House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was year.

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The House resumed from February 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-439, an act to establish the office of the Ombudsman for Older Adult Justice and the Canadian Older Adult Justice Agency and to amend the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-439, which establishes the office of the Ombudsman for Older Adult Justice and the Canadian Older Adult Justice Agency.

This bill is based on a good intention, we agree: the protection of older adults. Furthermore, the Criminal Code amendments in pages 21 and 22 of the bill are interesting, and some of them deserve to be taken up by another bill. I say another bill because, in addition to these amendments to the Criminal Code, Bill C-439 contains provisions that we find thoroughly unacceptable.

Some provisions are not within federal jurisdiction; others would duplicate structures that already exist in Quebec. Yet others, if adopted, would cause widespread confusion rather than help older adults. That is why, although we appreciate the concern expressed by the hon. member for Sudbury for the welfare of the elderly, we cannot support her bill.

If I understand it clearly, the bill provides for the creation of an office of the Ombudsman for Older Adult Justice, a kind of youth protection agency for seniors. The ombudsman would be responsible for supervising the work of curators. There are curators in Quebec. This ombudsman would thus have the right and power to carry out research on successful guardianship practices and systems. That already exists in Quebec.

The ombudsman would also be responsible for supervising institutions in the provincial health networks, since the bill gives him or her the power to develop and recommend guidelines to assist institutional review boards.

Imagine the confusion, for instance, at Saint-Charles-Borromé hospital—a case we have heard about—if we suddenly found ourselves with two parallel inquiries resulting from two sets of recommendations.

The bill also provides for the establishment of the Canadian Older Adult Justice Agency, an institution quite similar, in fact almost identical, to the Conseil des aînés in Quebec. It is already responsible for advising the minister on planning, implementing and coordinating governmental policies, and programs and services to meet the needs of seniors, and for proposing to the minister the implementation of programs and services to meet the needs of seniors and to prevent and correct the situations in which seniors can become victims of abuse.

The Conseil des aînés is already responsible for producing and distributing documentation and information programs about seniors and the services and benefits available to them, and promoting creation and distribution through third parties.

There is also the issue of information distribution. In Quebec, we have CLSCs, a type of institution which is unique in Canada. They already do good work in providing home support services to the sick. The CLSCs already do a great deal of promotion, prevention and distribution. To a degree, in fact a large degree, supporting Bill C-439 would ignore the excellent work the CLSCs are already doing in Quebec.

I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues and hon. members of this House to the following definition, in the bill, of the term abuse:

The knowing infliction of physical, psychological or financial harm—

This leads me to think that either there is no awareness or the member did not see the expression “financial harm” or else she was not thinking.

For example, the guaranteed income supplement scandal was and still is inflicting serious financial harm on seniors.

I wonder, then, if we could not infer that the government is guilty. Under this legislation to establish the office of the ombudsman for older adult justice that the member wants passed, would not the Government of Canada be accountable, since this program was knowingly hidden from seniors entitled to the guaranteed income supplement?

Obviously, the government failed to provide information to ensure seniors could access the guaranteed income supplement. Obviously, this government did not take measures to locate these seniors, even if it meant going door to door or using the CLSCs and seniors' centres to find them. In looking at what happened, I think that such legislation will do nothing to help seniors.

I want to remind the House that 270,000 Canadians, including 68,000 Quebeckers, were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement. My colleague, the member for Champagne, did an excellent job with regard to the awareness campaign we initiated to find all those adversely affected by the failure, voluntary in my opinion, of this government to provide the guaranteed income supplement.

Finally, people told us that they did not need legislation to protect them but that they did need information and our help in accessing these funds. We need social justice. I do not think that Quebec truly needs this legislation to establish an office at the ombudsman for older persons.

In Quebec, we found that the financial rights of these people had been adversely affected. Quebeckers realized this. Some CLSCs focus on prevention and protection. There is also the office of the public curator in Quebec. So, Quebec does not need this legislation.

Although this bill is filled with good intentions, it is not acceptable to us, and we will be voting against it.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words to a bill that recognizes the fundamental fact that older adults are often vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and neglect. In each case, if it is just once it is too often.

With Canada's growing population and the growing percentage of older people, it is a good thing a bill such as this is before the House. I want to question some things in the bill but, in general, if it wakes up the public to the vulnerability of older people, our seniors, it is a good bill.

The principles of the bill include the prevention and treatment of the problems out there, and I know there are problems. Having looked after my own parents and members of my wife's family, I am very well aware of the problems. I am not talking about my age. I am talking about their age. I want to point out that we have to be very vigilant that older people are not being mistreated or are vulnerable to exploitation.

The bill also includes in sentencing the vulnerability of the adult victim as an aggravating circumstance under the Criminal Code. I like that very much. We often sidestep this issue mainly because people are older and they are not about to complain as much.

The principles in the bill are generally sound and generally worthy of support. We on this side, and particularly my colleague, the member for Wild Rose, have been very vociferous about the protection of children under the law.

We have the opposite ends of the spectrum here. How quickly we become worked up and emotional when children become victimized. We should also be worked up and caring under the law when it is the other end of the spectrum, the seniors.

I have one concern about this, and I would like to look at it more. Would the new agency, which the bill would establish, mean another government bureaucracy? Would infringe on provincial rights as they now are? However, the overall objective of the bill is certainly worth supporting.

Not too long ago, I think it was on CTV, we saw the treatment of our seniors in some of our homes. It was a terrible account to witness. That kind of treatment should have never have taken place. On the other hand, I have to admit that members in my family have been placed in institutions like that, and I have nothing but admiration for the care they have received. It goes to the opposite end of the spectrum.

I have been watching elections since 1948 and one of the worst cases of exploitations has been political. While no money is involved, I know it has happened. Even in recent elections an ordinary paper was pushed under the doors of senior saying that if they voted a certain way, their rent would go up or if they voted a certain way, they could lose a portion of their old age pension. There is no way of knowing who put that paper there.

That is pure political exploitation, and it comes under the Elections Act. Yet I have never seen or heard of anyone being charged. It is a terrible thing to go visit these people and have them show me what they received under their door. That should be punishable as a huge crime.

What about the ads on television? They are bordering on the vulnerability of older people. The one ad I see more often than any is the one on home real estate. That one I question because I do not think it is really necessary.

The other issue is the soft, sweet-talking charities that phone. We all have them call, and seniors are most vulnerable to it, particularly when it deals with children. We should take a look at the bill. Should charities be phoning people of this age, in particular when they are living by themselves with no help?

I do not object to charities because I think most of us in the House agree they need to be supplied with financial assistance. The question then becomes, how will we approach this? How will we set this up? What new agency will be there? Do we really need a new agency or do we need to work with the province to establish more federal support? I do not know the answer to that, but I do know this. The feeling we have in our hearts about people who have abused children should be taken with the same context as those who would deliberately abuse the vulnerability of age. There is no difference in my thinking, none whatsoever.

As I said, I have seen a great deal of this in my time. I have seen it even within families. It is the responsibility of every Canadian to be cognizant that this abuse occurs. If nothing else, if the bill were to alert Canadians from coast to coast to coast that older people, particularly those living alone, are the most vulnerable, then the bill in itself would be worthwhile. Each of us should take it upon ourselves to talk to these people about how they are approached and how they have too often become victims financially. That ought not to happen.

We on this side of the House like what we see in this bill. We like what we have proposed and hammered away about the protection of children, as they are vulnerable. We like how the bill addresses the issues of exploitation, abuse and neglect of our seniors, particularly when it comes to groups of people organizing to prey upon seniors. That happens in our larger cities.

In conclusion, we will support the bill, but we want to look further at what is the best way to move it forward and what is the best way to alert Canadians of this. Perhaps we could put a good ad on television. Most seniors are great television watchers. We could hit them at the right time, not too late in the evening. It would be great to come forward with this.

My colleagues on this side of the House will indeed support the bill.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to add a few very brief words. There was an incident in Edmonton not very many years ago in which someone broke into a senior's home, brutally attacked a senior woman, and actually left her for dead. I do not know how we can pass a law that could prevent this, but certainly if the person who did such a heinous crime is found, he--or she if that is the case--should be subject to the highest impact of the law.

We need to protect our seniors. In my one and a half minute intervention here I would just like to say that all the members in the House should support this bill and make sure that this private member's bill is enacted. I support it highly.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a brief intervention here to say that in my own community we have had headlines just this week about sentencing in a case that involved a young man abusing a senior with disabilities for sexual purposes. Frankly, the community is very outraged by this incident.

I think that making the abuse of seniors or targeting the vulnerable in the seniors' community an aggravated offence is something that will certainly receive broad support on this side of the House. It is a measure that needs to be considered so that courts take these events seriously and make sure that the offenders are adequately dealt with in a way that sends a message to the community that this is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

I applaud the member for bringing forth this private member's bill and I encourage all members to stand with her and see it go to committee.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all the members who have offered to support the bill and to ask those who have not to seriously give thought to the idea of supporting the bill so it can go to committee.

I have no doubt that the bill is not perfect in its present form, but I feel very strongly about the case of older adults and especially vulnerable people in our society. I think that if the bill goes to committee at that point we can adapt the bill to better suit what the members of the House of Commons would like to see in an older adult justice bill. I know that some of the members across the way do not support it, as well as some on this side.

I understand why members from Quebec feel that it may not be necessary to have such a bill. I must say that, in Quebec, there are very good programs in place and they work well. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case in all the provinces. We must ensure that there is a means to look after those seniors who are vulnerable. Of course, we must be very careful with jurisdictions.

In my life as a politician, I have often noticed that we have to think beyond what we normally do. Indeed, when we focus too much on issues of jurisdiction, there are often very vulnerable people who are left aside. I know there are problems with the bill and I am fully prepared to amend it to ensure that it is appropriate and that the House can unanimously support it.

There are some things in the bill which I understand are difficult. The House will understand that I am not a lawyer or a jurist, but I did work very hard in trying to put together a piece of legislation which I am prepared to see change in light of the real necessity to have an older adult justice act.

There are parts of this bill that are especially important. I do believe we should consider seriously the establishing of an ombudsman responsible for the protection of older adults at the national level, and the creating of the Canadian older adult justice agency, if necessary, to coordinate older adult justice policies and issues across the country.

Most significantly, I would like to see us amend the Criminal Code in two ways: by expanding the category of victims to include an offender's mother and father or any person that is under the care of an offender as well as by making it a criminal offence to knowingly target an older adult for criminal purposes.

I wish to thank all members. I do believe that we need to do much more than we have done in the past in dealing with those people who have helped build this country and have made it the great country it is. It is now our turn to ensure that those who are vulnerable are looked after properly.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 31, immediately prior to the time provided for private members' business.