Complaint seeking access to life saving health care for prisoners can proceed

Is it in the public interest to ensure that prisoners have access to life saving medication?  That was the situation faced by our client. He was denied his HIV medication 36 times over a two year period.  His doctor thought it was important and expressed concern in writing to prison officials. The doctor described the significant public health risk this delay posed to our client and to the public at large. Our client filed a human rights discrimination claim, but he was late in doing so. This is not surprising.

As a prisoner he lacked access both to the internet and to legal advice. The BC Human Rights Tribunal thought that access to life saving health care was an issue of such public importance that it accepted the late complaint. The Tribunal can do this if it thinks the complaint is important enough.  But the government challenged the Tribunal’s decision. 

Today the BC Court of Appeal confirmed that it was up to the Tribunal – not a reviewing court -- to decide whether a complaint is important enough to be accepted past the time line.  This is a victory for all disadvantaged groups.    

See:  British Columbia (Ministry of Public safety and Solicitor General) v . Mzite, 2014 BCCA 220