Eldridge concerns the issue of the availability of publicly funded sign language interpreters to deaf people in the course of receiving medical care. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the failure of BC’s medicare legislation to cover the costs of such interpretation amounts to discrimination. This argument had been unsuccessful so far before the BC Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
The case was of interest to LEAF because it presents an important opportunity to have the Supreme Court develop its jurisprudence in the area of adverse-effects discrimination, as well as to address the intersection of inequalities experienced by deaf women.
LEAF and DAWN Canada were granted intervenor status. West Coast LEAF members sat on the case subcommittee, and West Coast LEAF’s Legal Director assisted LEAF’s National Litigation Director in coordinating the case.
The Supreme Court ruled that the failure of BC’s medical services legislation to provide funded sign language interpretation had an adverse impact on Deaf persons, and amounted to discrimination on the basis of disability. The Court also ruled that whenever a body carries out a government objective for which it is funded by the government, that body must conform to the Charter.
In LEAF’s view, the case is an important victory, as it declares that governments must take measures to ensure that disadvantaged groups benefit equally from government services.