Layton calls for tougher penalties for elder-abuse

Originally published in the Toronto Star on April 17th, 2011. To go to the Toronto Star website please click here

BRIDGEWATER, N.S.—New Democrat Leader Jack Layton wants judges to be able to hand down tougher sentences to people found guilty of preying on the elderly.

“We owe nothing less to Canada’s seniors,” Layton said on the campaign trail in Bridgewater, N.S. on Sunday as he laid out his plan to protect seniors and lift them out of poverty.

The New Democrats would amend the Criminal Code so that judges would have to consider vulnerability due to the age of the victim as an aggravating factor when sentencing someone convicted of abuse.

The party has made seniors a central focus of its campaign, including a signature promise to devote an additional $400 million annually — $700 million total — to lift seniors out of poverty by raising the Guaranteed Income Supplement. This is something Layton had demanded to see in the federal budget in exchange for his support.

The party has nonetheless been largely silent on the issue of elder abuse and this measure—something the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) asked the Conservative government for early last month—was not highlighted in the party platform released last week.

The late addition to the package of NDP promises comes after Conservative Leader Stephen Harper announced on Friday that he too would amend section 718.2 of the Criminal Code so that so that elderly abuse would be an aggravating factor to be considered during sentencing.

The advocacy group CARP had publicly called on Julian Fantino, the Conservative incumbent in Vaughan who was minister of state for seniors at the time, to get the law changed.

“At some point, the heavy hand of the criminal law needs to be invoked,” Susan Eng, the vice-president of advocacy for CARP wrote in a news release issued March 1.

The New Democrats want to work with provincial and territorial governments to invest $10 million per year in a national strategy on elder abuse, which would also involve setting up a hotline and creating specialized victim services.

© The Toronto Star

Keywords: seniors, poverty, elder, abuse, crime