The Challenge of
Human Rights' Policies to
Traditional Health Care Structures
In Chapters 3, 6 and 22 brief mention was made of Canada's commitment to new policies set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms appended to the patriated constitution in 1982. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, first as Minister of Justice and then as Prime Minister of Canada, had made the realization of the idea of equal citizenship for all Canadians one of his main aims.
The legislation relating to equality of citizenship is set down in the Human Rights Act, 1977, revised 1983. In 1983 four groups were designated as specially disadvantaged — women, native peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities. They were perceived to be groups whose needs for enhancement of citizenship should be given special consideration.
This chapter will follow through what these policies have meant for three groups in Canadian society — persons with disabilities, native peoples and visible minorities. There were, of course, other groups which Trudeau saw as disadvantaged (e.g., in the 1950s the Québécois and Canadian women), but these will not be discussed here as their problems of equality of citizenship are very complex and go far beyond health affairs.
Hahn (1985), has described the transition in thinking about disability policy in the 1970s as: "The shift from the medical model of disability and from the economic (rehabilitation) model of disability to the sociopolitical (minority group) model which calls for public policy changes which shape the environment from a discriminatory one to one which is open to all people. This change calls for a restructuring and reconceptualization of [ideas about] dis