FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2011
TORONTO, ON: CARP is calling on the federal government to add the criminal offence of Elder Abuse to address cases such as that recently reported in Toronto and specifically directs its call for action to the new Minister for Seniors who would fully understand the need and utility of such action.
The recent case of [alleged] elder abuse leading to charges of failing to provide the necessities of life and criminal negligence causing bodily harm against Kwong Yan, 43, and his wife, Qi Tan, 28 does not need much elaboration.
According to media stories, the 68-year old woman, possibly suffering from dementia and incontinent, has been living in an unheated garage over the winter months while her son, also her legal guardian, and his family lived in the house with tenants and empty bedrooms. The conditions discovered by police were appalling and the woman is now in hospital in critical condition.
Elder Abuse cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute and often result in what many see as insufficient deterrence. Part of the problem lies in the legal interpretation of existing criminal offences and part lies in the lack of sufficient investigative support to pursue the prosecutions.
High profile media coverage provides some public awareness and education but a more comprehensive approach is needed. CARP is calling for a comprehensive approach to punish the most egregious manifestations of elder abuse but to also prevent the abuse in the first place. [please see details below]
There is a need for:
HOTLINE- single point of first contact: 911 or 1-800 line – widely know across the country, multi-lingual
DUTY TO REPORT – modeled on child abuse and spouse abuse protocols, bearing in mind that the elder is an adult
SPECIALIZED investigative support for existing criminal offences
Use of the exacerbated SENTENCING provision for hate crimes already in Criminal Code
NEW Criminal office of Elder Abuse
Victim SUPPORT services and elder shelters
CARP members have been polled about elder abuse, have reported either suffering from it or knowing about it among people they know, generally receptive to the public awareness campaigns but want stiffer sentences and want that money and more spent on intervention, services and prevention rather than more research.
Prevention is key. There are often many opportunities for intervention and prevention. In this case, a review of the guardianship process and adequacy of separate legal representation may be warranted. Services to help families deal with dementia and incontinence are still inadequate and might have made a difference in this case.
However, deterrence through criminal prosecution and conviction with attendant media exposure also plays a vital role in prevention.
“CARP is on the record calling for more services to support families dealing with the physical and mental challenges of their loved ones to help prevent tragedies like this one. And intervention agencies and services to provide a comprehensive response to a significant social problem. But at some point, the heavy hand of the Criminal law needs to be invoked, as it has been in this case, – and legislative changes may be necessary to reflect society’s values and abhorrence of such a situation”, said Susan Eng, VP Advocacy for CARP.