Toronto elder abuse case ‘not a novelty,’ Julian Fantino warns

Originally published in the Globe and Mail on March 1st, 2011. To go to the Globe and Mail website please click here

Julian Fantino says recent reports of an elder abuse case in Toronto are “both shocking and disgusting” – but it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before.

“It’s unfortunate, it’s very, very troubling but this is not a novelty unfortunately,” Stephen Harper’s new seniors minister told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

Before politics, Mr. Fantino was the former top cop in Toronto and the Ontario Provincial Police commissioner.

In the interview, he added “heinous and deplorable” to his description of what he knows about the case of the 68-year-old mother who was found unconscious living in her son’s freezing garage.

The woman’s son and daughter-in-law appeared in court earlier Tuesday and were denied bail. They have been charged with failing to provide the necessities of life and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Mr. Fantino said that, for now, all he can do is “lend support to the system to ensure that those responsible will face justice under our laws.”

“It’s just another reminder of the predicament that seniors sometimes find themselves in, the seriousness of elder abuse,” he said, adding that he considers elders to be “a vulnerable group and I know they are targeted and victimized.”

Seniors lobby group CARP, meanwhile, is calling on Mr. Fantino to make elder abuse a specific criminal offence.

“Elder abuse cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute,” says CARP in a statement Tuesday, “and often result in what many see as insufficient deterrence.” The group notes that part of the problem is with the “legal interpretation of existing criminal offences and partly lies in the lack of sufficient investigative support to pursue the prosecutions.”

Mr. Fantino said, however, that elder abuse is already an offence –if it constitutes the “victimization” of an elder.

“I think what they are trying to identify is that it be elevated to the same area of attention and response given to children,” he said, adding that he will be look at the group’s proposal.

For now, however, he said he will help try to raise awareness so that such cases are reported quickly.

“We have to have a lot of confidence in the caregivers, health experts and police and family members to make sure they are right on top of what is happening to their loved ones,” he said.

© The Globe and Mail

Keywords: elder, abuse