Priority one: A strategy to ensure Canada’s youth are aware of their health rights.

There is a lack of easily accessible information on youth’s rights to health in Canada.

Over the past three years, young people from across Canada have told us their struggles to find information pertaining to their legal rights to health, such as a right to privacy and consent. Most recently, our survey of Canada’s young people found that 80% of participants said that they did not know their basic legal health rights, such as when they can access care without parental notification.

Through our research, we found that the internet is the leading source that youth rely on to find out information regarding their health rights. 89% of the youth we surveyed reported that the internet is their primary method of accessing health rights information, followed by professionals (doctors, nurses, etc.) and then family and friends.

Unfortunately, information online is often inaccurate, incomplete, confusing or out of date. Youth told us that the information they were able to access was difficult to understand and hard to navigate, often leaving them with more questions than answers.

Furthermore, it is clear from our research that the extent to which a young person understands their health rights has a direct effect on their health choices and outcomes. For example, without knowledge on their right to privacy, a young person may continue to withhold information from their family doctor due to fear that they will share the information with their parents, who the doctor also sees. Or without knowing their right to consent to health treatment, as a capable person, a young person may continue to not make decisions on treatment, because they think their parents are the ones who decide until a certain age.

The young people we engaged believe that it is critical for youth to have a clear understanding of their legal rights to health care to ensure that they are able to access necessary services in an age and culturally respectful manner and take action to address any infringements on their rights.

What Canadian youth need in order to be better aware of health rights and how to exercise them:

  • A strategy developed by the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Health Ministers, in coordination with young people, to reach youth using the appropriate channels and language.


“I haven’t looked, I’ve been lucky and not needed to. But if I had to I wouldn’t know where to go”
–Focus Group Participant

“When it comes to mistreatment of rights in the North most youth just think it is the norm, so people don’t really see mistreatment when they are on the inside and uninformed.”
–Focus Group Participant

“As a professional young person I don’t have a clue what my rights are so I don’t think it will be that many do.”
–Focus Group Participant