Historically, the Supreme Court of Canada has avoided direct intervention in health care policy-making. This posture changed dramatically with the release of the Chaoulli decision in June 2005. In a narrow four-to-three decision, the Supreme Court struck down Quebec laws prohibiting the sale of private health insurance on the basis that they violate Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Three of the four judges in the majority also found the provisions violate section seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In a blistering dissent however, the three judges in the minority found that the insurance restriction violated neither the Quebec nor the Canadian charters. The result makes further Charter challenges to similar laws in other provinces inevitable, but the question of whether they will or should succeed remains contested.
In September 2005, a conference was convened at the University of Toronto to discuss the legal implications of the Chaoulli decision. Some of the top Canadian scholars in the fields of health law and health policy were brought together to exchange ideas and to chart the potential legal course for Canada in the decision's wake. Access to Care, Access to Justice contains all the papers given at this conference.
Edited by Colleen Flood, Lorne Sossin, and Kent Roach, the collection explores the role that courts may begin to play in health care and how this new role is of crucial importance to the Canadian public and their governments. As litigators for those who favour more freedom to provide private health care and aggrieved patients marshal their legal resources, provinces across the country are considering their options. Some are seeking guidance on how to better insulate themselves from review; others may welcome such challenges as a way to revisit the provisions of the Canada Health Act. The contributors to Access to Care, Access to Justice examine how the future of Canadian health care is likely to be determined both in the courts and in the legislatures and scrutinize how these changes will affect Canadians.