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Graduate Studies in
Health Law


The Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa offers both Master of Laws and Ph.D. in Law programs. In health law, we offer graduate students a wide range of cutting-edge research projects led by the largest concentration of health law scholars and complemented by the broadest selection of health law courses in Canada. The interdisciplinary nature of CHLPE—drawing its members not only from Law but also Medicine, Health Sciences, Management, Social Sciences, and Arts—further enriches the graduate experience by exposing students to a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives. Students have the option of developing interdisciplinary research collaborations and having their projects supervised by interdisciplinary committees.

Our graduates pursue a wide range of careers—in universities, provincial and federal governments and their agencies, NGOs and international organizations, private sector companies, private practice, regulatory Colleges, associations, liability insurers, and more. Many such health organizations are headquartered in Ottawa. Being located in Canada's capital provides unparalleled opportunities to engage with provincial, national, and international policy makers and other stakeholders.

We welcome applications from across Canada and the world and offer financial support.

A Distinctive Experience

Graduate students are encouraged to be actively involved in CHLPE's lively roster of events, including our lunchtime speaker series, Café Scientifiques in the community, and an annual national/international conference drilling into a specific health policy issue (past examples includes AI in Healthcare; Medical Assistance in Dying; and Two-Tier Care). CHLPE also runs regular small-group workshops on grant writing and focus areas in health law such as aging, technology, multidisciplinary bioethics, organ donation/transplantation, and public health policy.

For graduate students in particular, CHLPE in conjunction with the McGill Research Group on Health and Law runs the Graduate Student Colloquium in Health Law, Policy and Ethics. This flagship event gives our students opportunities to showcase their work and receive input for an interdisciplinary audience of researchers and policy makers, while between sessions and in the evenings exchanging ideas and networking with attendees. The Colloquium is held on an annual alternating basis in Ottawa and Montreal.

Application / Admission

For all information and inquiries regarding application and admission to graduate studies in law, please see the Graduate Studies page at the Faculty of Law.

The University of Ottawa's Centre for Health Law, Ethics and Policy is a hub for some of the leading health, law and social science scholars in Canada. The Centre is engaged in important interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research, policy leadership and community outreach to address pressing issues in health policy. As a Ph.D. student I've been privileged to collaborate with many of the Centre's excellent scholars and have benefited from exposure to a network of policymakers and academics from around the world engaged in shaping health law and policy. The Centre provides a unique and dynamic learning environment for students, like myself, who are interested in the growing field of health law and policy in Canada.

Robin Whitehead
Ph.D. Candidate

Only certain courses are offered in each year.

For course availability and more information please go to:
Faculty of Law, Common Law Section course search engine
Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section courses page

Courses – Common Law English

Medical-Legal Problems


Vanessa Gruben

This course will explore a wide range of legal issues arising in health care settings. Traditionally, the physician-patient relationship has been the focus of health law. This course will cover legal issues arising from that relationship such as consent, professional negligence, and the regulation of health professionals. However, relationships and issues at the broader systems level are the subject of increasing legal regulation and health law scholarship. We will address such systems level issues as constitutional claims relating to access to and funding of health care, medical research ethics, and the regulation of pharmaceuticals. We will also discuss a number of selected topics including reproductive health care, mental health law and end-of-life decision-making.

Access to Health Care


Sexuality, Gender and the Law


Angela Cameron

This seminar will explore issues at the intersection of law, sexuality and gender in Canada. Although the legal production and regulation of sexuality and gender impacts everyone, the class will focus primarily, but not entirely, on its particular impacts on gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, two-spirited and queer (GLBTTQ) people. The class will introduce various theoretical perspectives and will consider the legal construction of gender and sexuality in the judicial decisions, legislation and administrative rules that define and regulate gender and sexuality in Canada.

Law and Psychiatry: Mental Health Law & Neuroethics


Jennifer Chandler

This seminar addresses the legal issues related to mental health, mental disability, and neuroethics in four parts.

(1) Mental health law in Ontario
The laws and procedures of involuntary committal and treatment under provincial mental health legislation, capacity and substitute decision-making. We also consider the intersection of tort law with mental illness.

(2) Mental disorder and criminal law
Mental disorder in the criminal justice context, including findings of fitness to stand trial, findings that a person is not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder, sentencing options, mental health courts and therapeutic jurisprudence.

(3) Human rights and mental disability
Questions of human rights and social justice relating to mental health and mental disability, particularly with respect to discrimination and access to care.

(4) Emerging neuroscience, ethics and the law
This part of the course we consider the future, and look at how advances in the behavioural sciences are even now raising challenging questions for neuroethics and for the law.

Public Health Law


Roojin Habibi

At the heart of public health law and policy lies this basic question: to what extent can the state legitimately impinge on individual rights, in its efforts to promote or protect the health of the population? Controversies rage over public health policies such as proposals for a fat tax, banning super-sized portions of sugary or high-fat foods, reducing salt in our diets, elimination of tobacco advertising, GMO labeling, mandatory vaccinations (and alleged links with autism), fluoridation of the water supply, criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, scrutiny of individuals donating blood and ban on the sale thereof, gun control, safe-injection sites, the legalization of recreational marijuana etc. Areas of law engaged include statutory interpretation, criminal law, constitutional law, tort law, privacy law, and administrative law.

Those favouring a restricted role for public health speak of the importance of individual self-reliance, the problem of paternalism and the slippery slope of government intervention(s) that further erode individual liberties. Those in favor focus on improving the population’s health, the cost-effectiveness of deterrence over disease treatment, and the importance of promoting social justice and protecting the vulnerable both within nations and at the global level. In this course we will explore these conflicting views and their grounding in philosophical frameworks (libertarianism, libertarian paternalism, contractarian rights theory, egalitarian liberalism, utilitarianism, and communitarianism) and public health frameworks (police powers, human rights, civic models, harm reduction, precautionary principle, etc) and, in addition, consider the extent to which public health decision-making inculcates evidence about what works and doesn’t work. We will also explore the role of both domestic and international law in the formulation, execution, administration and frustration (through judicial challenge) of public health policy at national and global levels. These issues will be animated through case studies of, for example, different pandemics and communicable diseases, tobacco control and vaping, obesity control, decriminalization and subsequent regulation of recreational marijuana, blood safety, vaccinations, firearms control, and the opioid crisis. Students will develop a robust analytic lens for assessing public health law and policy, and hone their skills at forcefully advocating for or against particular initiatives.

Reproductive Rights, Law and Policy


Vanessa Gruben

Whether and when to reproduce is an intensely personal decision that significantly impacts one’s health and well-being. This course will explore how Canadian law and policy regulates and responds to human reproduction. It will address a range of topics related to reproductive autonomy, reproductive justice and access to reproductive health services. Topics may include abortion, contraception, sterilization, assisted reproduction, genetics and pregnancy.

Global Health Law


Roojin Habibi

The course provides a critical overview of the governance and regulation of global health under international law, as well as the structures and features of global governance processes and frameworks for health more generally. The course is organized into three parts. Students are first introduced to the definition, scope and functions of global health law as a growing field of international law, and of other relevant regimes of international law, including international human rights law and international trade law. Having acquired this foundational understanding, the class will then examine how these frameworks and institutions apply to paramount health concerns including infectious and non-communicable diseases. In the final part of the course, the class will undertake a forward-looking analysis of the international community's ability to keep step with rapidly evolving issues in global health, including pandemics and antimicrobial resistance, climate change, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. By the end of the semester, students will be able to critically assess the adequacy of international law for the protection and promotion of global health, and prospects for developing the field of global health law.

Pharmaceutical IP & Regulation


This course examines the Minister of Health’s drug approval process for pharmaceutical and biological drugs (including vaccines) and the role intellectual property rights have on this approval process. By reviewing legislative texts and the relevant (and extensive) jurisprudence that exists in this area, students will gain an understanding of how these two aspects of drug regulation impact on the competition between “brand-name” manufacturers (who typically obtain patents and other intellectual property in being the first to bring a drug to market) and generic or bio-similar manufacturers (who seek to enter the market by making a copy of a brand-name product).

Mental Health Issues and Criminal Law


Individuals suffering from mental disorders have contact with and are impacted by the legal system on a a daily basis. This course examines our perceptions of those suffering from mental disorders and critically assesses how these perceptions influence how the legal system responds to their needs and issues. There will be a review of the historical development of legal procedures and substantive law to address mental health issues. There will be a comprehensive review of the evolution leading to the passage of Part XX.I of the Criminal Code, beginning with the seminal case of Daniel McNaghten. The creation of a civil mental health system in Canada will also be examined. The efficacy of the current Review Board system will be critically examined. The course will focus both on having students acquire substantive knowledge of historical and mental health law, as well as to assess how the mental health and legal systems can most effectively work together.

Food Law


This course provides a basic overview of food law and policy in Canada. In addition to reviewing the primary acts and actors relevant to this area, this course surveys major topics covering all aspects of the food chain, from production to consumption. This will include topics such as agricultural law and policy, food safety, food and health labelling, marketing and advertising, public health, and the practice of food law in Canada.

In particular, we will tackle emerging areas such as food systems and sustainability, the new Food Policy for Canada, food security, food sovereignty and food justice; the social economy of food; the regulation of GMOs and other food innovations; food law and gender, animal welfare and animal rights and Indigenous approaches to food law, as well as the impacts of global pandemics on food systems. Students who have a keen interest in food law and practice will benefit greatly from this course. However, it is also designed for those more interested in the legal system generally who will learn about its workings through the case study of food and can then apply these insights to other areas of law and policy.

The course objectives are to be able to locate, explain and critique:

  • the past, present, and future of food law and policy in Canada
  • the federal, provincial, and municipal laws and regulations governing food
  • major and current areas of debate in the field
  • the relationship between academic, legal, industry, and government perspectives on food law and policy-related issues

They also include developing critical thinking skills and becoming familiar with alternative perspectives.

Cannabis and the Law


There have been few changes in Canadian legislation that have had an impact on as many areas of the law as the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. This course, sponsored by Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l., will survey the many areas of the law impacted by this unprecedented change and will examine the regulatory framework of cannabis in Canada in respect of both medical and recreational use, and production. In addition, the course will explore some of the potential legal implications of legalization, including with respect to employment/labour law, property law, immigration law and business law. The course features a variety of guest lecturers and instructors from Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. in addition to a visit to Canopy Growth in Smiths Falls.

Courses – Common Law French

Introduction au droit de la santé


Ce cours vise à expliquer aux étudiants et étudiantes la structure du système de soins de santé au Canada selon une perspective critique. L’objectif est de fournir un cadre d’analyse solide et des outils utiles pour faire de la recherche et exercer dans le domaine tout en examinant les iniquités inhérentes au système et les questions d’accès. Dans cet optique, le cours traite de plusieurs thèmes : le cadre constitutionnel canadien, la santé des populations, l’assurance santé, l'organisation et la réglementation des professions de la santé, la responsabilité professionnelle et des hôpitaux, la santé publique, la santé mentale, les médicaments, les autochtones et la santé, l’accès pour les groupes défavorisés, et les litiges en matière de santé en vertu de la Charte canadienne.

Les étudiants et étudiantes choisissent et analysent un arrêt ou un thème d’actualité portant sur un sujet qui les intéressent particulièrement et présentent le fruit de leur recherche à la classe. Au cours des années précédentes, les sujets suivants ont été explorés : le contrôle des produits du tabac, le système de sang, la procréation médicalement assistée, le consentement aux soins, l’accès à l’avortement, le régime de santé des réfugiés, l’autonomie décisionnelle en fin de la vie, etc.