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Many individuals contributed their knowledge, experience, and expertise to the development of this policy, and we are deeply grateful for their involvement. Thank you to everyone who had a part in the process, and especially to the following staff, who worked diligently to get us here.
Health Canada's Policy on External Advisory Bodies (2011) replaces all other Health Canada policies or guidance on the management of advisory bodies.
The use of external advisory bodies is consistent with the Government of Canada's commitments to involve people outside of government in government's work and decision-making processes.
External advisory bodies provide Health Canada with expert advice from individuals who have valuable knowledge, expertise, or experience. The advice may relate to scientific, technical, policy, or program matters. Health Canada's advisory body activities are carried out in accordance with the principles and requirements set out in applicable federal government policies and legislation, such as those related to Privacy, Official Languages, and Risk Management, among others.
This policy reflects and upholds the principles of openness, transparency, and accountability.
To promote Health Canada's effective and consistent management of external advisory bodies.
This policy is issued under the authority of the Deputy Minister, Health Canada.
The policy applies to all situations in which Health Canada, through it branches, directorates, and agencies, uses an external advisory body on a long-term or temporary (ad hoc) basis. "External advisory bodies" includes working groups, expert panels, reference groups, task groups, and committees established with members external to the federal government and selected to provide expert advice.
To the extent no conflict exists, committees established under legislation are also covered by this policy with respect to their management and operations.
An external advisory body may operate outside this policy only under exceptional circumstances such as in a public health emergency situation. In such a case, the reasons must be documented.
Health Canada will uphold, promote, and encourage the use of this policy when co-chairing or jointly managing advisory bodies with other government departments and agencies.
This policy includes a review and feedback process and will be updated as necessary.
These are the defining characteristics of an external advisory body:
To set out the reasons to establish an external advisory body and to establish its role.
Health Canada seeks information and advice in a variety of situations from a variety of individuals, organizations, agencies, and governments. Not every group that provides advice to Health Canada is an advisory body. For example, a federal/provincial/territorial committee and an interdepartmental working group are not considered advisory bodies. Advisory bodies are composed of members who are external to the federal government and who are appointed to reflect a wide range of relevant knowledge, expertise, and experience. Members act in advisory capacity to Health Canada specific to the mandate of their advisory body.
Health Canada decides when to establish an advisory body and defines its mandate, terms of reference, duration, and membership. The advisory body provides advice to Health Canada, which Health Canada considers in its work and during its decision-making processes. Health Canada has the ultimate decision-making authority and accountability for all decisions resulting from the advice received from an external advisory body.
Health Canada may establish an advisory body to seek expert advice on medical, scientific, technical, policy, or program matters within Health Canada's mandate.
All advisory bodies are to be established with the approval of the Department's Minister, Deputy Minister, or Branch Assistant Deputy Ministers.
Health Canada may establish an advisory body to receive external advice, including advice on:
Health Canada considers a variety of factors when deciding whether to establish an advisory body and when determining its mandate. These factors include:
Every advisory body must have a mandate and terms of reference.
Health Canada may end the mandate of an advisory body and disband it at any time for a variety of reasons, including:
Health Canada will write to advisory body members to notify them of this decision.
The role of an advisory body is to provide advice and make recommendations to Health Canada. Health Canada has the ultimate responsibility and accountability for all decisions resulting from the advice received from an external advisory body.
To set out the principles respecting the appointment of members to an advisory body.
Health Canada invites individuals to be part of an advisory body to share their knowledge, expertise, or experience and to work together to formulate recommendations. In appointing individuals to an advisory body, Health Canada's goal is to have a group with a range of relevant knowledge, expertise, and experience to provide the best advice possible.
Appointments to an advisory body should reflect a broad range of perspectives relevant to its mandate.
Health Canada appoints the members of an advisory body and sets a term for the appointment. When deciding on appointments to an advisory body, Health Canada may seek nominees through an open call for nominations of people whose knowledge, expertise, or experience best match the mandate of the advisory body. Health Canada will also consider a person's:
An advisory body must have at least three members. The optimal number of members will depend on the advisory body's mandate.
When deciding on appointments to an advisory body, Health Canada will seek a range of relevant knowledge, expertise, and experience, as appropriate. Depending on its mandate, members of an advisory body may include people who have:
When deciding on appointments to an advisory body, Health Canada will seek a diverse and inclusive membership, as appropriate. For example, it may seek members from specific population groups, official language minority communities, or a variety of geographic locations.
To preserve the independence of the federal government as a decision maker, a federal employee can neither chair nor be a member of an advisory body and cannot participate in the formulation of an advisory body's advice to Health Canada.
Health Canada appoints the Chair of an advisory body for a specific term. The Chair may be a member of the advisory body or may be a non-member. The non-member Chair does not participate in formulating the advisory body's report and recommendations. The non-member Chair's primary role is as a facilitator and coordinator.
Health Canada, after consulting the Chair, may appoint, for a specific term, a Vice-Chair from among the members of the advisory body.
When deciding on appointments to an advisory body whose mandate is confidential, Health Canada may consult with:
When deciding on appointments to an advisory body whose mandate is not confidential, Health Canada may go outside the department to other Canadian and international governments or to external organizations and associations to ask for appointment suggestions.
Before being appointed as a member of an advisory body, a nominee must:
A member may resign from an advisory body by writing to the Executive Secretary of the advisory body, with a copy to the Chair, including the effective date of the resignation. It is preferred that the member give 14 days notice of his or her intent to resign.
An appointment to an advisory body ends when:
Health Canada may end a member's appointment by writing to the member stating the reasons the appointment is being concluded and the effective date when:
To define affiliations and interests, including a direct financial interest, and to clarify when, how, and to whom members of an advisory body must disclose these affiliations and interests, and in what circumstances they prohibit or limit participation.
Health Canada may seek advisory body members with knowledge, expertise and experience that are often gained through research grants, paid work for an interested party, etc. A person's affiliations and interests do not necessarily prevent him or her from being a member of an advisory body, since his or her input could nevertheless be valuable to the advisory body's mandate. By asking members to declare their interests and affiliations, the advisory body is operating openly and transparently. However, people with a direct financial interest may not participate in any advisory body discussion or formulation of advice related to that interest.
Maintaining the credibility of advice provided to Health Canada by an advisory body depends on members of the advisory body disclosing their affiliations and interests. In situations where the mandate and membership of the advisory body is not confidential, a summary of the affiliations and interests of advisory board members will be made public.
Before being appointed to an advisory body, a potential member must complete and submit the Affiliations and Interests Declaration Form within the time frame set out by the advisory body Secretariat. A potential member must use the form to disclose all affiliations and interests, including any direct financial interests and other affiliations and interests that relate to the mandate of the advisory body. These might include financial support received from a commercial enterprise, participation in an activity sponsored by a commercial enterprise, or published or publicly stated points of view related to the advisory body's mandate.
A person with affiliations and interests related to the mandate of an advisory body may still be appointed as a member of the advisory body. Health Canada strives for a range of relevant knowledge, expertise, and experience among advisory body members. This policy recognizes that, sometimes, people with affiliations and interests related to the mandate of the advisory body have valuable knowledge, expertise, or experience and may have a worthwhile contribution to make to the advisory body's work.
Health Canada, after consulting the Chair, may limit the participation of an advisory body member with respect to an agenda item or meeting topic, depending on the nature of the member's affiliations or interests.
A person has a direct financial interest when the person, the person's spouse or common law partner, or the person's dependent family member has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the advisory body's work, for example through current employment, investments in companies, partnerships, equity royalties, joint ventures, trusts, real property, stocks, shares, or bonds.
A person with a direct financial interest in the outcome of a review, whether of a program, policy, regulated product, or submission, may not be a member of an advisory body whose mandate is solely to provide advice on specific matters relating to the review. In this situation, Health Canada considers the direct financial interest in a review to be a conflict that prevents participation in the advisory body.
A person with a direct financial interest in only some aspects of the advisory body's mandate may be a member of the advisory body but may not participate in any discussion or formulation of advice or recommendations with respect to the matters for which the member has a direct financial interest. The member may participate in the advisory body's work with respect to the other aspects of the mandate, such as policy, management, or program development matters.
In keeping with the Privacy Act, the personal information in a completed Affiliations and Interests Declaration Form is protected. A summary of a member's affiliation and interest will be made public with the permission of the member who signed it.
In preparing the summary to be published, the Secretariat must ensure that it includes no information that would allow the identification or re-identification of a member's spouse, common law partner or dependent family member.
As a condition of appointment, an advisory body member must give Health Canada permission to publish a brief biography and summary of his or her affiliations and interests. The potential member will have the opportunity to review and approve the summary for accuracy during the appointment process. The summary will be made public unless the mandate or membership of an advisory body must be kept confidential.
The Chair will ask members to make a verbal statement of their relevant affiliations and interests at the beginning of every meeting.
To clarify the roles and responsibilities of advisory body members and the Chair, as well as the supporting roles of the Secretariat, the Executive Secretary, and other Health Canada branches and officials.
An advisory body is set up to provide advice and recommendations to Health Canada. This complex work requires administrative assistance from departmental officials, but the advisory body itself is responsible for the content of its advice in whatever form it takes: process minutes, formal report, etc.
The duty of advisory body members is to give their best advice to Health Canada. Through an advisory body Secretariat and the Executive Secretary, Health Canada supports the work of advisory bodies.
A. Advisory body members: Roles and responsibilities
Members of an advisory body have a responsibility to Health Canada and by extension to all Canadians, to give their best advice to Health Canada.
Members of an advisory body must consider all the input received that is related to the mandate of the advisory body when preparing their recommendations, advice, or report.
The Confidentiality Agreement prohibits a member from disclosing any confidential information received as part of the member's involvement in the advisory body. The Confidentiality Agreement applies to information received in writing or orally, including through email correspondence, telephone calls, and print materials, as well as during presentations and discussions at advisory body meetings. In some circumstances, the very fact that a given advisory body exists may also be confidential.
Members of an advisory body also have a responsibility to:
A member of an advisory body who serves as the Chair has additional responsibilities, including to:
At the request of the Chair, or in the case of the Chair's absence, the Vice-Chair will chair the meeting(s) and take on the Chair's other tasks, as required.
When Health Canada decides to seek broad public input on a topic related to the mandate of an advisory body, it will consult with the Chair and members of the advisory body on the process to be used and the organization of the public input activity. Members of the advisory body are expected to attend the public input activity.
The advisory body's Executive Secretary will introduce members of the advisory body at the start of the public input activity and make public a summary of their expertise, affiliations, and interests.
In accordance with the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, Health Canada and the Chair may decide to name someone other than, or in addition to, the Chair as a media spokesperson for the advisory body.
A member of an advisory body who is not the designated media spokesperson does not have the authority to speak to the media about the work of the advisory body unless the Secretariat specifically asks them to do so.
Advisory body members must immediately direct any media inquiries about the advisory body's membership, mandate, and work to the Secretariat, who in turn will contact Health Canada's Media Relations.
B. Health Canada: Roles and responsibilities
Health Canada will name a senior official to act as the Executive Secretary to the advisory body. The Executive Secretary provides guidance to the Secretariat. After an advisory body submits advice to Health Canada, the Executive Secretary will report back to the advisory body on how that advice was used.
Health Canada will establish a Secretariat, made up of Health Canada officials, to provide organizational and administrative support to each advisory body. A working group may be set up to support the Secretariat.
The responsibilities of the Secretariat include the following:
Health Canada employees may assist the Secretariat with meeting logistics, document preparation, and other tasks.
Health Canada's medical, scientific, technical, program, policy, and other subject-matter experts support the work of an advisory body in a variety of ways, including:
Health Canada's senior managers are responsible for implementing this policy through the programs they manage or administer. This responsibility includes:
The Public Affairs, Consultation and Communications Branch is responsible for providing leadership and strategic advice in the implementation and adherence to this policy among Health Canada's branches. The Public Affairs, Consultation and Communications Branch does this through means such as:
To clarify the role of individuals who are not advisory body members. This includes, for example, contracted experts, invited guests, government employees, and observers.
Health Canada may invite certain individuals who are not advisory body members to provide input on a specific topic or agenda item. As well, individuals may ask to speak to the advisory body on a given topic or agenda item or may ask to observe all or part of a meeting. Their request will be considered by Health Canada, in consultation with the Chair, and may be granted or refused.
An advisory body may benefit from input received from others. However, non-members may not participate in formulating advice or recommendations for Health Canada.
Health Canada determines which of the materials being used by the advisory body may be made available to participants, observers, and others who request copies. While Health Canada is committed to openness and transparency, confidentiality rules may prevent the release of these materials.
Advisory body meetings may be closed to non-members for a variety of reasons, including to:
At the discretion of the Secretariat and in consultation with the Chair, meetings of an advisory body may be:
Health Canada will consider requests to participate in or observe a meeting and, after consulting the Chair, will respond to the request by telephone or in writing.
To fulfill an advisory body's mandate, Health Canada may, after consulting the Chair, invite an individual with particular expertise or experience to attend a meeting to provide input on a topic or agenda item or to answer a specific question. Invited guests may include:
The Secretariat, in consultation with the Executive Secretary and Chair, may invite an individual to provide the advisory body with information through:
Presenters and observers may not participate in discussions at the advisory body meeting unless the Chair specifically invites them to do so. Only advisory body members may participate in the advisory body's formulation of advice or recommendations to Health Canada.
Before an individual may present information at or observe an advisory body meeting, Health Canada may require the person to complete:
When Health Canada engages an expert to provide information to an advisory body, it will:
To clarify how an advisory body provides advice and when its work may be made public.
An advisory body's work is often confidential. Health Canada may make public information about the advisory body, its mandate, recommendations, advice, or report, as permitted by law and policy.
In keeping with Health Canada's openness and transparency policies, advisory body information may be made available to the public. However, for a variety of reasons, including the protection of confidential information and the possibility of potential or ongoing litigation, it will not always to be possible to make public an advisory body's existence, recommendations, advice, or report.
Information that is generally not protected by confidentiality requirements includes:
The advice from an advisory body may be reported in:
The Secretariat will prepare a non-attributable record that includes the recommendations and advice resulting from each advisory body meeting. This includes in-person meetings, virtual meetings, conference calls, and videoconferences. If parts or all of this record are confidential, the document will indicate this.
The draft record will be provided to advisory body members in a timely manner. As soon as is possible, the advisory body will then confirm the draft as an accurate record or will correct it.
A member of an advisory body who did not participate in a portion of a meeting because of affiliations and interests may not receive the section of the document pertaining to those affiliations and interests until that part of the document becomes public.
Recommendations and advice received from an advisory body will be kept in accordance with Treasury Board policies and guidelines.
An advisory body provides its advice to Health Canada as a group, and not as individuals or representatives of organizations. If members cannot come to a consensus, then the record must note that there is a diversity of opinion with respect to the recommendations or advice.
An advisory body may provide recommendations or advice only in response to questions posed by Health Canada and within the scope of its mandate. Information that Health Canada receives beyond the scope of an advisory body's mandate will be retained and used at the discretion of the Department for future purposes.
A report of an advisory body will include, as appropriate:
In a timely manner, the Executive Secretary will provide the Chair and advisory body members with a follow-up report on how Health Canada responded to and used the recommendations or advice it received from the advisory body.
Advisory body reports and the follow-up reports to members may be published on the Health Canada website when they do not contain any information that must remain confidential. Information from these reports may include links to information on other websites.
Health Canada is responsible to ensure that information is not inappropriately disclosed. When applicable, Health Canada will include specific guidelines for the publication of information about an advisory body in the terms of reference for the advisory body.
Unless otherwise stated in the advisory body's terms of reference, the publication of any advisory body information will be accomplished by posting of the information on the Health Canada website as well as, if appropriate the website of a collaborating department or agency. Before posting, the Public Affairs, Consultation and Communications Branch will ensure documents meet publishing guidelines.
To set out the process for reviewing the purpose and functioning of an advisory body.
It is government practice to conduct regular evaluations and audits to verify that government initiatives are cost-effective and achieve expected results. Although advisory bodies are in place to provide advice to Health Canada, their purpose and functioning will be periodically reviewed as part of standard accountability procedures.
The purpose and functioning of an advisory body should be periodically reviewed to ensure it is operating effectively and efficiently, to confirm that its work is still required, and to identify opportunities for administrative and management improvements.
The purpose of the review is to determine whether administrative, management, or other improvements are required to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of a particular advisory body or of advisory bodies generally. The review may also be carried out to determine the ongoing relevance of the advisory body's mandate and to inform disbanding or renewal decisions.
The review may include an examination of the following:
A review of an advisory body may include:
During the review process, feedback may be sought from advisory body members, Secretariat officials, the Executive Secretary, participants, observers, and others.
The Executive Secretary will ensure a review of the purpose and functioning of an advisory body:
The review may be conducted by Health Canada officials or by consultants hired by Health Canada.
The Review Report will be submitted to the Executive Secretary, who may then authorize its distribution to advisory body members. In the case of a general review of advisory bodies, the Review Report will be submitted to the Deputy Minister.
To describe the administrative policies that apply to an advisory body.
The Secretariat handles the administration of the advisory body and must follow the policies set out by Treasury Board.
Although advisory bodies are set up to provide advice to Health Canada, their activities are carried out in accordance with the principles and requirements set out in applicable federal government policies and legislation.
In keeping with the federal Official Languages Act advisory body members have the right to receive documents and participate in discussions in the official language of their choice.
Members of an advisory body who travel for authorized advisory body purposes will have their travel and accommodation expenses reimbursed according to Treasury Board's Travel Directive and Directive on the Management of Expenditures on Travel, Hospitality and Conferences.
The provisions of the Treasury Board Framework for the Management of Risk (2010) apply to advisory bodies. As such, Deputy Heads are responsible for managing organizational risks by leading the implementation of effective risk management practices. In the interest of effective management of advisory bodies, branches must evaluate the potential liabilities that their advisory body's activities could place upon the Crown. This includes conducting a risk assessment to identify, address, and mitigate risks. Advisory body activities must be carried out in accordance with good risk management principles and practices outlined in the Treasury Board Framework and its supporting learning resources.
Health Canada undertakes to provide its volunteer advisory body members with protection against civil liability provided the volunteer member acts in good faith, within the scope of their volunteer duties; and does not act against the interests of the Crown.
Members act collectively as an advisor to Health Canada with respect to the mandate of their advisory body but they are not final decision-makers. The Department has the ultimate responsibility and accountability for any decision resulting from the advice received from an external advisory body.
Members that are paid for their participation on an advisory body would be considered contractors and not volunteers. These members are not eligible for indemnification. Obtaining appropriate insurance coverage under these circumstances is the responsibility of individual members if they wish to do so.
Members appointed by the Minister to an advisory body established pursuant to a statutory authority, with remuneration (but not under contract), would be eligible to legal assistance and indemnification pursuant to the Treasury Board's Policy on Legal Assistance and Indemnification.
In exceptional circumstances, Health Canada may enter into service contracts with its advisory body members, to compensate them for their participation on an advisory body. The decision to make members contractors must be based on a rationale which may include the requirement for certain expertise, exceptional scope of work, or other criteria. Such decisions will be made by the Deputy Minister or a person identified by the Deputy Minister, and in adherence to applicable Treasury Board policies and guidelines for reporting and auditing.
Statutes may provide that advisory bodies are or may be established by the Minister and that members may be remunerated. Such remuneration may be fixed by the Governor in Council but the relevant provisions may differ from one statute to the other.
Health Canada has the discretion to offer an honorarium as a token of appreciation for services that have been provided free of charge. An honorarium should not be used as a replacement for salary and wages, and should be the exception rather than the rule. Each decision on this subject should be well documented.
Health Canada undertakes to provide its advisors/advisory body members with protection against civil liability provided the members act in good faith, within the scope of their duties, and do not act against the interests of the Crown.
Honoraria are not to be paid to public servants or other public officials already receiving salary for the conduct of public business.
For the purposes of the Policy on External Advisory Bodies (2011), the following words are given the meanings shown in this table.