Ontario long-term care law violates Charter, lawsuit alleges

Advocates are advancing their legal battle against a controversial Ontario long-term care law that forces seniors out of hospitals and into long-term care homes where they have no choice.

Ontario Health Alliance and Seniors Advocacy Center have filed a notice of application in the Ontario Superior Court challenging Bill 7. It claims legislation passed last August overrides the rights of elderly patients and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Fundamental rights to privacy and informed consent.

The law allows hospitals and placement coordinators for home and community care support services to share patients’ personal health information with long-term care home operators without the patient’s consent. They can then force hospitalized patients awaiting long-term care placement to move to a residence they don’t want by charging $400 a day for their hospital stay. Patients in southern Ontario can be taken to a nursing home up to 70 kilometers away, while those in northern Ontario can be transferred up to 150 kilometers from their preferred location.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government opted not to go through a committee stage to gather public feedback on the bill, instead passing it immediately. It has no support from any opposition parties.

Advocacy groups argue that sending older adults to a home away from family and friends where they have no choice can cause unnecessary physical and mental suffering and, in some cases, may hasten death.

“Bill 7 deprives these … patients of their right to life, liberty and security of person under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, by depriving them of their consent to the medical care they will receive, or by appealing or seek to review the actions of hospitals and provincial officials that are denied the fundamental principles of justice required by Section 7,” the advocates said in a statement released Thursday.

The suit also alleges that the government has singled out older patients and denied them equal rights under Section 15 of the Charter, which states that every person in Canada, regardless of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age, or physical or mental disability, shall be treated with the same respect, dignity and consideration.

A request for comment from the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care had not been responded to at the time of publication.

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