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Letter to Minister of Health to follow up on Bioethics Table recommendations and proposed framework for a COVID-19 triage protocol

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November 6, 2020

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The Honourable Christine Elliott
Minister of Health
College Park 5th Floor, 777 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister Elliott:

RE: Bioethics Table recommendations and proposed framework for a COVID-19 triage protocol   

I am writing to follow up on my letter to you dated October 16, 2020, about the COVID-19 Bioethics Table’s recommendations and proposed framework for a triage protocol to allocate limited critical care services in a potential major surge in COVID-19 cases.

We were very pleased to learn that on October 29, Ontario Health sent a communication to Critical Care Leads, Hospital CEOs and Ontario Health Regional Leads stating that the March 28 critical care triage protocol and later draft versions are rescinded and should not be used. The OHRC and human rights stakeholders, including ARCH Disability Law, the AODA Alliance and the Canadian Association for Retired Persons had raised serious concerns that these earlier versions had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups and violated human rights.

However, we are very concerned that the October 29 communication indicates a revised framework might be distributed to health care professionals should pandemic conditions deteriorate significantly. That is too late. Human rights stakeholders have not yet seen the Bioethics Table’s latest proposed framework and recommendations submitted to your Ministry in September. In my letter on October 16, I supported the Bioethics Table’s recommendation to circulate the proposed framework and recommended next steps for public feedback, and again call on your Ministry to authorize their release.

It is vital that the government share the current draft of the protocol and meaningfully engage with the vulnerable groups that data now shows are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Indigenous communities, Black and other racialized communities, persons with disabilities, older persons and others. Their perspectives and participation throughout the process to develop and implement any critical care triage protocol is a matter of human rights.

The OHRC will continue to be available to support this important work and again I extend my invitation to meet with you and discuss next steps at your earliest convenience.


Ena Chadha, LL.B., LL.M.
Chief Commissioner

cc:         Helen Angus, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health
             Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health
             Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, COVID-19 Bioethics Table
             Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General
             David Corbett, Deputy Attorney General, Ministry of the Attorney General
             OHRC Commissioners