Bruce v London Health Sciences Centre, 2014 HRTO

How does the Bruce case fit with this Blog’s theme of mothers, care & the law?

Well, in this case, Ontario mother Janet Bruce filed an application at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in which she alleged discrimination against her late daughter, Robin Dawn Bruce. Bruce is fundamentally a decision having to do with care and a litigating mother and the issue of disability rights.

Janet Bruce alleged specifically that London Health Sciences Centre discriminated against her daughter because of disability contrary to the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19.

Ms. Bruce claimed that London Health Sciences Centre provided her daughter Robin with inadequate care because she was an intravenous drug user. According to Ms. Bruce, their alleged discriminatory treatment of her daughter led to her untimely and tragic death on January 29, 2010.

The Claim: That Ms. Bruce’s daughter Robin attended at the ER roughly 20 times between 2005 & December 2009 for the treatment of infections consistent with “CA-MRSA”. According to Ms. Bruce, she & her family sought to provide physicians with information relating to her Robin’s worsening health.

Ms. Bruce alleged that physicians responded with ‘reckless disregard’ for her daughter’s life. She claimed there are strong and compelling reasons to believe that stigma towards her daughter’s drug addiction led the respondent to provide care that fell below standards that typically would be provided to patients who are not addicted to drugs.

The legal (evidentiary) issue as stated by the hearing officer that was at the heart of this case was whether Ms. Bruce can point to evidence, beyond her own assumptions or beliefs, that can establish that her daughter experienced discrimination under the Code.

The Tribunal held that there is no reasonable prospect that evidence Ms. Bruce has or that is reasonably available to her can show a link between the care provided by the respondent and her daughter’s disability.

Why do I share this case?

I share it for a few reasons. One reason is that is shows that mother’s are bringing cases to adjudicative bodies with complaints in the area of the overdose crisis and in so doing exposing problems with care more broadly within it.

I share it because mother’s (and others) are at the vanguard of pushing for immediate change in how we think about and legally regulate substances so that our children can survive or so that other people’s children can survive the toxic street drug supply.

I share it because we need to extend how we think about ‘care’, as being something centered in compassion and as such a something that openly embraces all those ensnared in the crisis wrought by the current situation.

Mothers of stigmatized children have always claimed their children are entitled to nothing less than the best care available. And that the care in question must be delivered at a reasonable standard given the relevant context. Its why we are out there advocating and litigating. Photo below of myself & Deb Watson taken by Lorna Thomas a founding member of Moms Stop The Harm, in Vancouver in 2019. For more on Moms Stop The Harm visit

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