Learn about health care in Canada
Canada’s health care system is unique. In this section, we explain how Canada’s health care system works and highlight some useful resources for newcomers.
Get information during national health emergencies
During national health emergencies, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) provides information and guidance in multiple languages.
This video is also available in HD on YouTube.
Transcript: “Get to know Canada’s health care system”
Video length: 4 minutes, 6 seconds
Soft piano music playing in the background. Photos of smiling people of various ages and races forming a collage. The title "Get to Know Canada's Health Care System" appearing in a banner across the centre of the screen. Illustrated icons of medical symbols in a honeycomb pattern sliding into the corners. Diagonal split-screen footage of Parliament Hill and a young woman running across a grassy field at sunrise, holding the Canadian flag as a cape.
Narrator: Canada is a welcoming, inclusive country with lots of opportunities.
Scenes of a woman holding her luggage and a young girl's hand as they walk through an airport, the girl playing with a pink toy airplane, and 2 young women smiling as they watch something on a cell phone while relaxing on a sofa.
Narrator: As you begin your life here, it's important to know that all Canadians are entitled access to health care services.
A video of a masked pregnant woman lying on a bed in a medical office looking over at imaging on a screen as a technician performs an ultrasound.
Narrator: But there are a few things about health care you should know.
An animated map of Canada, with each province and territory labelled and filled in with a shade of blue, green or yellow.
Narrator: Each province or territory has its own health care plan, paid for through taxes.
Video montage of scenes featuring people of various ages and backgrounds: A woman smiling down at a young girl sitting on a table in an exam room as a doctor sits smiling at them; a diagonal split-screen of a woman receiving an eye exam and a close-up of a pair of hands inspecting glasses on display; a dentist inspecting a woman's teeth with a dental mirror; shelves lined with medications in a pharmacy; an ambulance light flashing.
Narrator: These plans cover basic medical care, but they usually do not pay for eye care or glasses, dental care, prescription medicines, or ambulance services.
Video footage of an administrator filling out a form as she chats with a man sitting next to her desk.
Narrator: When you arrive in Canada, contact a local settlement organization. They can provide information and services to support you and your family as you get settled.
A shot of a couple lifting a toddler by the arms in front of a large apartment window.
Narrator: One of the first things they'll help you do is apply for a health card.
A close-up of a hand filling out a form with a pen, with a banner appearing at the bottom of the screen with the words “Apply for a health card” and illustrated icons of medical symbols in a honeycomb pattern sliding into the corner of the screen and the edges of the banner. A diagonal split-screen of health cards from various provinces and the same close-up of a hand filling out a form. Footage of a woman scanning a laptop screen as she reads.
Narrator: It may take up to 3 months for your health coverage to start.
Scenes depicting an individual opening a mailbox, a man helping a toddler build train tracks on the floor of a home, and a woman searching for health insurance on a laptop.
Narrator: It's a good idea to buy private insurance while you wait for your government coverage to begin. There are plenty of low-cost insurers to choose from.
Footage of a masked couple walking out of an airport holding hands, where the man is carrying a young boy, and a close-up of an adult and child holding hands as they walk behind several people.
Narrator: If you came to Canada as a refugee, refugee claimant, or protected person, you may be covered by the Interim Federal Health Program.
A honeycomb pattern sliding across the screen with the words “Interim Federal Health Program” appearing on a banner in the centre. A video of a pharmacist speaking to a man and woman, then holding up a bottle of medication.
Narrator: This program provides temporary coverage of some health services and prescription drugs.
Shots of a pair of hands unzipping a wallet filled with cards, and a smiling doctor taking notes as she sits across a table from a man with a little boy sitting on his lap.
Narrator: When you get your health card, always carry it with you. You'll need it to see a doctor or get hospital care.
A 3D rendering of a map of Canada from above with a flag planted in Nunavut. A banner at the bottom shows the words “English / French”.
Narrator: Don't forget that Canada has 2 official languages: English and French.
Footage of passengers getting on and off a light-rail train. Aerial views of a red and white lighthouse on a rocky coast, and a mountain valley community.
Narrator: Depending on where you live, health care services may be available in both official languages, but this varies across the country.
Footage of a woman in a wheelchair working on a laptop, another woman speaking on a cell phone, and a doctor listening to a boy's chest with a stethoscope as the boy sits on a woman's lap.
Narrator: If you have trouble finding a family doctor, your settlement service provider may be able to direct you to a local walk-in clinic.
A view of a large blue sign with a white "H" at the top of a brown brick building. Footage of 2 parked ambulances, one with its lights flashing, a medical team rushing a patient on a gurney through a hospital corridor, and surgeons performing an operation.
Narrator: In Canada, hospitals give priority to people in need of emergency care. For example, patients suffering from heart attacks, strokes, heavy bleeding, or broken bones are treated first.
A video of a woman sitting on a bed next to a man and rubbing his shoulders.
Narrator: Mental health is an important part of our overall health and well-being.
Video montage of scenes: A woman lying on the grass laughing as she holds the hands of a toddler boy who is on her back, another woman gripping her head as she sits crouched next to a window in a dark room, and a third woman chatting with a doctor on a video call on a laptop.
Narrator: If you or a family member needs help for your mental or physical health, see your doctor.
Blurred footage of a man and a woman standing in front of a window, where the man is shouting and waving his hands at the woman, who then turns away.
Narrator: And if you're experiencing family or gender-based violence, or know someone who is, go to a walk-in clinic or see your doctor. You'll be able to talk about it privately.
Close-ups of a doctor writing in a notebook with a stethoscope resting on it, a finger tapping 9-1-1 on a cell phone screen, and an elderly couple grinning as they dote on a baby girl sitting between them on a couch.
Narrator: Always call 911 if someone is in immediate danger or there's an emergency. Your safety and the safety of people around you are always the first priority.
Animations of white lines connecting dots to create cells in a honeycomb pattern, with medical symbols inside each cell, and a banner with the words “Public Health Agency of Canada” appearing across the centre of the screen.
Narrator: The Public Health Agency of Canada provides information during health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Footage of a couple watching news coverage of the pandemic on TV then looking over a document while sitting in front of a laptop.
Narrator: You can also find helpful health information on how to protect yourself and others on your province's or territory's health care website.
A view of the Ministry of Health website on a laptop screen.
Narrator: It's important to be up to date on all vaccines.
Footage of a masked woman being vaccinated in a doctor's office, and a health practitioner preparing an injection as a young girl sits waiting.
Narrator: They protect you from serious diseases.
Videos of a woman with a toddler on her lap listening to a doctor on a laptop screen, and another woman sitting on a sofa with a school-aged girl and chatting with a doctor who is taking notes.
Narrator: Ask your doctor which vaccines you or your family need. You may also need to provide a vaccine record to register your child for school.
A split-screen of 4 scenes: A man and boy waving a Canadian flag; a group of 4 friends laughing as they sit crowded on a couch; a couple smiling and holding a little boy with weights in his hands; another couple and a young girl waving at the camera.
Narrator: As Canadians, we're proud of our health care system.
Animations of white lines connecting dots to create cells in a honeycomb pattern, with medical symbols inside each cell, and a banner with the words “Canada.ca/newcomers-healthcare” appearing across the centre of the screen.
Narrator: For more information, visit Canada.ca/newcomers-healthcare.
Background music fading out.
Logo appearing for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Learn how our system works, who can get public health insurance, what’s covered, and how to contact provincial and territorial ministries of health.
Public health insurance is only one of the ways you can get health coverage in Canada. Learn about the other options.
Get help finding a doctor or a dentist, as well as help setting appointments, using a walk-in clinic and if you don’t speak English or French.
Find resources, get help with a crisis, and learn how to manage your mental health and well-being.
Learn tips and common health practices that will help you stay healthy after you get to Canada, including vaccinations, staying active, and getting support during pregnancy.
Get help finding a job, learning English and French, looking for a place to live and more.
Health resources in Canada
- Find information about disease prevention and public health emergencies– Public Health Agency of Canada
- Learn how to improve and maintain your health – Health Canada
- Get resources about food and nutrition – Health Canada
- Stay physically active with tips and support from ParticipACTION - ParticipACTION
- Find a local Community Health Centre – Canadian Association of Community Health Centres
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