This case concerned the accessibility of health care to new immigrants, including those with disabilities.
LEAF intervened before the Ontario Court of Appeal, in coalition with:
- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
- DisAbled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN)
In 1994, the Ontario Government changed the rules governing eligibility for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which meant that:
- Most temporary residents of Ontario, including foreign workers and international students, lost eligibility for OHIP coverage
- Persons applying for landed immigrant status could not obtain OHIP coverage until they had passed required medical examinations
- Individuals newly arrived in Ontario had to wait three months before applying for OHIP
- OHIP eligibility would be determined on an individual basis, as opposed to the previous system which was family-based
A group of individuals challenged the changes to OHIP eligibility, arguing that the changes violated their equality rights s. 15 of the Charter. The Ontario Supreme Court dismissed their application, and they appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
LEAF argued that the changes directly discriminated based on new immigrant status and disability, and had discriminatory effects based on sex, race, poverty and age. Equal access to basic health care is a defining feature of Canadian society and part of the overarching purpose of s. 15. The changes to OHIP eligibility denied new immigrants access to publically funded health care in a discriminatory manner, with particularly negative impacts on women, children, racialized persons, persons with disabilities, and low-income persons. This violated s. 15, and could not be saved under s. 1.
The Ontario Court of Appeal held that the eligibility changes did not discriminate under s. 15, and dismissed the appeal.
LEAF is grateful to Martha Jackman and Kim Buchanan, counsel in this case.
Download the factum here.
Read the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].