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Unions, Council Launch Legal Challenge to Uphold Compliance with Canada Health Act

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Issue: 18 Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada Topics: labour, health

May 28, 2004

Unions, Council Launch Legal Challenge to Uphold Compliance with Canada Health Act

Courts should be able to review the federal government's compliance with the Canada Health Act, says a coalition of "public health care supporters" including the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Canadian Health Coalition. The federal government's position, according to court documents filed at the end of April, is that courts have no authority to review its compliance with the Canada Health Act.

According to legal counsel Stephen Shrybman, the enforcement mechanisms of the CHA have never been used. Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew has claimed that it is complying with the Canada Health Act, but Shrybman says the federal government fails to collect the information that would allow it to determine if provinces are complying with the principles of the Act.

Passed unanimously in 1984, the Canada Health Act requires that health care in Canada be publicly administered on a non-profit basis, comprehensive in coverage, universally available, accessible, and portable (meaning available to people who travel or move within Canada or outside the country).

"For years now the auditor general has criticized the federal government for its shoddy reporting on health care. We can't hold them to account to protect publicly funded, publicly delivered health care in Canada," said Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

"We suggest that behind this stonewalling is a political agenda--to tacitly encourage the provinces to allow further private, for-profit involvement in all aspects of health care," said Silas.

» Council of Canadians: Feds ducking responsibility to enforce Canada Health Act (CHA)

» Government Canada: Canada Health Act

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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