Welcome to our country guide page providing economic, healthcare and health insurance information to expatriates living in Canada.
Canada is second largest country in the world, is made up of 13 provinces and has the world’s longest land border with the United States. Canada is rich in land types including forests, lakes and tundra as well as the famous Rocky Mountains. Both English and French are spoken in Canada with French spoken predominantly in Quebec. The country’s weather can be extreme and very cold, especially in northern regions during the winter, and the majority of the population lives in the south of the country.
Canada ranks number 10 in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) listings and has a strong economy but also a high cost of living. The quality of life is very good and according to Mercers Quality of Living survey 2016, four cities - Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal - are within the top five regions in the world. Canada is considered a multi-cultural society with historic links to both France and the UK. Part of the British Commonwealth, the Queen is the Head of State.
Canada in numbers:
9.98 million square kilometres (3.85 sq miles)*
81 years men, 84 years women**
** World Health Organisation
*** National Household Survey, Statistics Canada
A useful summary of country information and data on Canada can be found here.
Healthcare in Canada
Canada has a tax-funded public health care service called Medicare. Citizens and qualifying residents receive a health card which is shown when attending hospitals or clinics to provide access to basic health care services.
The health care providers are private in Canada but are funded by the provincial health ministries. Hospitals are private but run as non-profit organisations, and also receive an annual operating budget. Doctors are in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis, although payments are capped. Doctors who opt out of the system are not eligible for public funding and are not allowed to charge above the fees set out within the Medicare programme.
Each of the 13 provinces in Canada has its own health insurance administered through the provinces health ministry. Hospitals provide a good standard of service and, although the number of doctors per person are lower on average in Canada, the number of nurses are above average. Healthcare costs are relatively low compared to the USA, for example.
Private medical insurance in Canada
Private health insurance is required to cover extended care such as prescriptions, dental care, physiotherapy, ambulance services and optical care. It can take up to three months to receive the government health card and cover is required during the waiting period. Private medical insurance cover is available from a wide choice of providers with a variety of different plans to choose from.
Important health information before you go
You should be up to date on routine vaccinations and some may also be required for travel.
Make sure you are up to date on routine vaccines. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio, and your flu injection.
Hepatitis A outbreaks occur throughout the world and sometimes in countries with a low risk for hepatitis A (including the US). You can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in Canada, so talk to your doctor to see if the hepatitis A vaccine is right for you.
Although rabies can be found in bats and other mammals in Canada, it is not a major risk to most travelers. CDC recommends rabies vaccine for only these groups:
It is easy to find a pharmacy in urban areas of Canada. The cost of prescription drugs are not covered under Medicare health insurance plans but can be covered by private health insurance plans. Medication costs are regulated by the government in Canada to keep costs down. Regularly prescribed drugs will be widely available and the same types of medicines you find at home are available over the counter in Canada too, though it is worth checking in case a drug is available by prescription only. Opening hours are dependent on the pharmacy and province.
It is advisable to have a thorough health check-up in advance of moving to Canada to detect any potential health problems. In Canada, for a non-emergency problem you can arrange a visit to a family doctor or GP, who are easy to access. There are also telephone services available in many provinces, providing 24 hour medical advice.
Taking care of any special needs
If you or a family member has an existing or special health condition, you will need to make enquiries if and how it can be adequately treated in Canada as well as costs of care and cover required. Wheelchair access to outlets including shops and restaurants is generally good throughout Canada.
Food hygiene in Canada
Food and water standards in Canada are similar to those in the United States. Most travellers do not need to take special food or water precautions beyond what they normally do at home. The responsibility for food safety falls to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Food laws are in place to insure food manufacturers and suppliers, as well as food outlets and restaurants, work to safe hygiene standards.
911 is the emergency number to call in Canada if you require an ambulance, police, or fire service. It is advisable to carry the health card with you at all times. The cost of an emergency ambulance is not covered under the health insurance so it’s worth ensuring that cover is including within any private medical insurance policy.
The provincial and territorial ministries of health in Canada are:
- British Colombia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Quebec (In French Only)
If you are an expatriate looking for international health insurance in Canada, click here to create your own tailored international health insurance cover.