Right To Access

You have the right to access health care services.

What are my rights to accessing primary care?
You have the right to access family physicians, who are at the front lines of health care service and health promotion. They play an important role in detecting and treating health conditions. Primary care professionals are also providers of sexual, reproductive and mental health services.

What Are My Rights With Respect to Mental Health Care?
You have the right to access mental health services.

If someone is concerned for your mental health and thinks you might be at risk of harming yourself or someone else, they might take you to a hospital to determine this risk. You can be a voluntary patient if you wish to seek treatment or, in some situations, an involuntary patient. An involuntary patient cannot leave until they have been assessed and possibly treated if it is found to be necessary to prevent serious harm. Young people of any age who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility have the right to retain lawyers to challenge the commitment.

What are my rights to sexual and reproductive health care?
You have the right to access this care. Access to age-appropriate and timely information about sexual and reproductive health is important to help you make informed choices. This includes contraception, sexually transmitted infection prevention and treatment, and reproductive choice.

Access to safe and timely abortion is an important reproductive health service for youth since about 50% of adolescent pregnancies end in induced abortion. Prenatal care services for pregnant youth are also essential; poor prenatal care is a major cause of increased pregnancy complications in adolescents. Gender and sex diverse youth may have unique sexual and reproductive health needs.

What Are My Rights to Palliative Care and Medical Assistance in Dying?
You have the same rights to palliative care as any adult. If you have capacity, you can decide when to refuse active treatment in favour of palliation.

In 2016, the federal government passed legislation that allows eligible Canadian adults to request medical assistance in dying. Youth under the age of 18 years of age who are dying and enduring grievous and irredeemable suffering do NOT have the same rights to ask for medical assistance in dying as adults under the same circumstances, even if they have capacity.

Barriers to Access

Despite their rights, youth may face a number of barriers to accessing health services. Certain subpopulations of youth, such as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth, youth with gender and sex diversities (GSD) (including LGBTQ+ youth), youth with physical or cognitive disabilities, and street-involved or homeless youth, may face unique challenges in exercising their health rights. The additional challenges faced by these subpopulations can be a result of marginalization, discrimination, or other forms of disadvantage. Moreover, some youth may experience multiple or intersecting challenges. Remember you have the right to nondiscrimination.

Jurisdictional Factors affecting Indigenous youth
  • uncertainty among Indigenous youth about how needed health services will be funded and by whom
  • fragmentation of/ inequitable access to health services for Indigenous youth compared to non-Indigenous youth
Geographical Factors
  • distance to clinic
  • lack of adequate transportation
  • number of services or providers in the area
  • nearby physicians offer limited health care services, so youth must travel further for certain health care services or specialists
Financial Factors
  • cost of travelling to clinic
  • costs of accessing private (non-publicly funded) health care services
  • cost of medication
  • lack of third-party private health insurance
  • lost wages or child care related to health care appointments
  • lack of funding for health care services or particular facility

52% of youth in our survey indicated they had faced financial barriers to accessing health services.

Time Factors
  • long wait lists for health care services
  • time needed to attend appointments
  • scheduling inconveniences (including number of appointments and overlap with school hours or job)
  • not enough time for youth to speak with health care providers

Our survey found that 89% of youth had faced time barriers to accessing services.

Language and Communication Factors
  • not speaking English (or French) as the home language
  • certified interpreters not used or not available
  • challenges communicating information in a developmentally-appropriate manner
Informational Factors
  • lack of information or misinformation about health or treatment
  • lack information about health prevention and health promotion programs
  • providers lack information about some services
  • providers lack training related to the needs of sub-populations
Environmental Factors
  • the facility or program is not ‘youth-friendly’
  • youth feel out of place with patients who are much younger or much older
  • home environment can pose challenges for accessing home care and continued care

Over 50% of youth surveyed said that they would like better access to quality health services and information specific to youth in Canada.

Health Policy Factors
  • some differences in the health care services available to youth across Canada and differences in which health services are publicly funded
  • youth who don’t have a health card or permanent address have trouble obtaining provincial health insurance or accessing health care
  • some immigrants may not have health care coverage