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Chaoulli v. Quebec

Supreme Court of Canada
[2005] 1 S.C.R. 791


Quebec (defendant) had a public system that provided universal healthcare. To try to preserve the quality and integrity of this public system, Quebec had a law prohibiting people from buying private health insurance for any service offered under the public system. This law essentially eliminated all private health insurance and meant that private-sector services were available only to people who could pay cash for them. However, the public system had notoriously long wait times for many treatments, including life-saving treatments like heart surgery and time-sensitive treatments like ligament repairs. Although private-sector treatments were available much faster, without private health insurance, most Quebec residents were forced to accept the long wait times for public care. George Zeliotis (plaintiff) was a Quebec resident who sought treatment from the Quebec public-healthcare system for multiple health issues but who had difficulty due to the long wait times. Dr. Jacques Chaoulli (plaintiff) was a Quebec doctor who encountered repeated legal obstacles in his attempts to provide medical services in the private sector. Zeliotis and Chaoulli sued to have the private-health-insurance ban overturned. The superior court dismissed Zeliotis and Chaoulli’s motion for a declaratory judgment. The court of appeal affirmed. The case ended up in front of the Canadian Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Deschamps, J.)

Concurrence (McLachlin, C.J.)

Dissent (Binnie, J.)

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