Elder Law Conference Synopsis, Vancouver, BC

During our recent community meetings in British Columbia, Moses gave the keynote presentation at the 4th Annual International Conference on Elder Law in Vancouver. Laura Watts, National Director of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law, and coordinator of the Conference has kindly provided the following synopsis of the conference.


The 4th annual Canadian International Conference on Elder Law was held Nov 13-15th, 2008 at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver. The event was hosted by the Canadian Centre for Elder Law, which is a division of the British Columbia Law Institute. The conference brought together lawyers, community members, health specialists, researchers, and older adults to examine issues of law and aging within Canada and around the world. The conference, held in conjunction with the International Guardianship Network, drew more than 150 experts from across Canada, the United States, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, Caribbean and Asia to discuss this year’s theme – adult guardianship.

The conference began with a well-attended World Study Group, which is a forum in which academics from around the world can discuss developments within their jurisdictions. The event was also the launch of “Theories on Law and Ageing,” edited by Dr. Israel Doron and published by Springer.

With the theme of the conference focused on adult guardianship, special attention was made to the upcoming changes in British Columbia’s guardianship regime. Jay Chalke, QC, BC’s PGT and Dr. Robert Gordon, Director, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University, gave a legislative update on the changes to guardianship, personal care planning, and care facility admission once Bill 29 is brought into force. International guardianship recognition, and the ‘portability’ of guardianship plans across borders was also discussed in many plenary and workshop sessions. This is an area of growing importance as older adults and there supporters are increasingly multi-jurisdictional.

Canadian Bar Association National Elder Law Section President Judith Wahl moderated a session focusing on the need for increased legal services for seniors. This session discussed a variety of ways to involve community, volunteers, students and others in providing access to justice for seniors. Joan Braun, Executive Director of the BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support, reported on the new BC Elder Law Clinic, which now joins Toronto based Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) as the only legal aid clinics in Canada to provide such service to seniors.

Steven Fields and Terry Hammond, of the American National Guardianship Association discussed the limits of personal autonomy in situations in which isolated older adults incapable of caring for themselves refuse to stop living independently. A panel of experts from the United States discussed the interactions between the right to vote and the guardianship system. Another panel shed light on the emerging issue of how long term care homes are dealing with their residents’ sexuality in their facilities.

Oliver Lewis, Executive Director of the Mental Disabilities Advocacy Centre (Budapest) gave an excellent overview of his work on modernizing guardianship legislation in Eastern European nations. Through test cases, public education, and lobbying efforts he is pressing governments to modernize their guardianship regimes, as many people with capability issues are having basic civil rights taken away.