Health in Canada
Hon. Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of Health
Every day, Canadians rely on our health care system to provide high quality care based on need, rather than the ability to pay.
As Minister of Health, I am committed to maintaining the basic tenets of universal, publicly funded health care.
Health Canada is the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, while respecting individual choices and circumstances. As a regulator, Health Canada is responsible for governing the safety of products including food, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, natural health products, consumer products, chemicals, radiation emitting devices, cosmetics and pesticides. We also regulate tobacco products and controlled substances, public health on aircraft, ships and other passenger conveyances, and help manage the health risks posed by environmental factors such as air, water, radiation and contaminants.
The department is also a service provider. The federal government has provided basic health services to First Nations since 1904. Today, Health Canada provides basic primary care services in approximately 200 remote First Nations communities, home and community care in 600 First Nations communities, support for health promotion programs in Inuit communities across four regions and a limited range of medically-necessary health-related goods and services not insured by private or other public health insurance plans to eligible First Nations and Inuit.
We also fund or deliver community-based health programs and public health activities to First Nations and Inuit. These activities promote health, prevent chronic disease and address issues such as substance abuse and the spread of infectious diseases.
Health Canada is a catalyst for innovation, a funder, and an information provider in Canada’s health system. It works closely with provincial and territorial governments to develop national approaches on health system issues and promotes the panCanadian adoption of best practices. It administers the Canada Health Act, which embodies national principles to ensure a universal and equitable publicly-funded health care system. It provides policy support for the federal government’s Canada Health Transfer to provinces and territories, and provides funding through grants and contributions to various organisations to help meet Health Canada’s objectives.
The department draws on leading-edge science and policy research to generate and share knowledge and information to support decision-making by Canadians, development and implementation of regulations and standards, and health innovation.
Our system serves Canadians well, but it needs to adapt to the challenges of an ageing society, rapid technological change, and fiscal realities. Through the Public Health Agency of Canada, we are committed to improving the health of Canadians and reducing the burden of disease. We work with our federal, provincial, territorial and nongovernmental health partners on knowledge generation and analysis. This is supported by research, surveillance and reaching out to the public health community and the Canadian public with appropriate disease risk identification, assessment, communication and education. Individuals can make healthier choices in their everyday lives to reduce their risks, but we all have a role to play – all levels of government, communities, researchers, the non-profit sector and the private sector need to do their part in promoting health and preventing diseases.
As Minister of Health, I believe that prevention and health promotion can improve quality of life in the long term and help keep health care costs down. The Department is committed to meeting the challenges of tomorrow by supporting research and fostering partnerships with researchers around the world.
We work collaboratively with the provinces and territories to test ways in which the Canadian health care system can be improved and to ensure its sustainability for the future.
The second largest country in the world, Canada comprises the northern half of the North American continent, bordering with the USA to the south and north-west (Alaska). Three oceans bound it:
the Pacific to the west; the Arctic to the north; and the Atlantic to the east. Indented shores and numerous islands (some very large) give it the longest coastline of any country at 202,100 km. Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island is 768 km from the North Pole.
Canada is a federation of ten provinces and three territories. The provinces (and provincial capitals) are: Alberta (Edmonton), British Columbia (Victoria), Manitoba (Winnipeg), New Brunswick (Fredericton), Newfoundland and Labrador (St John’s), Nova Scotia (Halifax), Ontario (Toronto), Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown), Québec (Québec), Saskatchewan (Regina); and the territories (and capitals): Northwest Territories (Yellowknife), Nunavut (Iqaluit) and Yukon (Whitehorse). Nunavut was formed in April 1999 – from the eastern and central parts of the Northwest Territories – as a semiautonomous region for the Inuit people.
The Arctic region, finally, consists of hundreds of islands, covering an area of 2,800 km by 1,800 km and reaching to Canada’s northern tip.
In the High Arctic, temperatures rise above freezing for only a few weeks in July and August. The boreal forest area is snow-bound for more than half the year and precipitation is light, except along the Labrador coast.
The eastern Atlantic region has changeable winter temperatures and heavy snowfall. Fog is common, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador. July and August temperatures are 16-18°C. Winter also brings heavy snowfalls to the Great Lakes-St Lawrence region;
but summer temperatures average almost 20°C, with heat waves.
The prairies have cold winters and hot summers, with rapid air flow bringing dramatic weather changes. Annual average precipitation in southern Saskatchewan is less than 350 mm, compared with 1,110 mm in Vancouver, to the west.
The coast of British Columbia has the most temperate climate in Canada.
The most significant environmental issues are damage to forests and lakes by acid rain, and contamination of oceans by waste and run-off from agriculture, industry and mining.
34,838,000 (2012); population density is among the lowest in the world, but large areas are climatically hostile – 85 per cent of Canadians live within 350 km of the US border. Some 81 per cent of people live in urban areas and 44 per cent in urban agglomerations of more than one million people. The population growth rate stood at 1.0 per cent p.a. between the years of 1990-2012. In 2012 the birth rate was 11 per 1,000 people (17 in 1970) and life expectancy was 81 years (73 in 1970).
The 2001 census found that about 48 per cent of people were of British or Irish origin, 16 per cent of French origin, nine per cent German, 4.3 per cent Italian, 3.7 per cent Chinese, 3.6 per cent Ukrainian and 3.4 per cent Native American. More than 200,000 immigrants arrive each year from more than 150 countries. The provinces with the largest populations are Ontario (11.4 million; 38 per cent of the total), Québec (7.2 million; 24 per cent) and British Columbia (3.9 million; 13 per cent).
Canada is classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank.
Joined Commonwealth: 1931 (Statute of Westminster)
Population: 34,838,000 (2012)
GDP per capita growth: 1.3% p.a. 1990–2012
GNI per capita: $50,970 (2012)
UN HDI 2012 ranking: 11 out of 186 countries
Life expectancy: 81 (2012)
Under-five mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 5 (2012)
Largest contribution to mortality: Non-communicable diseases
Government health expenditure: 7% of GDP (2010)