Scientific Advisory Committee on Global Health for the Government of Canada – Terms of Reference


At home and abroad, the Government of Canada is actively engaged in numerous activities and fora related to global health, contributing through policy, programmatic and research mechanisms. Given the complex issues to be addressed, with substantial public health and social implications, it is important for the federal government to strengthen science- and evidence-based decision-making through regular access to shared scientific expertise and advice.

In this context, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio (OIA) (on behalf of Health Canada [HC] and the Public Health Agency of Canada [PHAC]), hereafter ‘the departments’, agreed to establish a Scientific Advisory Committee on Global Health (SAC-GH). The committee will provide joint access to a structured and regular opportunity for global health decision-makers from the federal government to discuss current and emerging issues with one another and with external scientific experts.


The SAC-GH is established under the authority of the Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Global Health (ISC-GH), which is composed of senior global health decision-makers from each of the abovementioned departments. They have the ultimate responsibility and accountability to make decisions with respect to the SAC-GH mandate, operations and potential follow-through on its advice within their respective departments.


The mandate of the SAC-GH is to provide independent and objective scientific advice and guidance on global health issues as requested by the departments. The advice and guidance of the SAC-GH could help to inform investment decisions, programs, and policies of the Government of Canada across a range of global health issues. The SAC-GH will:


The SAC-GH is composed of external members from various backgrounds and with the highest calibre of scientific expertise across a range of disciplines relevant to global health research. Members are selected to bring a broad range of relevant expertise and opinions, and commit to manage any potential, perceived or real conflicts of interest (COI) in a way that upholds the interest of the departments and the public interest (see COI clause below for details). Members will have varied demographic profiles regarding cultural background, sex, age, gender, spoken language, geographic location, institutional affiliation (e.g., academic, non-profit, private and/or public sectors) and career stage.


Invited Expert Guests

Administration and Organization

The SAC-GH will aim to meet twice a year in-person, usually in Ottawa, and once a year via video conference, at the invitation of the Interdepartmental Steering Committee. To ensure Canada’s positions on various global health issues are guided by timely scientific expertise, the SAC-GH members are expected to be available for engagement on an ad-hoc basis either individually, in working groups, or telephone/videoconference meetings of the whole SAG-GH committee, to address a particular global health question faced by the departments in between meetings. Any of the departments could also connect with any SAC-GH member(s) in between meetings to help address a specific global health issue.

Terms of Appointment

Appointments to the SAC-GH will usually be three years in length. However, initial members of the SAC-GH will be appointed for 1-3 years to ensure a staggered turnover in committee membership. Members may be re-appointed for an additional term that will usually be three years in length. Members should provide four weeks’ notice of their intent to resign. The resignation notice must be in writing and should state the effective date of resignation.

Members of the Interdepartmental Steering Committee will join meetings of the SAC-GH as active observers.

Roles and Responsibilities

Role and Responsibilities of the Chair

The ISC-GH will select the SAC-GH Chair and, if determined to be helpful, a Vice-Chair. The Vice-Chair assumes the Chair’s responsibilities in the event of the Chair being unable to attend. Chair, and if applicable, Vice-Chair, terms are usually for 1-3 years. The role of the Chair is to facilitate meetings, including:

Role and Responsibilities of the Secretariat

CIHR will provide core secretariat services for the committee on an ongoing basis. The International Relations and Institute Support Unit at CIHR and an operational lead at each department will provide secretarial support. Secretarial responsibilities will consist of meeting coordination, agenda setting in coordination with the Chair of ISC-GH and the Chair of SAC-GH, the preparation of the meeting materials, minute taking, post-meeting follow-up communications, and updating Matters for Action as directed by the Chairs. The Secretariat may extend invitations to other participants (e.g., subject-matter experts/international guests) for select agenda items, as required.

Role and Responsibilities of Members

Committee members are expected to:

Conflict of Interest (CoI)

To ensure the highest ethical and integrity standards, the members of the SAC-GH must ensure that, in situations of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, advice is given in a manner that upholds the interest of the departments and the public. Members must declare any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest at the start of a meeting and in direct relation to the agenda items to be discussed. The Chairs of the SAC-GH and the ISC-GH can then decide whether members who have declared COIs should step out during the discussion of the relevant agenda items, whether other actions should be taken, or if declaration of the conflict is sufficient. Some COIs may require members to resign from the SAC-GH.


SAC-GH members will act in an advisory capacity to all four involved departments. Members are asked to act in good faith and within the scope of their duties. Members should not act against the interests of SAC-GH and may not make claims of financial loss as result of their involvement in the committee.

Departments are not obligated to pursue policy advice provided by SAC-GH members. If pursued, each department has the ultimate responsibility and accountability for any decision resulting from the advice received from external members.


To support their ability to provide well-informed advice, SAC-GH members may receive confidential information. Every external member must sign a Confidentiality Agreement before participating on the SAC-GH. The Confidentiality Agreement prohibits the disclosure of any confidential information received through participation on the SAC-GH, including information received orally or in writing. The departments will mark information according to the level to which it is protected under the Policy on Government Security.

To encourage openness of discussion and to facilitate the sharing of information, meetings of the SAC-GH will be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust and discretion. In the exercise of their advisory function, SAC-GH members will maintain the confidentiality of deliberations at all times, and will not disclose the Committee’s advice. All advice from the SAC-GH are advisory to the ISC-GH, which retains full control over any subsequent decisions or actions regarding any proposals, policy issues or other matters considered by the SAC-GH. The ISC-GH also retains full control over the dissemination of any outputs produced by the SAC-GH.


The departments are committed to openness and transparency as an operating principle. Therefore, membership of the committee and high-level summaries of SAC-GH meetings will be made publicly available while respecting any issues of confidentiality that may arise.


Service as a member of the SAC-GH is voluntary. Members will be reimbursed at the Government of Canada rates for expenses incurred to attend meetings but will not receive honoraria or other financial compensation.


The mandate and functioning of the SAC-GH will be assessed annually by the Interdepartmental Steering Committee. These Terms of Reference will be revised as needing based on the annual evaluation.

Terms of Reference

Approved by the Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Global Health on February 28, 2020.

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