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Operational guideline: Supplemental guidance for Safe Food for Canadians licence action decision makers

On this page

  1. 1. Purpose
  2. 2. Authorities
  3. 3. Reference documents
  4. 4. Definitions
  5. 5. Acronyms
  6. 6. Operational guideline
    1. 6.1 Operation division among the positions identified as the Minister's delegate
    2. 6.2 Responsibilities of the Minister's delegate making licence action decisions
    3. 6.3 Use of another Minister's delegate
    4. 6.4 Consultation with Legal Services
    5. 6.5 Engaging the management oversight body
    6. 6.6 Decide if licence action should be considered
    7. 6.7 Chairing an opportunity to be heard for cancellation decisions
    8. 6.8 Decide if licence action will be taken
    9. 6.9 Review the draft notification of licence action decision
    10. 6.10 Notify the National Centre for Permissions (NCP) of the decision to take a licence action
    11. 6.11 How and when to report licence actions to senior management
  7. 7. Appendices

1. Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide supplemental guidance to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) officials who have been delegated the Minister's authority to amend, suspend or cancel a Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence issued pursuant to subsection 20(1) of the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and its regulations.

This document is intended to be used in conjunction with other guidance documents as referenced in Section 3.0 of this guidance. In particular, this guidance supplements the following operational guidance documents:

This guidance document should be used by CFIA officials who have been delegated Minister's authority to make a decision to amend a licence under section 32 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), subject the licence to additional conditions under SFCA 20 (3), suspend a licence under SFCR 35 and SFCR 37, lift a suspension under SFCR 38 or cancel a licence under SFCR 39.

Although this guidance document speaks solely to SFC licence actions, the CFIA has the necessary powers and authorities to address non–compliance through the use of a variety of control and enforcement actions. These actions can be used independently or concurrently as the situation warrants. This document is intended to be used in conjunction with Standard regulatory response process (SRRP) and the Operational guideline – Food regulatory response guideline.

2. Authorities

The inspection powers, control actions and enforcement actions authorized by the above legislation are identified and explained in the Food regulatory response guidelines.

3. Reference documents

4. Definitions

Definitions are located in either the:

5. Acronyms

Acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used and are consolidated in the Food business line acronyms list.

6. Operational guideline

6.1 Operation division among the positions identified as the Minister's delegate

As referenced in the Procedures for suspending and lifting the suspension of an SFC licence and the Procedures for cancelling an SFC licence, the Director of Operations responsible for the National Center for Permissions (NCP) and the regional Directors of Operations (DO) are delegates of the Minister for sections 35, 38, 39 and 40 of the SFCR and are therefore authorized to suspend or cancel an SFC licence in accordance with the regulations.

While both the regional DOs, and the DO responsible for the NCP are delegated these functions per the Chart summarizing delegation of Ministerial authorities (accessible only on the Government of Canada network – RDIMS 9366193), table 1 below identifies the Minister's delegate typically responsible for the functions and duties associated with the SFC licence actions under normal circumstances in consideration of the role associated with each position.

In the case of amendment of a licence due to inability to conduct an activity [SFCR 32], the functions of the Minister have been delegated to DOs and the DO responsible for the NCP.

Table 1: Operational division of the powers, duties and functions of the Minister's delegate
Provision Description Minister's delegate typically responsible
SFCR 32(1)

32 (1) If a licence holder is unable to conduct an activity that is identified in their licence in one of the establishments that are identified in the licence, the Minister may amend the licence to remove the authorization to conduct that activity in that establishment.

DO in the region responsible for verifying compliance of the licence holder

DO responsible for the NCP

SFCR 35(a)

The Minister may suspend a licence if (a) the licence holder does not comply with any provision of the Act, other than section 15, or with any provision of these Regulations, the Food and Drugs Act or the Food and Drug Regulations

DO in the region responsible for verifying compliance of the licence holder

SFCR 35(b)

The Minister may suspend a licence if (b) the licence holder is in default of payment of any fee related to the licence that is fixed under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act

DO responsible for the NCP

SFCR 35(c)

The Minister may suspend a licence if (c) the Minister is of the opinion that a risk of injury to human health may result if the licence holder continues to conduct an activity that is identified in the licence.

DO in the region responsible for verifying compliance of the licence holder

SFCR 37 (1)

Despite section 36, if the Minister is of the opinion that a risk of injury to human health may result if the licence holder continues to conduct an activity that is identified in the licence, the Minister may suspend the licence immediately after the licence holder is provided with a written report that sets out the grounds for the suspension.

DO in the region responsible for verifying compliance of the licence holder

SFCR 38

The suspension of a licence must be lifted if the Minister determines that corrective action has been taken.

If the events leading to the suspension are related to the non-payment of fees: DO responsible for the NCP

DO in the region responsible for verifying compliance of the licence holder

SFCR 39

The Minister may cancel a licence if

  • (a) the licence holder fails to take corrective action within 90 days after the day on which the licence was suspended, unless a longer period is granted by the Minister at the written request of the licence holder;
  • (b) the licence holder continues to conduct an activity that is identified in their licence while the licence is suspended;
  • (c) the licence holder or any of their directors or officers has been convicted of an offence under the Act or the Food and Drugs Act;
  • (d) the licence holder does not comply with any provision of the Act, other than section 15, or with any provision of these Regulations, the Food and Drugs Act or the Food and Drug Regulations and, since its issuance or renewal, the licence
    • (i) has already been suspended for non-compliance with that provision, or
    • (ii) has already been suspended twice; or
  • (e) the licence holder was not in compliance with section 15 of the Act in respect of their application for the issuance, renewal or amendment of the licence or at any time during the period of validity of the licence.

If the events leading to the potential cancellation are related only to the non-payment of fees: the DO responsible for the NCP

For all other events leading to the potential cancellation: The DO in the region responsible for verifying compliance of the licence holder

SFCR 40(1)

The Minister must not cancel a licence unless the licence holder was notified of the grounds for cancellation and was provided with an opportunity to be heard in respect of the cancellation.

If the events leading to the potential cancellation are related only to the non-payment of fees: the DO responsible for the NCP

For all other events leading to the potential cancellation: The DO in the region responsible for verifying compliance of the licence holder

6.2 Responsibilities of the Minister's delegate making licence action decisions

When making a decision concerning an SFC licence, complete all of the tasks associated with the licence action process including:

6.3 Use of another Minister's delegate

6.3.1 When to use another Minister's delegate

At times, it may be necessary for the initial Minister's delegate specified in Table 1 to refer the decision to another Minister's delegate. Refer the file to another delegate in the following circumstances:

6.3.2 Selecting another Minister's delegate

Table 2 below describes suitable alternatives.

Table 2: Alternative Minister's delegate
Initial Minister's delegate Alternative Minister's delegate

DO in the region responsible for verifying compliance of the licence holder

  • another DO either within the region or Area or a DO from another Area who has the relevant business line knowledge to make the decision

DO responsible for the NCP

  • the DO of the region responsible for verifying the compliance of the licence holder
  • a DO from another region or Area who has the relevant business line knowledge to make the decision

6.4 Consultation with Legal Services

Some decisions resulting in actions on an SFC licence are reviewable by a Federal Court. To ensure the licence holder receives a consistent, impartial, transparent and justified decision, consultation with Legal Services is required when licence cancellation is being considered (at the direction from the President).

Otherwise, it may be useful to consult legal services when:

6.5 Engaging the management oversight body

The relevant management oversight body in the Operational Area responsible for verifying the compliance of the licence holder, should be engaged to support the Minister's delegate and contribute to a response consistent with the Compliance and enforcement policy. This should occur early in the process, such as shortly after reviewing the case and weighing the factors that will be considered in the decision. Members of the management oversight body may provide their views or insights for consideration however, they do not make the decision.

6.6 Decide if licence action should be considered

Review the Action form and supporting documentation provided by inspection staff along with any information related to the factors of harm, history and intent when determining whether the proposed licence action is the appropriate regulatory response. Table 3 below identifies actions to be taken when considering a licence action.

Table 3: Actions to be taken by Minister's delegate when considering licence actions
If Then

The Minister's delegate decides to consider licence action (excluding cancellation)

The Minister's delegate decides to consider cancellation of the licence

  • proceed to section 6.7 to offer an opportunity to be heard prior to making a cancellation decision

The Minister's delegate decides not to consider licence action

  • document your decision by completing the "Minister's delegate's comments and decision box" on the Action Form and sign the form
  • return the completed form to the inspection staff to inform them of the decision
  • stop this procedure

At any point during the process, relevant subject matter experts may be consulted including the Area Operational Specialist Unit, Operational Guidance and Expertise (OGE) Division or Legal Services (as per Section 6.4) to confirm the application of the SFCR and associated policies.

6.7 Chairing an opportunity to be heard prior to cancellation decisions

In accordance with SFCR 40(1), an SFC licence may not be cancelled unless the licence holder has been provided an opportunity to be heard in respect of the cancellation. An opportunity to be heard is organized by the Minister's delegate making the decision whether or not to cancel the licence. It may be in the form of a written submission, in person meeting or virtual meeting as chosen by the licence holder.

6.7.1 Planning

The following guidelines should be applied to planning the opportunity to be heard:

The format (virtual, in person, written submission etc.) of the opportunity to be heard is at the discretion of the licence holder.

6.7.2 Chairing an opportunity to be heard

When chairing an in-person or virtual meeting for an opportunity to be heard:

In the event that the licence holder declines the opportunity to be heard or does not respond within the period mentioned in the Notification, proceed to Section 6.8.

6.8 Decide if licence action will be taken

When making a decision on licence action:

Note: The licence holder should be notified in the event that it is decided not to proceed with licence cancellation after an opportunity to be heard. Send a Decision in respect of cancellation of an SFC licence following the opportunity to be heard to the licence holder to inform them of the decision not to cancel.

6.9 Review the draft notification of licence action decision

Review the notification of licence action which was drafted by inspection staff using the information provided on the action form. The notification must be reviewed to ensure the decision is complete, transparent and justified. Appendix 2 provides tips on writing a decision.

Sign the notification digitally if it will be delivered via email to the licence holder as per the Operational guideline: Application of digital signature to domestic inspection documents (accessible only on the Government of Canada network – RDIMS 14129982). If the decision will be delivered in person or by registered mail, a wet signature is appropriate.

Provide the completed and signed notification to the inspection staff to be delivered to the licence holder.

Note: The Minister's delegate is responsible for reviewing, editing, as required, and signing the notification of a licence action. Only the Minister or a person occupying a position to whom the Minister has delegated the duties and functions of the Minister under the provisions of SFCR may make the decision to take licence action.

6.10 Notify the National Centre for Permissions (NCP) of the decision to take a licence action

Once the decision has been made to take a licence action, the Minister's Delegate will ensure a red-flagged e-mail is sent to the NCP at Permission@inspection.gc.ca:

Note: In the event of a licence cancellation refer to the Procedures for cancelling an SFC licence section 6.9 Notify the Food Import / Export Division (FIED) of the decision to cancel a licence.

6.11 How and when to report licence actions to senior management

Once it has been decided that an SFC Licence will be taken, you must inform CFIA senior management by applying the process described in Reporting Issues Guidance Document (accessible only on the Government of Canada network – RDIMS 4250407). The purpose of the Reporting issues guidance document is to provide guidance on reporting certain issues including, licence suspensions and cancellations. This pre-notification prior to licence action is particularly important for high visibility issues where further communication with the public or media is anticipated.

7. Appendices

For general inquiries related to this Operational Guidance Document, please follow established communication channels, including submitting an electronic Request for Action Form (e-RAF) (accessible only on the Government of Canada network).

Appendix 1 – Forms and templates

Appendix 2 – Tips on writing a decision

Note: this is not an exhaustive list

Considerations prior to making the decision

Justify the decision

Additional elements to consider in writing a decision

Record keeping

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