In 1983, the Medical Services Commission established a scheme for limiting the numbers of practicing doctors and restricting the geographic areas of their practices in order to control costs and evenly distribute health care throughout the province. The appellant doctors were denied the needed "practitioner numbers" and brought an action challenging the constitutionality of the scheme under s. 7.
- Is "liberty" in s. 7 broad enough to encompass the opportunity of a qualified doctor to practice medicine without restraint as to place, time, or purpose?
"Liberty" within the meaning of s. 7 is not confined to mere freedom from bodily restraint. It does not, however, extend to protect property or pure economic rights. It may embrace individual freedom of movement, including the right to choose one's occupation and where to pursue it, subject to the right of the state to impose, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, legitimate and reasonable restrictions on the activities of individuals.
The court, in a per curiam decision, proceeded to ask whether this was purely a case about economic rights, such as the right to work (as the trial judge characterized it). This was held to be too narrow; the Charter should be interpreted broadly, but it does not extend to "an unconstrained right to transact business whenever one wishes". The caselaw did not allow for a finding that the government may deprive an individual of the opportunity to pursue freely his/her chosen profession.
The restriction of movement for the purpose of employment was held to be the most severe deprivation of liberty short of imprisonment. Finding then a s. 7 breach, and no s. 1 justification, the scheme was unconstitutional.
- Section 7 rights should be interpreted broadly.
- A restriction on movement for the purpose of employment is a severe deprivation of liberty.