintain and improve their health. While the provinces and territories are responsible for delivering health care to the majority of Canadians, the federal government also has a number of key roles and responsibilities in areas that affect health and health care. In addition to working closely with provincial and territorial governments, we also work with partners in the Health Portfolio, other federal departments and agencies, non-governmental organizations, other countries, Indigenous partners and the private sector to help achieve our goal of making Canada one of the healthiest countries in the world.

As a partner in health, Health Canada:

The meals we serve our families, the pesticides farmers put on crops, the herbal remedies, vitamins and drugs in our medicine cabinets, the toys we buy our children – these are all products regulated by Health Canada for safety. Hundreds of new products, with new ingredients and new purposes, are introduced by industry every year in Canada. Health Canada's decisions are made with the best interest of Canadians in mind, whether to approve the safety and quality of new products or to provide advice once they are on the market. Our actions are supported by scientific evidence.

Our Department is committed to upholding the Canada Health Act and protecting our publicly funded health care system, which helps to ensure Canadians have access to quality, universal health care based strictly on their medical needs, not their ability and willingness to pay. We also promote innovation and the use of best practices across Canada.

Health Canada's vision is to help make Canada's population among the healthiest in the world. From coast to coast to coast, Health Canada employees – scientists and researchers, inspectors, doctors and nurses, policy analysts and administrative professionals, and many others – are working to help Canadians maintain and improve their health.

As a regulator, service provider, promoter of innovation, and trusted source of information, we are a partner in health for all Canadians.

For more information on the Department's organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Minister's mandate letter.

Operating context

Health Canada promotes and helps protect the health and safety of Canadians by regulating products such as drugs, medical devices, consumer products and food. Health Canada also supports universally accessible, publicly funded health care for Canadians through stewardship of the Canada Health Act, leadership on emerging issues and collaboration with provinces and territories on health system improvements.

Health Canada operates in a complex and dynamic environment, facing several challenges as it works to deliver results for Canadians. Many of these challenges are beyond the sole control of the Department and involve working collaboratively to find solutions with a range of partners, including stakeholders, the public and various levels of government.

Canada's public health care systems were designed more than half a century ago. All levels of government are aware of the need to adjust to the changing needs and expectations of Canadians; to prepare for emerging challenges such as an aging population and the health impacts of climate change; and to leverage technological advances in support of improving health outcomes and quality of care. As a partner in the national health care system, the Department works closely with provincial and territorial governments and stakeholders to develop national approaches to health systems issues and to promote the pan-Canadian adoption of best practices.

The increased pace of scientific and technological innovation, globalization, and the complexity of the global supply chain challenges the Department's ability to effectively regulate new, innovative and complex products, substances, food and emerging product categories. Given the evolving and expanding nature of the global marketplace, a key area of focus is on creating and strengthening relationships with domestic and international partners in order to leverage cooperation and best practices.

Canadians continue to expect their Government to be more open and transparent and to effectively engage them in decision-making. The provision of credible and timely information is critical to helping Canadians make informed health decisions for themselves and their families. However, the Department is one of many sources of health information for Canadians. The varying scientific quality and accuracy of information available to the general public can hinder the Department's efforts to reach Canadians, but also provides an opportunity for leadership in the provision of high quality, evidence-based health information.

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