What role does the law play in preventing elder abuse given the chilling events that took place in Moncton, New Brunswick recently. Sentenced to four years in prison for essentially allowing her mother to rot to death. Ms.Margaret Grant escaped the maximum sentence of 5 years based on “…the remorse she expressed by her guilty plea and …the fact that she has no prior criminal record…”.
The Criminal Code
Although there is no specific Canadian Criminal Code provisionsto combat elder abuse, its provisions provide protection generally to all Canadians against mistreatment. For example, physical abuse could come under a number of criminal code provisions, such as assault, psychological abuse is captured under provisions such as intimidation and uttering threats, financial abuse may come under provisions that deal with theft, forgery, extortion or fraud and active neglect is addressed by the Code as criminal negligence causing bodily hard or breach of duty to provide necessities. Therefore, the criminal law is prepared to deal with the after effects of elder abuse, so that cases like that of Margaret Grant will act to deter future abuse. But the law in some jurisdictions does attempt to take a more proactive role in curbing elder abuse…
Adult Protection Legislation
Provincial adult protection legislation exists in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia but it. varies from province to province. Each of the statues has different scope (as in the type of situations which allow a designated agency to intervene) or different reporting requirements. For example, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia provide for the mandatory reporting of cases of neglect and abuse, whereas New Brunswick’s legislation only refers to voluntary reporting by a “professional person”. Upon receiving information that an adult is being neglected or abused, social services are dispatched to investigate the case, which is mandatory in all jurisdictions with adult protection legislation with the exception of PEI. Remedial measures available to social services may consist of providing the adult with necessary social services, including homemaker services, or referring the case to an appropriate agency (including the police, a community service agency, another government department or agency or a hospital or other institution), although remedial measures also vary from province to province.
Adult Guardianship Legislation
Adult guardianship legislation exists in every province and sets out rules concerning the designation of adults as mentally incapable. Ontario’s Substitute Decisions Act for example gives the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) various powers to investigate into abuse or neglect, where the victim is a mentally incapable adult and either refer the victim to the appropriate services or apply to the court for temporary guardianship of the victim. However, the PGT does not act as an adult protection agency nor provide direct protective services except for substitute decision-making services with regard to financial affairs and health care. Rather the agency helps the victim connect to social and health services available in the community.
Family Violence Legislation
Finally, family violence legislation exists in a number of Canadian provinces. Under the legislation, a court or Justice of the Peace can issue a protection order directing an abusive family member, often a spouse, to stay away from the person being abused or threatened, as well as the abused individual’s property. Family violence statues have evolved since their inception and can now deal with elder abuse arising from a parent-child relationship as well as a spousal relationship.