Canada has a universal healthcare system through which Canadians have access to medical care and physician services. While healthcare continues to become safer, medicine is not risk free. There are occasions when patients experience unexpected or unintended harm. An effective healthcare system responds appropriately to such unfortunate circumstances, first by ensuring care is provided to the harmed patient, and later by examining what led to the unintended outcome and making improvements to limit the likelihood of it happening again, if possible.
An effective medical liability system ensures healthcare institutions and professionals are held accountable for their actions in a fair way, provides appropriate compensation for patients proven to have been harmed by negligent clinical care, and supports improvements in patient safety. It also complements an accountability framework that requires healthcare professionals to provide care to a commonly accepted medical standard.
The CMPA is funded and operated on a not-for-profit basis for physicians, by physicians. Its membership comprises the majority of practising physicians in Canada. For more than a century, the Canadian Medical Protective Association has been a trusted advisor and a reputable provider of medical liability protection in Canada. When members face a medico‑legal action, they are eligible for assistance in the form of legal representation and payment of legal costs, judgments, or settlements that compensate patients when it has been proven that they have been harmed by negligent medical care. The CMPA's protection is occurrence-based, which means members are generally eligible for assistance for the medical care they give in Canada while they are a CMPA member, regardless of when a legal matter may arise. There is no monetary limit on the assistance a CMPA member is eligible to receive.
Obtaining adequate medical liability protection is the responsibility of the physician, not an employer or a sponsor. In most Canadian provinces and territories, physicians (including medical trainees) must obtain medical liability protection before they can be licensed to practise. Even if not required as a condition of obtaining a licence, medical liability protection may be required by
- postgraduate medical education (PGME) programs
As an IMG, once you have met the regulatory requirements to enter a Canadian training program or to begin practising, you have a professional obligation to verify what liability protection you need. Here are some tips:
- Before arriving in Canada to practise medicine or undergo medical training, gather all the necessary facts and apply early for your postgraduate medical training, fellowship, or medical assignment.
- Contact the following organizations about your training and its requirements, where applicable:
- your appointed postgraduate medical education (PGME) program
- hospital administration
- Upon arriving in Canada, contact the medical regulatory authority (College) in the jurisdiction where you are going to work and ask what medical liability protection is required. Obtaining medical liability protection should be a top priority.
- Begin the process of applying for CMPA membership before you arrive in Canada. This will ensure you have appropriate and adequate medical liability protection when you start practising or training. Learn more about opening a Canadian bank account from outside of Canada.
- Do not hesitate to contact the CMPA with any questions about becoming a member of the Association. We will be pleased to assist you.
Provincial and territorial medical regulatory authorities (Colleges) regulate the practice of medicine within their province or territory. They issue medical licences and registration certificates that allow a physician to practise medicine in Canada. The Colleges have the authority to take disciplinary actions against physicians and impose penalties that may include suspending or revoking a licence. If having medical liability protection is a requirement of licensure, a physician’s licence can be suspended or revoked if they don’t obtain adequate protection.
For more information about Colleges, see Medical regulatory authorities (Colleges).
Canada's approach to medical liability protection is unique. As a result of negotiated arrangements, many physicians are eligible for reimbursement for all or a portion of their medical liability protection costs. This approach, through which governments directly acknowledge the inherent value of, and need for, adequate liability protection, has benefited Canadians since being introduced more than 20 years ago.
The CMPA does not negotiate fee reimbursement for physicians. For more information on the reimbursement of your medical liability protection fees, please contact the reimbursement organization in your province or territory of work.