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Healthcare and Education in Calgary

More and more people are drawn to life in Calgary, this young city in the south of Alberta, Canada. The InterNations Expat Guide tells you all you need to know about living in Calgary, including info about the healthcare system, Calgary’s schools, as well your local transportation options.
There are a number of medical centers in Calgary, for example the colorful Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Alberta’s Public Healthcare System

Canada’s public healthcare system, called Medicare, with its nationwide standards of coverage as defined by the Canada Health Act, is the basis for various territorial and provincial health insurance plans. In Alberta, healthcare services are thus covered and managed by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP). This plan provides coverage for all permanent residents of Alberta, provided they are physically present for at least half the time in a 12-month period and are not already obtaining benefits in another territory, province, or country.

Expats and their dependents are typically also covered, as long as they show commitment to live in the province for at least 12 consecutive months and, in the case of temporary workers, were granted a permit with a minimum duration of six months. Get in touch with the AHCIP for information and help regarding your individual situation.

If you are eligible, don’t forget to register for the AHCIP within three months of your arrival. Once you’re successfully registered, you will get your Alberta Personal Health Card.

The AHCIP covers the costs of medically required services at hospitals or doctors’ offices, excluding expenditures for medication (outside of hospitals or nursing homes), ambulance services, and treatments by dentists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, as well as some treatments by specialists (e.g. optometrists).

Make sure to talk to your employer about additional health insurance coverage or think about taking out a private health insurance policy yourself if you want to be insured against such additional costs.

In Need of a Doctor?

If you find yourself in need of emergency services (e.g. police or fire department), dial 911. This emergency number is available 24/7.

Keep in mind, however, that ambulance costs are not covered by the AHCIP, so if at all possible, make your own way to one of the city’s hospitals or health centers when in need of urgent care. Well-known hospitals and health centers in Calgary are:

  • Foothills Medical Centre
  • Peter Lougheed Centre
  • Rockyview General Hospital
  • Sheldon M. Chumier Health Centre
  • Alberta Children’s Hospital
  • South Health Campus
  • South Calgary Health Centre

Please note that the South Calgary Health Centre, for instance, does not provide 24h emergency services. This is the case for the majority of health centers in Calgary, with Sheldon M. Chumier the noted exception. Hospitals, on the other hand, operate around-the-clock.

For everyday medical services, make sure to find a family doctor early on, for their referral will be necessary if you are planning on seeing any type of specialist. You can use the online tool for finding local physicians, as provided by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

Children Are in Good Hands

You can look up licensed childcare programs in your neighborhood with the Childcare Look-Up Tool from the Alberta Human Services. Expatriates in Calgary can also send their kids (around age 5) to the kindergarten of their designated school or enroll them in an alternative program at, for example, a bilingual school. Refer to the Calgary Board of Education’s website for more information on kindergartens in Calgary.

Where to Send Your Kid to School

There is no single, nationwide school system in Canada, but Canadian public schools nevertheless retain a very high standard of education. Funded through taxes, public schools are free for all residents, including expat kids. As such, only relatively small costs may crop up, e.g. to cover additional educational materials or field trips.

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) offers a comprehensive overview of public schools in the region, which can be filtered by either grade or area. The overview includes detailed information on the schools, their main program(s) and any “unique points”, such as language immersion or sports programs.

Typically, you cannot simply pick one specific school, though, as school placements are dependent on your address in Calgary and the availability of space and programs. Requests are, however, taken into consideration.

Similarly to public schools, Catholic schools are also funded mostly through donations and taxes. Check the website of the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) for more information and an overview of Catholic schools in Calgary.

With about 25% of local students classified as English Language Learners (ELLs) by the CBE, supporting non-native speakers in improving their English skills is considered very important. As such, many of both the CBE’s and the CSSD’s schools provide English Language Learning (ELL) assistance in one form or another.  

Read on to learn more about international schools and institutions of higher education in Calgary and to get information on your local transportation options.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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