Public Health Agency of Canada Interpretation Policy

Interpretation Policy

An interpretation policy 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. It also identifies the conditions under which written responses to questions will be provided.

Agency Context

The Public Health Agency of Canada (the Agency) is committed to helping stakeholders, including applicants and the general public understand what they need to do to comply with legislative and regulatory requirements. This policy was developed to provide information on how compliance guidance is communicated to stakeholders. It applies to:

For more information regarding this legislation and regulations, please read our Frequently Asked Questions.

The Agency also administers certain sections of the Health of Animal Regulations in relation to animal pathogen imports. Enquiries regarding the interpretation of these regulations should be directed to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The Agency will, to the extent possible, endeavour to provide regulated parties information to assist them in understanding the Agency's regulatory requirements. The Agency commits to the following.


  • Plain Language Commitment: Responding to enquiries in plain language; in the form that enquiries are made, whether orally or in writing; or as appropriate.
  • Providing Guidance and Building Awareness: Providing stakeholders with consistent and publicly available information and guidance. This includes guidance provided through online standards, guidelines, and administrative statements of intent.
  • Responding to Questions: Responding to enquiries in a timely manner. Response times can vary depending on the scope of the enquiry. Normally, the Agency responds to 90% of public requests for information regarding regulations made via telephone, e-mail or voice mail within 24 hours of receipt. In cases where the service standards cannot be met because of the complexity of the request, or because additional information is required to provide a response, the stakeholder may normally be informed within the 24 hour period. Responses to posted mail inquires occurs within 5 days of their receipt. Requests for regulatory documentation may take between 48 hours and 20 business days, depending on the complexity of the request. Reoccurring enquiries will be responded to through FAQs.
  • The Agency does not provide legal advice about how particular legislation or regulations may apply to specific circumstances. Where there is a discrepancy between a response to a question and legislation, the legislation prevails.


  • Service Commitment: Providing service excellence including responding to enquiries in a clear, consistent, courteous and professional manner, and in either official language.
  • Service Accountability: Addressing any complaints or issues regarding the interpretation of regulations through feedback and redress mechanisms. Feedback may be communicated as follows:
    • The Human Pathogens and Toxins Act and the Human Pathogens and Toxins Regulations - by e-mail to:; or at: 1-613-957-1779
    • The Potable Water Regulations for Common Carriers - by e-mail at:
    • The Quarantine Act - by e-mail through Contact us or at: 1-800 O Canada
  • Tracking communications through an electronic records system, and committing to using this feedback to improve service and information delivery.
  • Staff Training: Providing training so that Agency representatives have the necessary skills and technical knowledge to provide quality service and accurate guidance. This training includes: familiarization with basic regulatory and associated requirements; service standards and administrative processes; information systems and approvals processes; and, frequently asked questions and answers.

Stakeholder Engagement

  • Commitment to Stakeholder Engagement: Consulting stakeholders when developing, reviewing and/or refining practices and materials for providing information on regulatory compliance.
  • Considering concerns raised by regulated parties during the regulatory and/or policy consultations in the development of final materials.
  • Stakeholder Engagement Mechanisms: Engaging stakeholders through multiple mechanisms including: meetings; conferences; consultations; online material; and newsletters.


  • The Agency has assessed its currently interpretation practices, and, with its stakeholders, has identified several areas of improvement.
  • The Agency will implement these improvements over the next two years until March 31, 2017. Performance will be measured through an annual questionnaire wherein targeted stakeholders will be asked to assess their satisfaction with the Agency's interpretation practices.

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.

Page details

Date modified: