Elder Abuse: Failing to Provide the Necessities of Life if a Crime

Article courtesy of ACE. This article was originally published in the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly’s Fall 2009 newsletter. To view a copy of that newsletter, Click here or click here to visit the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly’s (ACE) website

Section 215 of the Criminal Code of Canada says an offence is committed if an individual fails to provide necessaries of life to a person under his or her charge if that person is “unable, by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge, and is unable to provide himself with the necessaries of life.”

This means it is a crime if you do not provide necessaries of life to someone in your care that cannot leave your care due to their age, illness or other impairment. Necessaries of life refer to those things necessary to preserve life, such as food, shelter, medical attention and protection from harm.

Under Canadian criminal law, there are two types of offences: summary conviction and indictable offences. Generally, indictable offences are more serious than summary conviction offences and have harsher sentences. A person found guilty of a summary conviction offence for failing to provide the necessaries of life could be sentenced to imprisonment for a maximum of 18 months while a person found guilty of an indictable offence could be sentenced for up to five years of imprisonment.

This article will briefly review the five reported cases where individuals were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life to older adults.

R v. Chartrand

Earlier this year, a paid caregiver by the name of Daniel Chartrand was sentenced to 12 months in jail after endangering the life of the older adult, Harry Matthews, under his care. Although the caregiver was paid very generously, he squandered much of Mr. Matthew’s assets. Mr. Chartrand also failed to look after Mr. Matthews on a daily basis despite his declining health. The paramedics arrived at Mr. Matthew’s apartment after receiving a call from a neighbour to find him on his back lying in his own urine and feces. Mr. Matthews was not suffering any physical injuries but the emergency room doctor testified that the senior was living in a life threatening situation. The judge ruled that Mr. Chartrand blatantly neglected and disregarded Mr. Matthew’s needs. As Mr. Chartrand was keenly aware of the senior’s needs, he knew or should have known that he was not meeting those needs and he was found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

R. v. Grant

Margaret Grant called 911 and reported that her 78-year-old mother, Kathleen Grant, was not feeling well. Paramedics found Mrs. Grant malnourished, dirty and seated in a chair covered in urine and feces. She had been sitting in the chair for such a long period of time that the chair had taken the form of her body. She was suffering from multiple ulcers, profound malnutrition, sepsis, extensive gangrene and hydration. Four days after being admitted to hospital, Mrs. Grant died. The daughter pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years incarceration.