Research in human subjects is at the core of achieving improvements in health outcomes. For clinical trials, in addition to the peer review of the results before publication, it is equally important to consider whether the trial will be conducted in a manner that generates data of the highest quality and provides a measure of safety for the participating subjects. In Canada, there is no definitive legislation that governs the conduct of research involving human subjects, but a network of regulations at different levels does provide a framework for both principal investigators and sponsors. In this paper, we provide an overview of the federal, provincial and institutional legislation, guidelines and policies that will inform readers about the requirements for clinical trial research. This includes a review of the role of the Food and Drug Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act and the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS2), an overview of provincial legislation across the country, and a focus on selected policies from institutional research ethics boards and public health agencies. Many researchers may find navigation through regulations frustrating, and there is a paucity of information that explains the interrelationship between the different regulatory agencies in Canada. Better understanding the process, we feel, will facilitate investigators interested in clinical trials and also enhance the long-term health of Canadians.