Canadian Supreme Court said What Politicians Won’t

Arthur Weinreb has a blistering editorial on the health care system of the Great White North in today’s Canada Free Press.

Supreme Court said what politicians won’t say

[…] In the decision of Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General) that was handed down on Thursday by the Supreme Court of Canada, the court found that Quebec laws that prohibit the purchase of insurance to cover private medical treatment violated the Quebec Charter and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The majority of the court found that waiting times in the public system violated the Quebec Charter of Rights. While it was not necessary to decide, three of the justices found that the Quebec law violates section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights that guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The court held that delays in the public health system led to prolonged pain and suffering, deteriorating medical conditions and in some cases, death. In coming to this conclusion in what will inevitably be to the dismay of those on the political left, the Supreme Court followed its 1998 decision in R. v. Morgentaler that held that delays encountered by women seeking abortions breached section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The interesting aspect of the Chaoulli decision, and the one that most deviated from what politicians of all political parties have been spewing for years was the finding that this breach of a charter right was not reasonable. The court found that while the preservation of a publicly funded health care system was a substantive and legitimate government objective, the outright ban on private health care insurance had no rational connection to saving the public system and went further than was necessary to meet that objective. In the majority̢۪s opinion, the government of Quebec failed to show that allowing Quebeckers to purchase insurance for private health care would destroy Canada̢۪s public health care system. In reaching this conclusion the court examined other countries in the OECD such as Sweden and the U.K. that have strong public health care systems despite allowing private parallel health care services.

This finding is at odds with what the politicians have been saying for years; that not only will allowing private medical services destroy our health care system; it will destroy Canada as we know it. The entire fabric of our society will disappear. We are constantly being told that our health care system is what defines us as a country. Allow someone to actually pay for what is now a public service and we will be no different than the United States.


The Supreme Court of Canada was right — the public system as we know it will not end. But hopefully Chaoulli will mark the beginning of the end to all the political spin where the reality of the existence private medical care is denied. Perhaps it will also mark an end to this notion that it is better to allow people to suffer and die than it is to allow them to have access to private treatment.

Of course, allowing those with the means to escape the socialist system to do so creates inequality. There are a not insubstantial number of people who would indeed prefer that outcome.

crossposted from small dead animals

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bachbone says:

    But the ‘esteemed’ U.S. Congress can threaten seniors covered by Medicaid who pay from their own pocket for some medical procedure, and any doctor who accepts the payment, with prison.