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Health & Safety

Canada’s Health Care System: Quick Overview

Health Canada

Canada has a predominantly publicly financed health care system. Our national health insurance program is achieved through thirteen interlocking provincial and territorial health insurance plans, linked through adherence to national principles set at the federal level.

The aim of the Canada Health Act is to ensure that all eligible residents of Canada have  reasonable access to medically necessary insured services on a prepaid basis, without direct charges at the point of service.

A shared responsibility

The federal government is responsible for:

  • setting and administering national principles or standards for the health care system;
  • assisting in the financing of provincial health care services;
  • delivering direct health services to specific groups including veterans, native Canadians, persons living on reserves, military personnel, inmates of federal penitentiaries and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and
  • fulfilling other health-related functions such as health protection, disease prevention, and health promotion.

The provincial and territorial governments are responsible for:

  • managing and delivering insured health services;
  • planning, financing, and evaluating the provision of hospital care, physician and allied health care services, and
  • managing some aspects of prescription care and public health.

Health Care Services Covered by Canada’s Medicare Program

There are two groups of services covered by the Canada Health Act :

  • Insured health care services—are medically necessary hospital services, physician services and surgical-dental services provided to insured persons.
  • Insured hospital services—include medically necessary in-patient and outpatient services such as standard or public ward accommodation, nursing services, diagnostic procedures such as blood tests and X-rays, drugs administered in hospital, and the use of operating rooms, case rooms and anaesthetic facilities.
  • Insured physician services—are generally determined by physicians in conjunction with their provincial and territorial health insurance plans.
  • Insured surgical-dental services—are services provided by a dentist in a hospital, where a hospital setting is required to properly perform the procedure.
  • Extended health care services—are certain aspects of long-term residential care (nursing home intermediate care and adult residential care services), and the health aspects of home care and ambulatory care services.

Some Rights Related to Health and Safety Standards

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) 

What are general responsibilities of governments?

General responsibilities of governments for occupational health and safety include:

  • enforcement of occupational health and safety legislation
  • workplace inspections
  • dissemination of information
  • promotion of training, education and research
  • resolution of Occupational Health and Safety disputes

What are the employees rights and responsibilities?

Employees responsibilities include the following:

  • responsibility to work in compliance with Occupational Health and Safety acts and regulations
  • responsibility to use personal protective equipment and clothing as directed by the employer
  • responsibility to report workplace hazards and dangers
  • responsibility to work in a manner as required by the employer and use the prescribed safety equipment

Employees have the following three basic rights:

  • right to refuse unsafe work
  • right to participate in the workplace health and safety activities through Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or as a worker health and safety representative
  • right to know, or the right to be informed about actual and potential dangers in the workplace

What are the supervisor’s responsibilities?

As a supervisor, he or she:

  • must ensure that workers use prescribed protective equipment devices
  • must advise workers of potential and actual hazards
  • must take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances for the protection of workers

What are the employer’s responsibilities?

An employer must:

  • establish and maintain a Joint Health and Safety Committee, or cause workers to select at least one health and safety representative
  • take every reasonable precaution to ensure the workplace is safe
  • train employees about any potential hazards and in how to safely use, handle, store and dispose of hazardous substances and how to handle emergencies
  • supply personal protective equipment and ensure workers know how to use the equipment safely and properly
  • immediately report all critical injuries to the government department responsible for Occupational Health and Safety
  • appoint a competent supervisor who sets the standards for performance, and who ensures that safe working conditions are always observed

Human Rights Information in Canada

Equitas, formerly the Canadian Human Rights Foundation, is a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the defence and promotion of human rights through education, in Canada and around the world. Visit its web site ( to get information on programs, publications, and various activities.

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is against the law for any employer or provider of a service that falls within federal jurisdiction to discriminate on the basis of:

  • Race
  • National or ethnic origin
  • Colour
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Sex (including pregnancy and childbearing)
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Physical or mental disability (including dependence on alcohol or drugs)
  • Pardoned criminal conviction

The Canadian Human Rights Commission tries to resolve complaints of discrimination filed against federally regulated employers, unions and service providers. If a complaint cannot be resolved, the Commission may investigate the case further, and may ultimately request that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hear the case.