In June 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada released its long-awaited ruling in Chaoulli vs. Quebec (Attorney General). The 4-3 decision has profound implications for the future of health care in Canada.
The ruling went in favour of a Quebec patient, George Zeliotis, and his physician, Dr. Jacques Chaoulli. The pair had challenged the province’s ban on private health insurance for necessary medical services.
Right: George Zeliotis (left) and Dr. Jacques Chaoulli
What will be the repercussions of the Chaoulli decision and what will it mean for the future of the Canadian health care system? Can unreasonable delays in the publicly funded system be eliminated? Will the emergence of more private health care options threaten the integrity of the public system?
To explore the significance and impact of the Chaoulli ruling, the Osgoode Professional Development Program and York’s Centre for Public Law & Public Policy will hold a one-day national summit today from 8:30am to 5:30pm at Osgoode Hall Law School’s downtown Professional Development Centre, 1 Dundas St. West, 26th Floor.
More than 20 key policy makers and legal experts will discuss the important implications of this decision. The keynote address at 12:30pm will be given by George Smitherman, Ontario minister of health and long-term care. Other special addresses will include Senator Michael Kirby at 8:50am and Morris Rosenberg, deputy minister of health for Canada, at 10:45am.
Click here for more information and a full program of the one-day summit.
About the Chaoulli decision
Zeliotis and Chaoulli argued that the year-long wait for Zeliotis to undergo hip replacement surgery in 1997 violated his right to life, security and liberty under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
The prohibition on private health insurance contained in Quebec’s Health Insurance Act and Hospital Insurance Act was the focus of the challenge by Chaoulli and Zeliotis. They argued that the prohibition was not justified because both acts deprived individuals of a basic right.
The judgment stated: “Inevitably, where patients have life-threatening conditions, some will die because of undue delay in awaiting surgery.” The judgment further stated that “the right to life and personal inviolability is therefore affected by the waiting times.”
It has been hailed in some quarters for highlighting the urgency of reducing wait times and for its recognition of a right of reasonable access to health care services. Others have denounced the ruling as the beginning of the end of medicare.