MONTREAL -- The disaster that has struck dozens of Quebec long-term care hospitals for several weeks is now the subject of an official complaint.

On Wednesday, a Quebec council responsible for protecting patients filed a complaint with the province’s Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.

Under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the complaint alleges discrimination and exploitation of the elderly who are living or lived in a CHSLD since the beginning of the health crisis. 

The Conseil pour la protection des malades (CPM) is calling for an end to the suffering inflicted upon the elderly, requesting financial compensation for residents whose right to receive safe and dignified care has been violated since March, it says.

The complaint alleges the Quebec government and health authorities should have known the majority of the deaths caused by COVID-19 would be among seniors by the beginning of March at the latest, because of information available from other countries. The CPM also says authorities should have known CHSLDs and residences for the elderly would be the hardest hit by COVID-19 outbreaks. 

The complaint blames Premier François Legault and the Quebec government for this situation for waiting until April 2 to make long-term care centres their priority. 

"Thousands of elderly people (...) have been mistreated, neglected, several have died while the government, health authorities, CHSLDs and residences for the elderly have exploited and violated their fundamental rights to dignity, integrity and security,” said CPM president Paul Brunet. 

The COVID-19 virus has killed a total of 1,974 people in Canada as of Thursday morning, 1,134 of which were in Quebec. Most of the deaths in Quebec have been seniors, many of whom live in CHSLDs.

Anyone who has suffered from a lack of care in a CHSLD or a retirement home since March is being asked to contact the CPM to be included in the complaint.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2020.