New legislation will protect seniors: Nicholson

This article was published by The QMI Agency on March 15th 2012.  To see this article, please click here.

TORONTO – Ottawa is introducing legislation requiring the courts to take a victim’s age and vulnerability into account during sentencing.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced Thursday at the North York Seniors Centre — with Minister of State for Seniors Alice Wong — that the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code would require judges to consider impact of a crime on victims with poor health or finances.

The intent is to protect the elderly and ensure crimes against them are punished appropriately, he said.

“This legislation will help ensure tough sentences for those who take advantage of vulnerable members of our society,” Nicholson said.

Elder abuse can take on a number of forms, whether at the hands of a child or some other relative, or at the hands of a caregiver or scam artist, he said.

Wong hearkened back to the June 2011 throne speech, which stated the government would “continue to protect the most vulnerable in society … and propose tougher sentences for those who abuse seniors.”

Seniors’ advocate Susan Eng of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons said such legislation would help further deter what she says has historically been a hidden crime.

“Older Canadians will take heart from this opening salvo on ending elder abuse,” Eng said, adding more is needed “to detect, investigate, prosecute and ultimately end elder abuse.”

The instances of elder abuse that are reported are a relatively small portion compared to the amount that is really taking place, she said.

Many instances of abuse, whether physical, verbal, theft, or fraud, go unreported because of the shame and fear felt by the victim, Eng said.

“Older Canadians will take heart from this opening salvo on ending elder abuse,” she said.

There are also cases, she said, where the victim wants to protect their abuser, particularly if it is a son or daughter.

Elder abuse was thrust into the media spotlight in February 2011 after a Toronto man was arrested along with his wife for having his sick and incontinent 63-year-old mother live in the unheated garage of their home. The woman was found unconscious and frost-bitten. Her son, 43-year-old Kwong Yan, was later handed eight months in jail.

Liberal seniors critic Judy Sgro said the proposed amendment wasn’t enough, calling it “a half-measure that fails to address underlying issues such as poverty, a lack of affordable housing and inadequate caregiver support.”

“When 70% of elder abuse cases go unreported,” Sgro said, “It is clear that tougher sentencing alone will not protect our seniors.”

© QMI Agency