Canadian Act to establish Public Health Agency

Canada’s New Government announced that the Public Health Agency of Canada Act has come into force. This Act provides a statutory basis for the Public Health Agency of Canada and confirms the position and duties of the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) for Canada.

The legislation, which was given Royal Assent on December 12, 2006 will allow the Agency to build on its contributions and achievements since its creation on September 24, 2004.

“This Act reaffirms the federal government’s commitment to public health. It underscores the important role that the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Chief Public Health Officer play in strengthening our public health system,” said the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health. “We will continue our collaboration with provinces, territories and stakeholders to address public health issues and prepare for public health emergencies.”

In 2003, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), launched an important discussion about the state of the public health system in Canada. Two subsequent expert reports, one completed by the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (otherwise known as the Naylor Report), and the other by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (known as the Kirby Report) called for the establishment of a federal focal point to address public health issues. The legislation responds to these expert reports as well as recommendations by stakeholders.

“Continued national leadership in public health is required to successfully address Canada`s growing burden of chronic disease or the next epidemic of infectious disease,” said Dr. Elinor Wilson, CEO, Canadian Public Health Association. “The Public Health Agency of Canada plays an important role in ensuring collaboration across all jurisdictions, institutions and sectors.”

The legislation establishes the Agency as a separate entity within the Health portfolio, with the mandate to assist the Minister of Health fulfilling his public health responsibilities. It also establishes the position and sets out the unique dual role of the CPHO (currently Dr. David Butler Jones).

As deputy head of the Agency, the CPHO manages the operations of the Agency under the Minister of Health. Further, as the lead public health professional in Canada, the CPHO will issue reports on matters relating to public health, including an annual report on the state of the public’s health in Canada, and communicate with governments, public health authorities and organizations in the health field, both within Canada and internationally, to give information or gain their view on public health.

The legislation also provides clear regulatory-making authorities for the collection, analysis, interpretation, publication and distribution of information required by the Agency to fulfill its mandate, as well as the protection of that information.

The Public Health Agency of Canada was established in September 2004 through Orders-in- Council. The Public Health Agency of Canada Act confers on the Agency parliamentary recognition in the form of its own enabling legislation.


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