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Dr. Day court challenge for private health care adjourned until at least September

Vancouver-based Council of Canadians organizer Harjap Grewal and public health care activist Colleen Fuller on the first day of the court proceedings.

The Council of Canadians mobilized outside the B.C. Supreme Court on September 6, 2016 at the beginning of Dr. Brian Day’s legal challenge against public health care.

Dr. Day, medical director of the Cambie Surgery Centre, a private Vancouver clinic, claims that British Columbia’s ban on the purchase of private insurance for medically necessary services that are already covered by the public system is a violation of Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

He contends that our public health care system is infringing on a person’s security, right to life and liberty when there is a wait time. Day argues that if you have the money, you should have the right to buy your way to the front of the line.

The National Post has reported, “The case could effectively end the equal access that is at the heart of the country’s health-care system, critics warn.”

That article also noted, “Defenders of the medicare system not surprisingly reject Day’s talk of rights and injustices, saying evidence shows that freeing up a private system — even if it worked hand-in-hand with the public one as he proposes — would only make it tougher for the poor to access care, and vacuum resources from the public side.”

Fundamentally our position has been that people should have access to medical care based on need, not on ability to pay. We have also highlighted that there are public solutions to addressing wait times.

Now, The Globe and Mail reports, “The constitutional challenge of Canada’s public health-care system has adjourned until September, with the plaintiffs arguing they have run out of money for the case and accusing the British Columbia government of stall tactics. …The adjournment further delays a landmark case that began more than seven months ago, to significant attention, but which has since slowed to a crawl. The matter, which is being heard in B.C. Supreme Court, had been expected to take six months but the plaintiffs are only halfway through their case and the province has not yet begun its submission.”

The Vancouver Sun adds, “B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Steeves said he was not optimistic the trial will resume as hoped on Sept. 5 because procedural and evidentiary issues may not be ironed out by that date.” That said, The Globe and Mail notes, “When asked what the plaintiffs will do if they have not raised sufficient funds for the case by September, Dr. Day said they are determined to proceed.”

Various news reports note that Dr. Day and the plaintiffs have already spent $2 million pursuing this case backed by the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

Dr. Day launched the legal challenge in July 2012. We began blogging on the issue in February 2013. In September 2014, we participated in coordinated media conferences in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax to express concern when the BC government was seeking an out of court settlement with Day. We have even encouraged our donors to help pay for the legal representation needed by our allies and interveners in this case, the British Columbia Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

We will continue to monitor the developments in this case.