INDEPTH: HEALTH CARE|
The ruling: In reaction
CBC News Online | February 16, 2006
On Thursday, June 9, 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned a Quebec law preventing people from buying private health insurance to pay for medical services available through the publicly funded system.
The Quebec and federal governments has asked the court for a stay before the decision takes effect. The court later agreed to suspend is decision for 12 months retroactive to June 9, 2005.
Premier Jean Charest responded in February 2006. He said the private sector could play a role in health care in Quebec, but said he remained committed to public health care. He also said Quebec will introduce guaranteed wait times for procedures including some radiation treatments and cardiac surgery, as well as knee and hip replacements and cataract operations.
While the ruling applies only to Quebec, there are concerns that it could fundamentally change the way health care is delivered across the country. Canada is currently the only major industrialized country that does not allow any private administration of health-care services that are provided by the public system.
The following is a sampling of reaction to the court ruling.
Access to a waiting list is not access to health care.
– Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice John Major wrote in the decision.
We're not going to have a two-tier health-care system in this country. What we want to do is to strengthen the public health-care system.
– Prime Minister Paul Martin.
The decision means the fundamental laws [governing health care] do not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That being the case, then the overall structure of health care is sound �This is not an opening of the floodgates for the destruction of Canada�s health-care system.
– Roy Romanow, chair of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada.
Today's decision represents a stinging indictment of the failure of governments to respond to the mountains of studies and years of research with real action for our health-care system.
– Dr. Albert Schumacher, president of the Canadian Medical Association
This is the end of medicare as we know it. This is a breach in government monopoly health care in this country. It's going to open up litigation across the country in the other nine provinces as taxpayers there press for the same right, which is the right to seek and buy insurance to cover private health care.
– John Williamson, president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
We have to strengthen the public health-care system so there is no need for a private system, and we are on the way to doing that.
– Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh
Canadians have to understand it's not a $50 or a $500 or even a $5,000 issue. There's only one way to deal with the expensive treatments and that's to share it.
– Sharon Sholzberg-Gray of the Canadian Healthcare Association
Really what [the] judgment has done is it�s given humans the same right as animals. You can buy insurance, private health insurance for your pets, you can buy private health insurance as a foreigner, but until now Canadians were outlawed from that so that has been struck down.
– Dr. Brian Day, of the Cambie Surgery Clinic in Vancouver, B.C., which was granted intervener status when the case was before the court in 2004
Canadians do not want to become a society where only the wealthy can afford hip replacements. We must find innovative solutions to deliver care if we are going to sustain and revitalize our publicly funded, not-for-profit and publicly administered health system � Promoting privately owned health services will lead to a deterioration of public health service delivery in Canada.
– Deborah Tamlyn, president of the Canadian Nurses Association
This is a great victory for all Canadians. It will be a new start for health care in the country.
– Dr. Jacques Chaoulli, one of the two plaintiffs in the case. Represented himself in the Supreme Court hearing in 2004.