Constitutional Rights and Social Welfare: A Comment on the Canadian Chaoulli Health Care Decision
13 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2006
Chaoulli v Quebec (A.G.) may be the most controversial Supreme Court of Canada decision to date. The Court used social science evidence of foreign health care systems to justify its finding that a provincial ban on private health care insurance unjustifiably violated the right to security of the person. The decision could lead to fundamental structural changes in the way Canadian provinces deliver health care services. Given the importance of Charter jurisprudence in the United Kingdom, and recent debate about the wisdom of incorporating social rights, the case raises a number of pertinent issues for British lawyers. This comment advances two general arguments. First, that the case was wrongly decided because of its poor characterisation of the legislative objective of the ban, unprincipled approach to judicial deference, and poor treatment of expert and social science evidence. Second, far from justifying suspicion of constitutional social rights, the case illustrates precisely why such rights can make a positive difference.
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