VANCOUVER: Today the BC Court of Appeal released the long awaited decision in Cambie Surgeries Corporation v British Columbia (Attorney General). The appeal was dismissed with the majority written by Chief Justice Bauman and Justice Harris, and a concurrence by Justice Fenlon.
The majority held that the BC law that prevents patients from accessing medical treatment outside the government monopoly system does deprive some patients of their rights to life and security of person. However, the majority found that the prohibitions are in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Justice Fenlon held in a concurrence that the law deprives some patients of their rights to life and security, but that it was not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice because the deprivations are grossly disproportionate. However, in her opinion that breach is justified under section 1 of the Charter. It is extraordinarily rare for violations of the right to life and security to be justified under s. 1.
“We are disappointed in this decision, and our heart goes out to the patients who have suffered on endless government wait lists while their health deteriorates. We know that long wait times for patients worsen medical outcomes, and that patients even die on these government wait lists. We disagree that this bizarre form of social cruelty that traps patients in a dysfunctional government monopoly can be justified by the principles of fundamental justice,” said CCF Executive Director, Joanna Baron.
“The guiding case here should clearly be the Supreme Court of Canada’s Chaoulli decision from 2005. A case where those advocating for patient choice were ultimately successful at the nation’s highest court after two consecutive losses at the Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal. We are optimistic about a similar result in the Cambie case following the inevitable appeal to the Supreme Court,” concluded Baron.
The CCF supports the plaintiffs in the Cambie litigation, but is not itself a party to the litigation. More information on the case is available at YourHealthCantWait.ca.