The PHS Case and Federalism-Based Alternatives to Charter Activism

Dwight Newman


In the recent case of Canada (AG) v PHS Community Services (PHS, often called the Insite Decision), the Supreme Court of Canada purported to offer a case-specific decision limited to Vancouver’s Insite injection facility. The decision saw the Court declare that the Federal Minister of Health could not decline to continue an exemption from narcotics provisions for the Insite Clinic, which provided an injection site for narcotics users in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. Despite the Court’s claim to want a case-specific decision, I argue in the present discussion that by basing their decision on section 7 of the Charter, rather than using the alternative federalism argument that was available, the Court adopted a more activist route with more disruptive future legal consequences.

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