Ontario Human Rights Commission Echoes More Serious Concerns with the Ontario Critical Care Triage Plan – Will the Ford Government Start to Listen This Time?

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Ontario Human Rights Commission Echoes More Serious Concerns with the Ontario Critical Care Triage Plan – Will the Ford Government Start to Listen This Time?


March 2, 2021




The pressure on the Ford Government mounts even more to open up, publicly discuss and substantially revise its seriously flawed plans for rationing or triage of critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads hospitals. On March 1, 2021, the Ontario Human Rights Commission wrote the Ford Government a strong letter, set out below. It echoes a number of our serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage plan. It specifically references concerns that have been raised by the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.


We commend the Ontario Human Rights Commission for this letter. We call on the Ford Government to come out of hiding, and address the serious concerns that we and the Ontario Human Rights Commission are raising.


If there must be a critical care triage plan and protocol, it must be legally valid and constitutional. It is not good enough for anyone to duck our concerns by simply taking the position that a critical care triage plan is needed. That one is needed does not justify its discriminating because of disability contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights, and its failing to provide due process to patients whose very lives are in jeopardy.


There is an urgent need for frontline doctors, being trained to conduct critical care triage, to be alerted to the serious human rights and constitutional violations that they could commit. As the AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report on Ontario’s critical care triage plan reveals, a recent January 23, 2021 webinar for over 1,100 frontline doctors completely failed to alert those trainees to these issues. It misleadingly told those trainees that the Ontario Human Rights Commission was consulted on the development of Ontario’s critical care triage plan, without also alerting them that the Commission (along with community organizations like the AODA Alliance) raised serious human rights objections to that plan. The Commission’s letter, set out below, is yet more proof that such misleading training for critical care triage doctors risks real harm to patients with disabilities.


The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s letter refers to an earlier written submission on critical care triage that the Commission sent the Government-appointed Bioethics Table last December, and to a summary that the Bioethics Table prepared of a consultative roundtable that the Bioethics Table held on December 17, 2020 (in which the AODA Alliance participated). We set that summary out below, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s written submission that supplemented it, included as an appendix to that summary. We want to give you some information to help you read the summary of the December 17, 2020 roundtable that the Bioethics Table prepared:


  1. Several key points that the AODA Alliance raised at that December 17, 2020 roundtable are set out in greater detail in the AODA Alliance’s unanswered December 17, 2020 letter to the Minister of Health.


  1. The overwhelming point that came from the community groups at that roundtable made was that they had not had time to prepare for that rushed meeting, but had serious human rights concerns with the critical care framework we were shown. Since then, no such consultation has been held with community groups like the AODA Alliance by the Government, its Bioethics Table or its Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre. This is so even though the Government and its proxies and defenders in the medical world repeatedly claim that consultations are ongoing on the Ontario critical care triage plan.


  1. As it turns out, we now know that the Ford Government and its Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre had already taken important steps towards its critical care triage plan by the time that the December 17, 2020 roundtable was being held. These steps were likely known to the Bioethics Table participants, but were not revealed to the AODA Alliance and other community groups taking part in that discussion.


For more background, check out:


  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report revealing new serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage plan, and its February 26, 2021 news release on that report.


  1. The January 13, 2021 Ontario Critical Care Triage Protocol, which the Government has never revealed, and which we believe is only publicly downloadable from the AODA Alliance website.


  1. The eight unanswered letters from the AODA Alliance to the Ford Government on its critical care triage plan, including the AODA Alliance‘s September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter, its December 17, 2020 letter, its January 18, 2021 letter and its February 25, 2021 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.


  1. The Government’s earlier external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed last month.
  2. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

            MORE DETAILS


 March 1, 2021 Letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the Ontario Government


The Honourable Christine Elliott

Minister of Health

College Park 5th Floor, 777 Bay Street

Toronto, ON M7A 2J3


Dear Minister Elliott:

RE: Follow-up on critical care triage – Ongoing human rights concerns and the need for public consultation

I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you for speaking with me in December 2020 and confirming your commitment to human rights and your interest in ensuring that our stakeholders’ concerns are appropriately heard. As you know, since April 2020, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has voiced the importance of respecting human rights when triaging critical care during the pandemic. The OHRC has sought to promote an equity-sensitive approach that is fair, transparent and founded on human rights principles.

Since last year, the OHRC has called on the Government to publicly release and consult with human rights stakeholders on various iterations of the critical care triage protocol and framework. Throughout this time, the OHRC has undertaken all best efforts to support the COVID-19 Bioethics Table in its work to revise a triage framework that respects human rights.

We are writing to highlight certain issues about the most recent triage-related documents that the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre has disseminated to health-care administrators and, once again, to offer our support to your Ministry in hopes of ensuring that the concerns and interests of human rights stakeholders will be heard.

As you know, last December, the OHRC worked collaboratively with the COVID-19 Bioethics Table to facilitate a consultation with human rights stakeholders on the September 11 version of the proposed triage framework document. The Bioethics Table prepared a summary of the meeting and circulated it to participants. The summary also included an appendix prepared by the OHRC summarizing its recommendations for the Bioethics Table and your Ministry’s consideration.

Early this year, the OHRC obtained a copy of the Emergency Standard of Care dated January 13, 2021. We also obtained copies of related supplementary materials on the Emergency Standard of Care:

Template letters to be sent to patients informing them they will not receive critical care and/or that critical care is being withdrawn without their consent

An online short-term mortality risk calculator with digitized clinical tools to assess mortality

Critical Care Services Ontario’s January 23, 2021, webinar and slide deck to help disseminate the Emergency Standard of Care within the sector.

While the OHRC appreciates that the Emergency Standard of Care refers to human rights principles and obligations in its introduction, we remain concerned about the following issues that we raised earlier:

The reliance on a 12-month predicted mortality timeline is excessive and risks discriminatory biases

The use of clinical assessment tools not validated for critical care triage also risks discriminatory bias

The need to account for the human rights duty to accommodate throughout the decision-making process including when assessing a patient’s predicted mortality

The need to ensure the legal right to due process and transparency for triaging decisions, including an effective mechanism for the right to appeal a decision that disproportionately impacts the right to life of vulnerable groups

The need to ensure appropriate human rights training and guidance for healthcare service providers so that they can implement the standard equitably and effectively.

Further, while the OHRC appreciates that the Emergency Standard of Care is intended to be an “evergreen” document, we are concerned that this document and supplementary materials (including the online short-term mortality risk calculator) are being shared within the health-care sector with potentially discriminatory content and without sufficient public input or consultation. We are also concerned that the previous March 2020 version of the protocol, which was intended to be rescinded in October 2020, may still be in circulation and relied upon by health-care partners, particularly given something to this effect was noted in the above-cited January 23, 2021, webinar regarding emergency/ambulance services.


Stakeholders – including ARCH Disability Law Centre and the AODA Alliance – have expressed serious concerns that the government may act on calls for an emergency order to suspend certain provisions of the Health Care Consent Act, allowing doctors to withdraw patients from critical care without their consent, or that of their families or substitute decision-makers, and without independent oversight.

The OHRC understands that granting doctors such decision-making power is an extraordinary measure and one the Government will not take lightly. The OHRC also understands that your Ministry wishes to ensure that human rights stakeholders concerns are properly considered and understood. In light of this, we cannot overstate that even if the Government does not issue an emergency order, the lack of transparency regarding the status of the Emergency Standard of Care, plans regarding next steps and questions regarding due process are causing grave concern among vulnerable groups. We believe these concerns must be addressed immediately, particularly given the existence of new, highly transmissible variants of COVID-19.

The OHRC believes that now is the time to act to make sure that frameworks and protocols for triage decisions that are consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code are in place before a potential third wave overwhelms Ontario’s health-care system.

We call on the Government to publicly release and consult human rights stakeholders including the OHRC on the latest versions of the proposed triage framework and the Emergency Standard of Care. There is an urgent need to make sure that vulnerable groups who may be disproportionately affected have an opportunity to share their perspectives while there is still time, and before the proposed triage framework and/or Emergency Standard of Care and related materials are finalized.



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

Dr. Andrew Baker, Incident Commander, Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre

Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General

David Corbett, Deputy Attorney General, Ministry of the Attorney General

OHRC Commissioners


 Ontario Government’s Bioethics Table Summary of Its December 17 2020 Roundtable on Critical Care Triage


Stakeholder Roundtable


 Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic:

Proposed Framework for Ontario


Summary Report


Prepared by:

Jennifer Gibson, PhD (Co-Chair, Bioethics Table)

Dianne Godkin, PhD (Co-Chair, Bioethics Table)

21 December 2020



On December 17th, the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table (the “Bioethics Table”) and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) co-convened a roundtable with human rights stakeholders (Appendix 1) to review and provide feedback on the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table’s Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Proposed Framework for Ontario (the “Proposed Framework”). The Proposed Framework was developed iteratively from March to August 2020 (Appendix 2) and submitted with recommendations for next steps to the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health in September 2020. An earlier version of the framework, which had been developed and released to Ontario hospitals in March 2020, was never implemented and was subsequently rescinded on October 29th.

The roundtable was facilitated by Dr. Kwame McKenzie (CEO, Wellesley Institute). Representatives from the Office of the Minister of Health, the Ministry of Health, Ontario Health and the COVID-19 Ontario Critical Care Command Centre were in attendance as observers. As laid out by Dr. McKenzie, the roundtable aimed to ensure: 1) that all human rights stakeholders were able to share their views on the Proposed Framework; 2) that their concerns were heard by the Ministry, Ontario Health, Critical Care Command Centre representatives and by Bioethics Table members; and 3) that there was clarity on how the Proposed Framework could be improved. Roundtable participants were also provided with links to recent publications on the topic of critical care triage and associated frameworks/protocols in Canada and elsewhere (Appendix 3).


This report provides a high-level summary of key issues and concerns raised by roundtable participants and potential actions identified by roundtable participants to address these issues and concerns. It is not exhaustive of all that was discussed at the roundtable. It is intended to reflect the most urgent issues and concerns around which there was broad agreement among roundtable participants in the immediate context of Wave 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic. The OHRC has also provided an outline of its recommendations (Appendix 4). It was acknowledged by all that there are systemic health inequities that will require long-term solutions that are outside of the scope of critical care triage during a pandemic.


Key Issues/Concerns and Potential Actions


Roundtable participants stressed the paramount importance of a non-discriminatory, equitable, and culturally safe critical care triage approach. COVID-19 has already had a disproportionate negative impact on many of the communities represented by roundtable participants. Pre-existing historical and social inequities in health outcomes and negative experiences of the healthcare system further exacerbate these impacts. Some may experience intersectionality, the cumulative impact of belonging to more than one disadvantaged group (e.g., a racialized person who also has a disability). For Indigenous communities, it is not just a matter of individual survival, but of cultural survival if an Indigenous knowledge keeper becomes ill and dies. Participants raised concerns that there has been limited engagement of disability, older adults, Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, arguably those who have been most significantly impacted during the pandemic, in all aspects of pandemic planning and that this has resulted in unsatisfactory and unsafe care. The possibility of triage raises significant fears that these historical and social inequities will be magnified if actions are not taken to implement a critical care triage process that is non-discriminatory. Participants were very concerned that they only had one week to review the Proposed Framework and had difficulty understanding some aspects of the document. Consequently, further engagement and stakeholder consultation is required. A general observation of the Proposed Framework raised by participants is that is not sufficiently prescriptive in describing what must be done.


The following Table summarizes the most urgent issues and concerns and potential actions identified by roundtable participants:


1.     Human Rights and Non-Discrimination as Legal Obligations

Issue: Roundtable participants need greater assurance that decisions related to critical care triage will be made in alignment with human rights codes and will be non-discriminatory.


Potential actions:

Ø  Articulate non-discrimination/human rights as the primary overarching legal obligation used to guide the critical care triage process.


2.     Equity as a Positive Obligation

Issue: Although equity is identified as an important ethical principle in the Proposed Framework, roundtable participants emphasized the need for a positive obligation to promote equity and for concreteness and clarity on how equity would actually be enacted in practice. It was recognized that under conditions of great stress during a major surge in demand for critical care, unconscious bias is likely to be activated unless steps are taken to support clinicians in promoting equity.


Potential actions:

Ø  Develop an equity-based checklist tool that healthcare providers must review and consider during the assessment stage of the triage process to help them account for the impact of social determinants of health and pre-existing co-morbidities due to social and historical inequities in the care of their patients.

Ø  Make requirements for accommodations for persons with disabilities or to address communication barriers explicit, including allowing a support person to be present as needed.

Ø  Ensure all who are involved in critical care triage process receive anti-racism, anti-bias (e.g., anti-ageism, anti-ableism), and Indigenous cultural safety training and/or have access to tools and resources (e.g., see checklist above) to minimize the risk of unconscious bias.


3.     Legal Framework for Critical Care Triage During a Major Surge

Issue: Critical care triage during a major surge would deviate from current legal and regulatory standards, particularly in relation to withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment without consent. Roundtable participants underscored the need for a legal framework to justify the critical care triage approach and to protect both healthcare providers and patients. Any liability protections for healthcare providers should require that they have acted in accordance with this legal framework and with the Ontario Human Rights Code.


Potential actions:

Ø  Develop a legal framework for critical care during a major surge, including key elements of due process.


4.     Critical Care Triage Decision-making Process and Clinical Assessment Tools

Issue: Roundtable participants expressed a need for critical care triage decision-making processes and clinical assessment tools to be outlined in greater detail and communicated in a transparent manner to patients and the public. While there was general agreement that for the purposes of triage decisions, clinical assessment should focus on predicted short-term mortality risk, specific concerns were raised about using 12-months as the time frame for predicted short-term mortality and about the validity of the tools for Indigenous persons and other marginalized persons. Roundtable participants also emphasized the need for critical care triage decisions to be transparent.


Potential actions:

Ø  Engage stakeholders in the identification/adaptation of clinical tools to ensure they are culturally appropriate.

Ø  Reduce the duration of short-term predicted mortality risk from 12 months to a lesser time period.

Ø  Include individuals (e.g., community leaders) outside of the medical profession in the implementation of the critical care triage decision-making process (e.g., as supports to patients in clinical decision-making; as members of the Triage Teams described in the Proposed Framework; as members of appeals committees).

Ø  Develop accessible communication tools tailored to the needs of particular groups to foster understanding and trust.


5. Right to Appeal

Issue: Given the significance of the decision to withhold or withdraw critical care resources from a patient, roundtable participants underscored the need for a timely appeal process as an important safeguard to uphold non-discrimination.


Potential actions:

Ø  Establish an external appeals process by a third party.


6. Development of Interim Protocol for Wave 2

Issue: Given the increasing hospitalizations in Wave 2, roundtable participants underscored the urgency of having a non-discriminatory, legally sanctioned, and effective triage protocol in place in the event that there is a major surge in demand for critical care in the coming weeks or months. Absent an interim protocol, roundtable participants acknowledged that clinicians would be left unsupported in the triage decision-making process and Indigenous, Black and other racialized patients and persons with disabilities would be placed at significant risk of harm. The interim protocol would be subject to further revisions and include ongoing engagement and co-development with key stakeholders.


Potential actions:

Ø  Develop an interim protocol in collaboration with human rights stakeholders and critical care providers. The interim protocol could be based on the institutional protocol created by the Ontario COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre with modifications to reflect where there is broad human rights stakeholder agreement.

Ø  Concurrently, continue stakeholder engagement to address unresolved issues and to advance elements of the Proposed Framework which may require more time to implement.

APPENDIX 1: Roundtable Participants


Roundtable Facilitator:

Kwame McKenzie (CEO, Wellesley Institute)



Nicole Blackman (Provincial Director, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council)

Avvy Go (Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic)—also provided written submission

James Janeiro (Director, Community Engagement and Policy, Community Living Toronto)

Trudo Lemmens (Professor & Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto)

David Lepofsky (Chair, AODA Alliance)

Caroline Lidstone-Jones (CEO, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council)

Roxanne Mykitiuk (Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University)

Tracy Odell (President, Citizens with Disabilities)

Mariam Shanouda (Staff Lawyer, ARCH Disability Law Centre)

Jewelles Smith (Past-Chairperson, Council of Canadians with Disabilities)



  1. Office of the Minister of Health

Emily Beduz (Director, Pandemic Response)

Heather Potter (Director, Issues and Legislative Affairs)


  1. Ministry of Health

Tina Sakr (Team Lead, Priority and Acute Programs)

Jennifer Lee Arseneau (Senior Policy Advisor, Priority and Acute Programs)


  • Ontario Health

Louise Verity (Strategic Advisor to the CEO)


  1. Ontario COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre

Andrew Baker (Incident Commander)


  1. Ontario Human Rights Commission

Ena Chadha (Chief Commissioner)

Violetta Igneski (Commissioner)

Raj Dhir (Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel)

Shaheen Azmi (Director, Policy, Education, Monitoring & Outreach)

Bryony Halpin (Senior Policy Analyst)

Jeff Poirier (Senior Policy Analyst)

Rita Samson (Senior Policy Analyst)


  1. Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table (in attendance)

Jennifer Gibson (Co-Chair; University of Toronto)

Dianne Godkin (Co-Chair; Trillium Health Partners)

Sally Bean (Toronto Region Bioethics Lead and Member; Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre)

Cecile Bensimon (Member; Canadian Medical Association)

Carrie Bernard (Member; William Osler Health System, University of Toronto, McMaster University)

Nicole Blackman (*new member as of Dec 2020; Indigenous Primary Health Care Council)

Paula Chidwick (Central Region Bioethics Lead and Member; William Osler Health System)

James Downar (Member; The Ottawa Hospital, Bruyere Continuing Care, Ottawa Health Research Institute)

Lisa Forman (Member; University of Toronto)

Mary Huska (North Region Bioethics Lead and Member; Health Sciences North)

Michael Kekewich (East Region Bioethics Lead and Member; The Ottawa Hospital)

Stephanie Nixon (Member; University of Toronto)

Nancy Ondrusek (Member; Public Health Ontario)

Lisa Schwartz (Member; McMaster University)

Robert Sibbald (Member; London Health Sciences; Western University)

Maxwell Smith (Past Co-Chair and Member; Western University)

Randi Zlotnik-Shaul (Member; Sick Kids Hospital)


vii) Students

Veromi Asiradam, JD Student, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Ya-En Cheng, JD Student, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University


viii) Recorder

Danielle Linnane (Quality Improvement Specialist, Ontario Health)








APPENDIX 2: Development of the Proposed Framework


The Critical Care Triage During Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Proposed Framework for Ontario (the “Proposed Framework”) was developed based on iterative review of the academic literature and published policy statements on critical care triage in a pandemic, consultation with clinical, legal, and other experts, and feedback from health system stakeholders. The Proposed Framework with recommendations for next steps was submitted to the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health in September 2020.


Development of the Proposed Framework was undertaken in three phases from March to December 2020:


  • In Phase 1, an initial draft framework was developed in March 2020 in response to an urgent need for the Ontario health system to prepare for the possibility of a major surge in demand for critical care as was being observed in Italy, Spain, and New York State. The initial draft, which was developed without the benefit of consultation with human rights stakeholders, among others, was released to hospitals on March 28 to aid planning. A major surge in demand for critical care was averted in Ontario. This draft framework was not implemented and was formally rescinded on October 29, 2020.


  • In Phase 2, extensive feedback on the initial draft framework was received in April 2020 through written submissions from diverse organizations and groups. Feedback was sent either directly to the Bioethics Table or to the Ministry of Health or Ontario Health and shared with the Bioethics Table. The Bioethics Table reviewed and considered all feedback and amended the document accordingly. Additional feedback was solicited from bioethics, health law, and clinical experts. An updated draft framework was developed in May 2020 based on new published findings in the literature, policy discussions in the public domain (e.g., policy statements), and written stakeholder feedback.


  • In Phase 3, the Bioethics Table began meeting with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) in May 2020 and undertook an expanded stakeholder consultation process to elicit input from Black and other racialized groups, Indigenous health leaders, older adults, and disability rights experts. A first stakeholder roundtable was co-convened with the OHRC on July 15, 2020. Meetings continued through July and August with disability rights stakeholders and with the Indigenous Bioethics Reference Group of the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council. The Proposed Framework was informed extensively by these stakeholder discussions, an updated review of the literature and policy statements from civil society organizations (e.g., Canadian Association of Retired People), and additional input from health law and clinical experts. In December 2020, the Bioethics Table received approval to convene a second stakeholder roundtable to review and elicit feedback on the Proposed Framework. The roundtable took place on December 17, 2020.


The Proposed Framework document is a green document within the overall COVID-19 pandemic response in Ontario. The process for developing an approach to critical care triage in the context of a major surge in demand must be sensitive and responsive to changing conditions, emerging evidence, and evolving understanding of the ethical, social, and legal implications of critical care triage for major surge in a pandemic. As such, this document should be subject to regular review and updating as appropriate.




The Bioethics Table would like to acknowledge the substantive feedback, input, and advice of the following organizations through written submissions and/or stakeholder consultations (listed alphabetically):


  • AODA Alliance
  • ARCH Disability Law Centre
  • Black Health Committee, Alliance for Health Communities
  • Canadian Frailty Network
  • Canadian Geriatric Society
  • Canadian Medical Protective Association
  • Canadian Thoracic Society
  • Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
  • Citizens with Disabilities Ontario
  • Clinical, Organization, and Research Ethics (CORE) Network and Provincial COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice – University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics[1]
  • College of Nurses of Ontario
  • College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
  • Community Living Toronto
  • Council of Canadians with Disabilities
  • COVID-19 Critical Care Command Centre and Provincial Critical Care Table, Ontario Health
  • Indigenous Bioethics Reference Group, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council
  • Muscular Dystrophy Canada
  • Ontario Hospital Association/HIROC
  • Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • Ontario Medical Association


The Bioethics Table has also benefited from the substantive feedback, input, and advice of individual scholars and practitioners with expertise in the following areas:


  • Clinical Medicine – over 20 clinician experts in cancer care, cardiac care, complex continuing care, critical care, emergency medicine, geriatric medicine, neurology, stroke, thoracic medicine
  • Health Equity
  • Health Law and Human Rights Law


**Please note that these acknowledgments do not signify endorsement of the Proposed Framework.**


APPENDIX 3: Roundtable Documents


The following is a list of recent publications, including government or policy documents, journal articles, and media reports, on the topic of critical care triage and associated frameworks/protocols in Canada and elsewhere. These were pre-circulated to roundtable participants for their information.


Critical Care Triage Frameworks/Protocols from Other Jurisdictions


  1. Quebec Critical Care Triage Protocol (Nov 2020 – In French)
  2. Saskatchewan Health Authority Triage Working Group, Critical Care Resource Allocation Framework (Sept 2020)
  3. Joint Commission on Triage Decisions for Severely Ill Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Israel, July 2020)
  4. COVID-19 rapid guideline: critical care in adults (UK-NHS, March 2020/updated Sept 2020)


Publicly Available Advocacy/Feedback related to Critical Care Triage


  1. ARCH Disability Law Centre
  2. AODA Alliance/ARCH Disability Law Centre
  3. Ontario Human Rights Commission
  4. Société québécoise de la déficience intellectuelle – English translation using Google Translate attached


Journal & Media Articles


  1. Nouvelles directives pour l’attribution des respirateurs artificiels (Le Devoir) – English translation using Google Translate attached
  2. Following controversy, Quebec revises rules for who gets intensive care treatment if resources are limited (CBC news)
  3. Frailty Triage: Is Rationing Intensive Medical Treatment on the Grounds of Frailty Ethical? (American Journal of Bioethics)
  4. Disability, Disablism, and COVID-19 Pandemic Triage (Journal of Bioethical Inquiry)
  5. What the Chaos in Hospitals Is Doing to Doctors: Politicians’ refusal to admit when hospitals are overwhelmed puts a terrible burden on health-care providers (The Atlantic)
  1. Using the Clinical Frailty Scale in Allocating Scarce Health Care Resources (Canadian Geriatrics Journal)
  2. Ontario has a world-leading protocol that all provinces and territories should adopt to be truly ready for COVID-19’s second wave (Policy Options)
  3. Proceed with caution with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol (Policy Options)

APPENDIX 4: OHRC Recommendations


Summary of OHRC Feedback on Triage Framework

December 18, 2020


Interim Framework / Protocol


  • The OHRC encourages the Ministry of Health to share the “protocolized” version of the Triage Framework that was sent to hospitals in Ontario and also make this document available to all stakeholders involved in the consultation.


  • Without having seen this document, the OHRC is not in a position to assess whether the protocolized version could be adapted or whether an entirely new document needs to be developed to reflect stakeholder input and serve as an interim protocol. An interim protocol should be short, user friendly and developed with a view to how it can be used in a crisis – until further consultation can happen.


  • The interim protocol could continue to evolve as a basis for further consultation on more complex and contentious issues. While not yet sanctioned by legislation or regulation, hospitals would have ready access to a protocol that is reasonably acceptable to stakeholders if a major surge happens.


  • An interim protocol could potentially address issues where there is agreement across stakeholder groups. The issues are, but not limited to:


    • Ensure the protocol recognizes that human rights is the primary guiding principle and law in accordance with the primacy clause under section 47 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code (Code)


    • Ensure there is a legislative basis for the protocol that will also provide for governance and accountability mechanisms including how to initiate the use of the protocol during a pandemic surge


    • Exclude the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) and any other clinical assessment factors and tools that are not validated for critical care resource allocation. The Bioethics Table recognizes the CFS was designed and validated to help identify treatment plans and accommodation supports for frail patients, and not for critical care triage. Used as a triage tool, the CFS would likely disproportionately impact Code-protected groups and may be inconsistent with human rights obligations including the duty to accommodate


    • Define short-term predicted mortality as the predicted risk of death in the initial weeks, and not twelve months after the onset of critical illness. The Bioethics Table recognizes that relatively little mortality occurs between six and twelve months


    • Ensure a fair and efficient appeal mechanism


    • Explicitly recognize the legal duty to accommodate including essential support persons / communications / interpreter access, etc.


    • Mandate a clear procedure to document decisions that requires evidence-based written reasons. This could include a “positive obligation” checklist to account for issues of equity and the social determinants of health


    • Require socio-demographic data collection to monitor for adverse application of the protocol


    • Allow for human rights equity groups to monitor, and provide feedback on the protocol.


The OHRC also agrees with the Bioethics Table’s recommendations that call on the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health to:


  • Issue clear communications that health care providers must disregard and destroy the March 28 version of the protocol


  • Circulate the proposed framework, including the clinical assessment factors and tools, for public feedback and independent legal review


  • Convene a multidisciplinary panel, including experts in human rights and law to further develop, or refute, the clinical factors and tools identified in the proposed framework


  • Engage health care partners to develop guidance for implementing the protocol including clinical operations, communications, training, patient and clinician supports, data collection and monitoring


  • Provide for governance and accountability mechanisms including responsibility for initiating the protocol, data collection and independent monitoring for adverse consequences


  • Sustain equitable COVID-19 prevention efforts to avoid the need to initiate the protocol, and mitigate disproportionate impacts on vulnerable groups


  • Meaningfully engage vulnerable groups, including Indigenous communities, Black and racialized communities, persons with disabilities, older persons and others for their perspectives and participation throughout the process to finalize and implement the protocol.


  • Provide comprehensive training on the new protocol, including anti-bias education.

[1] The CORE Network and the COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice comprise practicing bioethicists who work in a variety of health institutions, including hospitals, long term care homes, rehabilitation facilities, community care, and complex continuing care settings. Members have diverse disciplinary expertise (e.g., philosophy, law, anthropology) and clinical professions (e.g., medicine, nursing, social work, occupational therapy). CORE Network members are based in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area. The COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice draws practicing bioethicists from across the province of Ontario totalling >50 individuals. The University of Toronto Joint for Bioethics provides secretariat support for both the Core Network and the COVID-19 Bioethics Community of Practice.