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 (Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada Food Inspection Agency, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research), other federal departments and agencies, non-governmental organizations, other countries, Indigenous partners and the private sector.

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 - they 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 after 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 operates in a complex and dynamic environment, facing several challenges as it works to deliver results for Canadians. Many of these challenges - such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid overdose crisis - are beyond the sole control of the Department and involve working collaboratively with federal partners, provinces and territories, Indigenous organizations, industry and international regulators.

COVID-19 continues to challenge Canadians and health systems across the country, adding pressure on health care resources. The pandemic increased the demand and urgency for health care products, and organizations across the country, including Health Canada, had to adapt to working virtually to deliver services. As the pandemic evolves rapidly, Health Canada continues to mobilize and leverage every resource and implement innovative methods to deliver on its mandate and minimize the long-lasting impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians' health and safety.

This has prompted the Department to reimagine the way it delivers results to Canadians, such as implementing innovative and agile regulatory measures to deliver vaccines, treatments and therapies; adopting new technologies for collaboration and remote work; and, introducing comprehensive strategies to protect public servants' mental health and wellness during this challenging time. Health Canada will continue to adapt approaches to ensure organizational resilience and agility in this rapidly changing context.

Canada's public health care systems were designed more than half a century ago. All levels of government are aware of the requirement to adjust to the changing needs and expectations of Canadians, 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.

Health Canada has a well-established risk management process that enables the Department to respond proactively to change and uncertainty by understanding and monitoring its operating environment and the factors that drive risks.

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