Open letter to Ministers Nicholson and Fantino: Response so far not enough.

March 3, 2011 TORONTO, ON: CARP is calling on the Ministers of Justice and Seniors to do more to address elder abuse such as following the example of the Elder Abuse Victims Act now before the US Senate.

There has been saturation media coverage of 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.

In media interviews, Minister of State for Seniors, Julian Fantino has indicated his abhorrence of the circumstances and encourages prosecutors and others in the justice system to redouble their efforts to investigate and prosecute offenders. However, he has not committed to reviewing the current state of the law nor the resources necessary to better detect, investigate and prosecute such cases. Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson has indicated that he is willing to hear suggestions from CARP. [Media link follows]

In response, CARP has written the attached letter to the Ministers calling for actual action and offers as model the Elder Abuse Victims Act now before the US Senate [Link below] – the hearing at which Mickey Rooney has testified that if it could happen to him it could happen to anyone – in that case financial abuse.

 The US Elder Abuse Victims Act would

  • establish specially designated elder justice positions or units
  • provide support for prosecutorial training on laws regarding abuse of the elderly
  • provide funding for elder abuse victims’ advocacy groups
  • require the Dept of Justice to
    • establish more uniform procedures to improve the identification and handling of elder justice matters, and
    • thoroughly study state and local practices of enforcement of elder abuse laws, including those on mandatory reporting and financial exploitation.

“Sympathy and acknowledgement [from the Ministers] of the scourge of elder abuse is welcome but action is better. We already have models in society to deal with abuse of vulnerable people. And other jurisdictions may have something to teach us. The federal government must review its own legislation and the protocols and resources necessary to better detect, investigate and prosecute cases of elder abuse. If they are not adequate, they should be changed”, said Susan Eng, VP Advocacy for CARP.

 CARP is calling for

 1.      Elder Abuse Hot Line – a single point of first contact: 911 or 1-800 line – widely known across the country, with the capacity to re-direct to local service agencies, and sensitive to diverse cultural and linguistic needs. 911 already has this capability but needs to be assigned this mandate and local service agencies must exist and be properly resourced.

2.     Duty to Report – modeled on child abuse and spouse abuse protocols, bearing in mind that the elder is an adult and is contingent on there being professional investigative capacity to respond to such reporting

3.      Specialized Investigative Support for existing criminal offences.

4.      Use of the Exacerbated Sentencing Provision for hate crimes already in the Criminal Code

5.      New Criminal Office of Elder Abuse if warranted following review

6.      Victim Support Services and elder shelters.

It is generally accepted that approximately 10 percent of older Canadians face some form of elder abuse. Indeed when we polled CARP members, some 9 percent self-identified as having suffered elder abuse but 30 percent said they knew of someone who had been abused. This suggests significant under-reporting.

 Based on the current population of 4.6 million Canadians over 65, there are potentially 460,000 people confronting elder abuse. In 10 years, it is estimated that the 65-plus population will grow to 7.9 million and if nothing is done to reduce the prevalence, some 790,000 will confront elder abuse.

 “But even one case, like the recent case in Toronto, is one too many”, added Eng.

 Video clip of Minister Rob Nicholson:
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 CARP Media Release – March 1, 2011:

 US Senate Bill – The Elder Abuse Victims Act