Ontario advocates fight LTC law posing an 'egregious deprivation' on seniors’ rights
Paramedics take away an elderly patient at the Tendercare Living Centre, long-term-care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Published Monday, November 21, 2022 7:53AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 21, 2022 10:54AM EST
Ontario advocates are launching a constitutional challenge to a law they call an “unprecedented and egregious deprivation” of seniors’ rights and freedoms.
On Sunday, elderly patients began facing $400 per day penalties if they refused to let a hospital transfer them to a long-term care home not of their choosing.
These hefty fines are part of Bill 7, otherwise known as the More Beds Better Care Act, which was passed by the Ford government in late August.
The legislation allows hospital patients to be transferred to a temporary long-term care home as far as 70 kilometres away in southern Ontario and 150 kilometres away in northern regions while they await a bed in their preferred facility.
However, the Ontario Health Coalition announced a Charter challenge on Monday morning with the hope of getting the court to strike down the law.
“This is, in our view, a really hideous piece of legislation,” Ontario Health Coalition Executive Director Natalie Mehra said at a Monday morning news conference at Queen’s Park.
Since bringing this bill forward, the Ontario government has said that temporarily transitioning these patients into long-term care homes will free up high-demand hospital beds.
However, Mehra said this will not fix the “large systemic problem” of hospital bed shortages and instead, will put seniors’ health and well-being at great risk by transferring them to homes up to 150 kilometres away.
“This law cannot solve the hospital bed crisis. It can only bread misery upon misery,” Advocacy Centre for the Elderly Executive Director Graham Webb said.
“This law will tear people apart. Older couples who have never been apart for 50 or 60 years or more will find one spouse sent to long-term care up to 70 or 150 kilometers or more away from home.”
Benjamin Piper, who is representing the Ontario Health Coalition, said he is asking the court to declare Bill 7 as a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“We'll ask the court district to strike that law down or at least portions of it. We will be bringing the challenge under two sections of the charter. Section 7 of the Charter protects the fundamental right to life, liberty, and security,” Piper said.
“We believe the bill actually violates all three of these rights in a number of different respects.”
In a legal opinion obtained by CTV News Toronto, Piper expanded on this position further.
“Choosing where you will live, particularly where it is tied to the choice of medical and nursing care, is basic to an individual’s autonomy and dignity, the essence of the rights protected under section 7,” he writes.
Since the bill specifically targets a vulnerable segment of the population, Piper goes on to say that an effort to obtain consent to move is in fact “coerced consent” and therefore, not a real choice.
Based on these facts, the Ontario Health Coalition argues that Bill 7 also “infringes the right of an ALC patient to equality” under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“In any event, by forcing patients into LTC homes at great risk to their health and well-being, there is compelling argument that the harm Bill 7 will cause far outweighs any health care benefit for others and that other less restrictive solutions exist to the coercive measures adopted,” Piper writes.
With files from CTV News Toronto's Siobhan Morris.