CALGARY: The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has ruled against the constitutional challenge to the Alberta government’s health care monopoly, brought by Alberta dentist Darcy Allen. Dr. Allen’s application was heard in October 2013, and sought to have the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Chaoulli v. Quebec extended to Alberta.
In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Quebec’s ban on private health insurance in Chaoulli v. Quebec. The seven Justices were unanimous in holding that this ban created a “virtual monopoly” over health care by government, and that this government monopoly forces people to suffer – and sometimes die – on painful wait lists. The Supreme Court also held that the ban on private health insurance violates the right to life protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The only substantive disagreement among the Supreme Court Justices in Chaoulli was about whether the government’s health care monopoly was justified. The majority held it was not justified. The evidence considered by the Supreme Court in Chaoulli was extensive, including numerous studies, reports, and expert testimony from witnesses at trial. The Court’s majority noted that other countries do not ban private health insurance, yet have better public health systems – and shorter wait lists – than Canada.
The Alberta law challenged by Darcy Allen was almost identical to the Quebec law struck down by the Supreme Court in Chaoulli in 2005.
In a judgment released March 31, 2014, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench held that Darcy Allen could not rely on the Supreme Court’s finding in Chaoulli that a ban on private health insurance creates a government monopoly. Further, the Court held that Darcy Allen would also have needed to re-prove or re-demonstrate the Supreme Court’s holding that the government’s monopoly over health care imposes suffering (and sometimes death) on patients on wait lists.
Dr. Allen suffered severe lower back pain for years before finally giving up on receiving needed surgery within the Alberta government’s monopoly system. Dr. Allen lived in continuous pain, unable to do ordinary things like grocery shopping, tying his shoe laces, and playing with his young daughter. The unrelenting pain also forced him to stop working as a dentist. Faced with a further wait of 18 months, he paid $77,000 out of pocket for surgery in Montana in 2009.
“Requiring Dr. Allen to re-submit the same evidence already reviewed and considered by the Supreme Court in Chaoulli would needlessly and unfairly impose a heavy burden on him, and on other Canadians seeking to secure their Charter rights,” stated Dr. Allen’s lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
“Litigation is already too expensive for the overwhelming majority of Canadians. If Canadians cannot rely on both the factual and legal findings of the Supreme Court, it will become even more difficult for people to secure their Charter rights,” continued Carpay.
“I am very disappointed with the Court’s ruling, and will be discussing the possibility of an appeal with my counsel,” stated Darcy Allen.