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Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General)

Born in France in 1952, Dr. Jacques Chaoulli trained in medicine in Paris and Québec City, where he emigrated in 1978. A firm believer in market competition, he practised in a small clinic in St. Léonard and in 1991 created a home visiting service that served local patients. This initiative was financially penalized by the regional health unit for violating practice standards, and his clinic closed. In 1996, Chaoulli began to practise outside the Quebec health insurance plan and started legal proceedings against the Quebec government and its prohibition of private health insurance, arguing that it violated patients’ liberties and their right to quality care. Despite two lower court judgements that upheld the province’s duty to maintain its legislation, Chaoulli’s case was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004 and, in their June 2005 decision, four justices supported Chaoulli’s position and three opposed it. The judicial supporters agreed that lengthy wait times were unacceptable under Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, while the dissenters argued that Parliament was the body that should determine health care policy. Quebec’s government was given one year to develop a plan to limit wait times or provide alternative services and in response passed legislation which complied with the court decision while limiting the role of private health insurance and protecting the integrity of the single payer system.

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010