October 19, 2012 - On October 2, 2012, CARP’s Susan Eng appeared before the Committee on Justice and Human Rights to stress the importance of Bill C-36 An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Elder Abuse). The bill, if passed, will allow judges to exacerbate sentences for anyone found guilty of committing elder abuse. Since its introduction in March this year, the Bill has gone through Second Reading and it is currently with the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The Committee hearings so far have been positive, and the bill will likely pass with cross party support.
Bill C-36 will allow increased sentencing for elder abuse convictions, which is one of the recommendations that CARP has been long calling for among others, such as a hotline and protocols for duty to report. This Bill is an important step towards fighting elder abuse for several reasons, as captured in the discussions within the committee meetings.
Bill C-36 raises the profile of elder abuse
“… we are making progress, in my opinion, in this area, because you don’t have to explain to people anymore what elder abuse is. They know what it is. They have examples of this. They’ve heard of it. They’ve maybe experienced it. They know members of their family. So to the extent that we continue to push this and… to the extent that the legal profession and members of the police association continue to get people thinking about this issue, we’re all better off…”
- Hon. Rob Nicholson, Sept. 27, 2012
Hon. Rob Nicholson highlighted a major reason why this bill is important, but one Bill alone will not solve the problem of elder abuse. It does, however, draw attention to an important issue that is more important than party differences. As a result of this bill, Canadians may begin to better recognize instances of elder abuse, engage in more discussions about elder abuse, and view the issue with a higher level of involvement.
Bill C-36 acts as a deterrent
“We hope this acts as a deterrent. It certainly provides denunciation for people who commit this kind of crime. By listing it as part of the aggravating factors, we send out the message that the abuse of seniors in this country is inappropriate.” - Hon. Rob Nicholson, Sept. 27, 2012
Bill C-36 is also important because it acts as a deterrent for people who might commit the crime. As Hon. Rob Nicholson stated above, the bill sends out a message that the abuse of seniors will not be tolerated and perpetrators will face more serious consequences if found guilty. The bill effectively helps stigmatize elder abuse and those who might commit the crime.
Prioritizing Bill C-36 sets the stage for more action
“We recognize that this is an important bill and that it has to be put forward…”
- Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, NDP MP, Sept. 27, 2012
“It’s a good thing to finally have a bill on which I think we will all be working on the same page…. This additional paragraph is a very important concept, which says what it needs to say. The title, Protecting Canada’s Seniors Act, implies a host of things. And it is only one section.
I believe you said that it is not a panacea in itself. I don’t think that anyone around this table claims that it will fix all the problems facing our seniors here in Canada.”
- Françoise Boivin, NDP MP, Sept. 27, 2012
“I believe that everyone has agreed that this bill has a relatively limited scope. That does not mean that it is a bad bill, but we have to be aware of its inherent limitations.”
- Raymond Côté, NDP MP, Sept. 27, 2012
“Detection and prevention, of course, ought to be our very first initiative. That doesn’t fall to the Criminal Code but we believe very strongly that this initiative and the kind of prominence that will be given to it will be enough to start spurring on both setting up priorities at the provincial level which have to allocate the resources for prosecution and investigation as well as the average Canadian who recognizes now that this no longer has to be a silent and hidden offence, that there is something that the system will do something about it, something that they can do something about. Obviously our recommendations go beyond this provision to extend to the other kinds of resources and frankly a comprehensiveness to the resources that are available so that the average neighbour who sees something going on knows exactly what to do next.”
- Susan Eng, Oct 2, 2012
“I appreciate that [CARP’s] brief contains in fact seven specific recommendations and those specific recommendations really are part of a comprehensive approach as you mentioned and will indeed address the whole question of elder abuse in that comprehensive fashion.”
- Hon. Irwin Cotler, Lib MP, Mount Royal, Oct 2, 2012
As MP Raymond Côté noted, the bill has limitations and it is not anywhere close to a complete solution for elder abuse – but it is an important and needed first step. By giving the issue greater priority, we can now move closer to a more comprehensive approach which will require the collaborative work of all governments, whereby resources and coordinated action can ensure effective prevention, detection, prosecution, and investigation. It is time that provinces also establish the means to combat elder abuse, building upon the federal government’s leadership and action to put an end to elder abuse. CARP will now be looking to the provinces for concrete action. As the Honourable Rob Nicholson said in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights meeting on Sept. 27, 2012, “its not just one level of government; it’s not just one piece of legislation. There has to be a complete approach to this, and this is what we’re doing.”
Recommended Reading and Viewing:
CARP’s Seven Recommendations: CARP Calls for Action on Elder Abuse