Programs and Services

Are you interested in what environmental health programs and services are delivered by various agencies in Canada? Then read on!

We've recently updated our 2010 directory of this information through a project with the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI). The results will allow public health inspectors (PHIs), medical health officers (MHOs), and others in the field to share program information and make valuable connections on program issues. And at a glance, view who does what in environmental health across the country, from a public health inspection perspective.

Highlights are presented below, or access the detailed 2013 directory now: WHO (part 1);  WHAT (part 2).


The information in this directory came from a survey of directors and managers of agencies who are involved in public health inspection (typically by PHIs).  Over 45 provincial, territorial, and federal agencies responded and we continue to fill in the gaps.  Respondents suggested we update the information on a regular basis.

WHO Does What

Environmental health programming and its delivery is diverse across Canada and in the provinces/territories themselves.  The wide variety of responsibilities within programs makes it difficult to identify core programs with the exception of food safety and swimming pools and recreational waters.  PHI responsibilities include inspection, enforcement, training and education.  They work with MHOs within a variety of reporting structures.

In terms of regulatory authority, the majority of health agencies are governed by a Public Health Act and the MHO is the lead person in a public health emergency.  In most cases, the MHO or PHI can issue an order under the appropriate legislation.  Almost all agencies have the ability to close a premise and many have the ability to fine establishments for health violations.  The exception is Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch who do not have the authority to close or fine.

The majority of environmental health programs are delivered to the general public through provincial/territorial, regional, or local agencies (typically health agencies).  Federal agencies deliver services through regions to specific populations: on-reserve First Nations south of 60, and passengers that travel within Canada on domestic and international conveyances (e.g., cruise ships, aircraft, passenger trains and ferries).

For details on who sets the policy framework for programs and who delivers the services, access part 1 of the directory.

Who Does WHAT


  • Most consistent programs delivered by PHIs who carry out on-site inspections: food safety, communicable disease and infection control, swimming pools and recreational water, public water supplies, and private water supplies.
  • Programs with wide variation: general sanitation, environmental health (except for mould, moisture, and mildew), and environmental health risk assessment.
  • Programs usually delivered by others: pesticide control (provincial or municipal), sewage systems and plumbing (building officials), and tobacco control (provincial or federal).
  • Several provinces have unique programs.

Food Safety:

  • Nearly all programs inspected: restaurants, banquet halls, food vendors, grocery stores, retail food stores, and food vending processing establishments.
  • Significant number of programs inspected: food services areas in hospitals, nursing homes and long term care facilities, butcher shops, markets and farmers markets.
  • Significant variation in inspection of: food manufacturing plants, meat processing plants, and dairies.

Communicable Disease and Infection Control:

  • Significant number of programs inspected: nursing homes and long term care facilities, tattoo parlours, and other personal service establishments.
  • Significant number of programs investigated: animal bites and quarantine, foodborne and waterborne illness, and communicable disease.
  • Variation in inspection of hospitals and involvement in infection control committees.

Swimming Pools and Recreational Water:

  • Nearly all programs inspected and posted notices for: public/semi-public swimming pools, spas, water parks, and public bathing beaches.

Public and Private Water Supplies:

  • Most programs were involved with differences depending if urban or rural.


  • Variation in involvement depending on program area.

For further details, access part 2 of the directory.

2010 directory: WHO (part 1); WHAT (part 2)

Please let us know if the information is useful and the presentation clear, or if you have any suggestions for future updates.

Acknowledgements: Len Gallant, Brian Hatton, Lawrence Pernica, and Daniel Fong.