Health Care, Disease Control, Crime and Safety in CanadaIf you’re planning an extended visit to Canada in the near future, perhaps to take advantage of an upcoming employment or educational opportunity, you will definitely want to familiarize yourself with some of the health and safety programs available in the country. To help get you up to speed, below we have provided some in-depth information regarding the health care and law enforcement systems in Canada, including the various agencies tasked with delivering these services. We have also included some useful health and safety tips for tourists traveling to Canada, as well as a list of emergency numbers which may come in handy once you arrive in the country.
Health Care in CanadaLike many developed nations around the world, Canada has a national public health care system. The system is governed by Health Canada, the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, while respecting individual choices and circumstances.
Canada Health Care Act of 1984
National, publicly-funded health care in Canada was made possible by the Canada Health Act of 1984, a piece of Canadian legislation aimed at improving access to health care for all Canadian citizens.
Through its language, the Canada Health Act (CHA) lays out the primary objective of Canadian health Care policy, which is “to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”
The CHA sets out a number of criterion and conditions related to insured health services and extended health care services that the provinces and territories must fulfill to receive the full federal cash contribution under the Canada Health Transfer, a means of allocating health care funds to each of the 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada.
The objective of the CHA is to ensure that all eligible residents of Canada have reasonable access to insured health services on a prepaid basis, without direct charges at the point of service for such services.
About Health Canada
According to its mission statement, Health Canada’s goal is for Canada to be among the countries with the healthiest people in the world. To achieve this mission, the Department:
- Stresses high-quality scientific research as the foundation for its work.
- Conducts consistent polls and consultations with Canadians to establish how to best meet their long-term health care needs.
- Communicates information about disease prevention to protect Canadians from preventable risks.
- Urges Canadians to take an energetic role in their health, such as increasing their level of physical activity and eating the proper diet.
The National Health Care System of Canada
Canada’s federal health insurance program, often referred to as “Medicare,” is designed to ensure that all residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services, on a prepaid basis. The principles governing the health care system are symbols of the underlying Canadian values of equity and solidarity.
Although many people may mistakenly think of Canada’s health care system as a single national plan, in reality it is a national program composed of 13 interlocking provincial and territorial health insurance plans, all of which share certain common features and basic standards of coverage.
The roles and responsibilities for Canada’s national health care system are shared between the federal and provincial-territorial governments. CHA, the health insurance legislation governing the system, lays out certain conditions and criteria that must be satisfied by the provincial and territorial health care insurance plans in order for them to qualify for their full share of the federal cash contribution, available under the Canada Health Transfer (CHT). Provincial and territorial governments are tasked with managing, organizing and delivering the various health services for their residents.
The Delivery of Health Care Services in Canada
Primary health care is the foundation of the national health care system in Canada. Primary care is the initial point of contact people have with the system. That contact can be with a doctor, a nurse, another medical professional, or perhaps even through some type of phone or computer-based service.
Generally speaking, primary health care involves providing services, through teams of health care professionals, to individuals, families and communities. It also carries with it a proactive approach to preventing certain health problems and ensuring better management and follow-up once a health problem has occurred. These services are publicly funded from general tax revenues without direct charges to the patient.
After visiting a primary health facility, a patient may be referred to a specialist or to a hospital or long-term care facility for specialized care. The majority of Canadian hospitals are operated by community boards of trustees, voluntary organizations and municipalities. For the most part, health care services provided in long-term institutions are paid for by the provincial and territorial governments, while the fees for room and board are paid for by the individual; in certain cases these payments are also subsidized by the provincial and territorial governments.
Health care services may also be provided within the home and out in the community. Referrals to home care can be made by doctors, hospitals, community agencies, families and potential residents. These types of services, such as specialized nursing care, hospice and adult day care, are provided to people who are wholly or partially incapacitated. Needs are assessed on an individual basis, and services are coordinated to provide continuity of care and comprehensive care.
The provincial and territorial governments also provide coverage to specific groups of people (seniors, children and social assistance recipients) for health services that are not normally covered under the publicly funded health care system. These supplementary health benefits often include prescription drugs, dental care, vision care, medical equipment and appliances (prostheses, wheelchairs, etc.), independent living and the services of allied health professionals, such as podiatrists and chiropractors. The level of coverage varies across the country. Many Canadians have supplemental private insurance coverage through group plans, which covers the cost of these supplementary services.
National Health Care in Canada: Frequently Asked QuestionsWho Is Eligible for Health Care in Canada under the National Health Plan?
As spelled out in the Canada Health Act of 1984, Canada’s national health insurance program is available to all Canadian residents. A resident in Canada is defined as
“An individual legally entitled to be or to remain in Canada who makes his/her home and is ordinarily present in the province, but does not include a tourist, a transient or a visitor to the province.”
Consequently, any permanent resident of one of Canada’s provinces or territories is eligible for health care insurance under the national plan. However, each provincial and territorial government is responsible for determining the minimum residence requirements with regard to an individual’s eligibility.
What Services Are Covered under the National Health Care Plan?
All medically-necessary physician services are covered under Canada’s national health care system. This includes physician services, provided to people on an outpatient basis; as well as hospital services on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Services provided must be medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability.
Are Prescription Medications Covered Under the National Health Plan?
Prescription medications are not typically covered under the National Health Care Plan. Many individuals and families have secondary insurance plans that help cover these costs. Additionally, the provincial and territorial governments may subsidize prescription costs for certain groups (children, seniors, social assistance recipients), funded and delivered on their own terms and conditions.
Are Canadians Happy with the National Health Care System?
In relation to people living in other parts of the world, the residents of Canada seem to be rather satisfied with the National Health Care System. According to the results of a 2011 Gallup Poll, nearly 60 percent of Canadians felt “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their access to health care services. In contrast, when that same question was asked to residents of the United States, only 25 percent of the population felt even remotely “satisfied” with their health care access.
Law Enforcement in CanadaLaw Enforcement in Canada is the responsibility of all three levels of government: federal, provincial/territorial and municipal.
Although the federal government is responsible for criminal law, under the Canadian Constitution Act, each province and territory assumes responsibility for its own policing at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels. In addition, a number of First Nations or native aboriginal communities also administer their own police service.
Law Enforcement in Canada: Federal Law Enforcement
The main arm of Canadian law enforcement at the federal level is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). RCMP is charged with the important task of enforcing the federal statutes in each province and territory, and its forces maintain a heavy presence in each region of Canada. In addition to administering the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the federal government is also responsible for providing many law enforcement support services and training centers, including forensic laboratories, identification services, the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), and the Canadian Police College.
Law Enforcement in Canada: Provincial and Territorial Law Enforcement
Provincial and territorial law enforcement in Canada is responsible for enforcing the Canadian Criminal Code and provincial statutes within areas of a province that are not served by a municipal police service (i.e., rural areas and small towns).
As is the case in the United States, Canada’s jurisdictional police boundaries may, in some cases, overlap. In some areas, for example, provincial police may perform traffic duties on major provincial thoroughfares that pass through municipal jurisdictions. In cases such as these, police jurisdiction is shared.
Most of Canada’s provinces have municipal police forces that enforce criminal laws in those specific cities and towns. Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are the only areas in Canada without municipal police services. Consequently, all local police enforcement is handled by provincial/territorial or First Nation police forces, with assistance provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted police when needed.
In the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador local policing is handled by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, a provincial police service providing law enforcement to the three largest municipalities (St. John’s, Corner Brook, and Labrador City) as well as to Churchill Falls. Newfoundland and Labrador contracts the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to provide law enforcement to the remaining municipalities and the rural areas.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police assists in provincial/territorial law enforcement and community policing services in all provinces and territories except Quebec and Ontario, which maintain their own provincial police services: the Sûreté du Québec and the Ontario Provincial Police, respectively.
In both Ontario and Quebec, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police only provides policing at the federal level. Where a provincial policing contract is granted to the RCMP, the agency automatically takes responsibility for provincial policing powers.
Provinces must reimburse the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when their services are needed. In the provinces and territories where the RCMP are contracted to provide provincial level law enforcement, the provinces are billed 70 percent of the total contract costs in most cases. The remaining funding is provided by the federal government.
Law Enforcement in Canada: Municipal or Local Law Enforcement
Like municipal or city police forces in the United States and in other major countries throughout the world, municipal policing in Canada involves the enforcement of the Canadian Criminal Code, provincial statutes, and municipal by-laws within the boundaries of a given municipality or several adjoining municipalities that comprise a region (e.g., Durham Regional Police in Ontario) or a metropolitan area (e.g., Montréal Urban Community).
In terms of providing municipal law enforcement, cities essentially have three options:
- To form their own police force,
- To join an existing municipal police force, or
- To enter into an agreement with a provincial police force or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Health and Safety Tips When Visiting Canada
Traveling to Canada can be the experience of a lifetime, but unless you take certain precautions to ensure your health and safety your enjoyable adventure abroad can quickly turn into a nightmarish experience.
Overall, Canada is one of the safest countries in the world to visit, but like with any country, it definitely has its share of unsafe neighborhoods, as well unsavory individuals who would not hesitate to take advantage of your inexperience with regard to the country. To help ensure you have a safe and incident-free visit to the beautiful and majestic country of Canada, below we have compiled a few travel and safety tips, along with some information about who and how to call should you experience a police or health emergency during the course of your travels.
The assurance of your health and safety while visiting Canada begins when you pack for your trip. Experienced thieves and con-men are quite proficient in spotting tourists, so mind the way you dress to avoid looking too out of place, and leave items such as expensive jewelry behind, as these valuables have the tendency to draw the wrong kind of attention.Research the Laws and Customs of Your Destination Prior to Traveling
When you leave your country of residence, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting. Therefore, before you go, learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the Canadian places you plan to visit. Good resources are your library, your travel agent, and the embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of Canada. Additionally, try to keep track of what is being reported in the media about recent developments in the provinces and cities you’ll be visiting.
Consider Health and Property Insurance
Before You Leave for Canada, you should definitely find out if your personal property insurance covers you for loss or theft abroad. In addition, you should, check to see whether your health insurance covers you abroad. Remember, the Canadian National Health Insurance only covers residents of Canada, which may mean you will have to pay for any emergency health care costs out of pocket unless you opt for some type of travel insurance. Even if your current health insurance will reimburse you for medical care that you pay for abroad, health insurance usually does not pay for medical evacuation from a remote area or from a country where medical facilities are inadequate. Consider purchasing a policy designed for travelers, and covering short-term health and emergency assistance, as well as medical evacuation in the event of an accident or serious illness.
About Your Travel PapersNaturally, you’ll need to remember your passport and visa (if needed) when traveling to Canada. But you should also make two copies of all your travel papers as well as your driver’s license, airline tickets and itinerary. Leave one photocopy of this data with family or friends at home; pack the other in a place separate from where you carry the originals.
Money and Credit CardsWhen you’re not out sightseeing, try to keep your cash, traveler checks and credit cards in the hotel safe. Never carry more money than you’ll need for any one particular day, and try to keep your money sources in different places—wallet, pocket, purse, etc. This way, if you lose your wallet or have it stolen, you’ll still have enough money to enjoy your trip. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are a much safer way to pay than cash. You should leave a copy of the serial numbers of your travelers' checks with a friend or relative at home. Carry your copy with you in a separate place and, as you cash the checks, cross them off the list. Experts advise that you only carry a minimum amount of cash on your person at any given time. Avoid handbags, fanny packs and outside pockets that are easy targets for thieves. Inside pockets and a sturdy shoulder bag with the strap worn across your chest are somewhat safer. One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.
Avoid Traveling Alone
Whenever possible, try to travel in groups of three or more to avoid being a target for thieves. Criminals are far less likely to approach you if you are with a group. Also, should you have a health emergency, traveling in a group will ensure that there will always be someone there to call for help. If traveling with children, keep them close to you at all times, and avoid sightseeing in unfamiliar places after dark, when thieves are more likely to strike.
Keep Alcohol Intake to a Minimum
Drinking can certainly add a measure of fun to your trip, but in an intoxicated state you are far more likely to be targeted than when you are sober. Consequently, you should always try to limit your alcohol intake when you are out in public; save it instead for your hotel room or the hotel bar, where you can usually charge your purchases to your room and thus leave your money locked up in the hotel safe.
Emergency Numbers in Canada
In case of an accident or emergency, it’s imperative you understand who to contact and where to go. Keep in mind that the type of medical and emergency services offered can differ greatly between the provinces and territories, so you may want to do a bit of research on the area in which you plan to stay prior to your departure.
Like it is in the United States, the national emergency number in Canada is 911. Wherever you happen to be in the country, this number will connect you to a local switchboard operator who can rapidly dispatch police units, fire services and/or an ambulance in the case of an emergency. This is also the number you would call for Mountain Rescue Services. Translators are available if you need them.
In the case of an illness or an accident, you can either dial 911 for medical services or proceed to the nearest hospital where emergency services can be rendered.
Non-emergency numbers are available in several parts of Canada, but there is no universal non-emergency number for police or medical assistance. For non-emergency assistance you can easily look up police, fire and hospital information in the local yellow pages serving the province, territory or municipality in which you are staying.