House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (elder abuse), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for York West has 15 minutes remaining, following by a 10-minute question and comment period.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to add to my comments in regard to Bill C-36.

Bill C-36, the “protecting Canada's seniors act”, sounds good and has a great title but delivers very little. It is very similar to many other pieces of legislation in that the government puts great titles on them, but in effect we have to look at what they accomplish at the end of the day.

It is rather remarkable that with such a broad title, the bill itself is one paragraph and only changes sentencing considerations. Again we are into that same continuing mode of how we can punish people rather than how we can prevent some of these things from happening.

It is just one sentence. That is all it is in the context of what the change is. It is too little, too late. Given that Bill C-36 only proposes a change in sentencing, the bill does not actually protect seniors, which is what I think is what many of us in the House, the government included, are probably concerned about, and it only comes into effect once a crime has been committed. That is too little, too late. This bill does nothing to prevent crime, nor does it protect seniors from becoming victims of crime, which is something that I believe many of us would like to see looked at on a more serious level.

It is also worth mentioning that bias on the basis of age is already a sentencing factor in section 718.2 of the Criminal Code. Bill C-36, unfortunately, adds nothing new. We already have the opportunity. Again it sounds as if we are addressing something, but we are not.

Bill C-36 is far too broad. The language in this legislation is broad and vague. While I am not a lawyer, I have been here long enough to understand that “broad and vague” means that there will be considerable court time and legal wrangling before any provision is going to take hold and before it is able to help anybody.

Victimized seniors do not have the time or the resources to wait. I would have preferred to have the government deliver a far more targeted and comprehensive piece of legislation that would look seriously at this issue. We need to focus less on sounding as though we are doing something positive and focus more on actually doing what is necessary to help protect vulnerable seniors.

I am also troubled by the fact that Bill C-36 requires evidence that the offence had a significant impact on the victim. Just imagine how difficult that is going to be, because a lot of this is emotional abuse that comes in addition to, for example, financial abuse from misappropriation of funds from a senior or whatever. Evidence that it has had a significant impact is going to be very difficult to prove.

Let us imagine having to prove that a criminal offence committed against someone caused an impact on them. It probably has a lot to do with the emotional impact it would have, especially on an elderly person. Seniors living in poverty will have to figure how they are going to prove in court that one of their children or a caregiver was abusive to them. The seniors are going to have to go and give evidence to that fact.

Why should any senior be required to have to prove that a crime against them has injured them? Surely every criminal act has a significant impact on any victim, whether the victim is elderly or not. This should be understood as a basic, fundamental principle in our Criminal Code.

Let us try to keep our eye on the ball on this issue. I understand the need to prove that a crime occurred, but forcing seniors to provide proof that they have been victimized in this manner runs counter to seniors' interests. In many cases they are very vulnerable people who have gotten to a particular time when they are not as confident as they would have been in their earlier years, and there may be the added challenges of poverty or poor health; putting them in the position of having to convince a court that they have been victimized really seems to go against what all of us want to achieve.

The bill effectively requires a judge to consider both the health and financial situation when sentencing. To do this, one could easily require evidence to be given for both. This means that a court would have to probe into areas that were not necessarily matters at trial, and which the senior involved does not wish to speak about or have become part of the public record. In reality, Bill C-36 could easily put seniors who have already been victimized into a situation where their finances and medical records become the subject at a public trial.

In simple words, this legislation is inadequate. The provision of Bill C-36 only becomes active once a crime has been committed. Our focus needs to be on prevention of crime, whether we are talking about young people throughout Canada or elsewhere. It should be about prevention and not just about punishment.

The bill presupposes that the abuse has been reported to police, which is often not the case, that there has been a trial, which again often is not the case, and that the matter is criminal, which is seldom the case. In areas such as wills, estates, contracts signed under duress, and other important civil matters, this legislation is clearly silent.

What could we do on this issue?

If the government is serious about preventing elder abuse, it should be focusing on the following areas. It should address the low rates of pay typically available to caregivers. Quality care choices would go a long way toward reducing abuse of seniors. It should allow financially for family members to care for loved ones. It should reverse the lack of regulatory oversight of institutions. This is a significant problem in Canada. It should promote proactive educational efforts and monitoring of elder abuse. It should provide more resources for affordable, quality seniors housing. Most important, the government should not slash the primary income source for most seniors, the old age security, OAS. Never mind slashing it; we are talking about moving the eligibility age to 67 years which would make people work longer and wait longer.

The Liberal Party believes that vulnerable seniors are in need of protection from elder abuse, but Bill C-36 unfortunately does not accomplish this. Measures should be adopted to prevent elder abuse before the crime occurs, and that does not mean spending who knows how many millions of dollars on TV ads, but what we can do to prevent it from happening.

Clearly we need to protect our vulnerable seniors. While this Criminal Code change is supportable, it is a far cry from what is actually necessary to protect Canada's seniors who surely merit more than a questionably effective change to one paragraph in the Criminal Code.

We need to ensure that seniors are protected against abuse. While I understand that this is no easy feat, I would have hoped that the government, with all the talk and words it bounces around, would have done more than just introduce a change to one paragraph in the Criminal Code to penalize after the fact.

We need to be investing far more resources before these issues happen and make sure that our seniors have a better quality of life. This starts with the OAS and GIS and with the proper dollars and cents. Seniors also need safe, adequate housing and access to affordable quality caregivers to look after them and ensure that they are not subjected to elder abuse, which is something we are all very concerned about.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to bring up a point that arose several times in my colleague’s presentation, which was that one paragraph is not enough in the bill that has been introduced and that we support. That paragraph is actually quite short.

Some more “modern” abuse, for example aggressive telemarketing, can be even worse when it targets seniors. We know about cases, including in my riding. These are recent cases involving certain companies and certain political organizations in Canada.

Should cases like that be addressed in detail in a future bill so it is clear?

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, a variety of things could be put into that piece of legislation which are not there.

It is interesting that the member raised the issue of telemarketing. It is a problem for many people, but especially for the elderly who get phone calls telling them all kinds of different things. They get very alarmed. It is something that needs to be looked at more aggressively. It can be very abusive to older people, especially if they get a phone call from someone claiming to be from a bank or someone is trying to sell them something. They get phone calls telling them that they could save all this money with another way to heat their homes. It is probably completely fraudulent. Those are all forms of abuse that we need to more seriously address.

If there were an opportunity to amend Bill C-36 in that way, it would be welcomed.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I know my colleague has a special place in her heart for seniors issues. In listening to her in regard to Bill C-36, I believe she cares enough to look at the bill and recognize there are many things the government could have done to address the issue of elder abuse both directly and indirectly. It could have made a real difference. Elder abuse takes many different forms.

For the Conservatives to have been in government for a number of years and then to come up with this, it is interesting. There is a bit of irony here. We have this relatively simple, straightforward bill and yet we have the action the government is taking in regard to OAS, increasing the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 years. I would suggest that in time that will put more seniors into poverty, which will lead to more elder abuse.

Maybe the member could comment on that.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I found it quite interesting that the government put forward this bill at a time when we are dealing with the proposed change from age 65 to 67 years regarding OAS. For many that is another form of abuse.

The president of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities said at a recent round table that many of the disabled in Canada look to age 65 when they can get out of poverty. Many of them are living on a minimum amount of income and barely can make that do. They are probably living on $8,000 or $9,000 a year. When they reach 65 years old, if they have no other income, they will get the OAS and the CPP, or whatever, which would probably bring their income up $2,000 or $3,000 more. They look to being 65 so they can get out of poverty. That is such a condemning comment from the president of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

When we are talking about elder abuse, that is another form of abuse. The government will be forcing people, maybe not today's seniors but tomorrow's seniors, to wait until age 67.

There should be more investment in housing. If we had more seniors' housing in Canada where people had a safe place to live, they probably would be less vulnerable to the kind of abuse that a lot of us have heard about. Educational opportunities could be provided for them. They should be provided with money so they can get out into the community and take advantage of the health and wellness opportunities, such as going to local community centres. Having that social interaction would reduce elder abuse because people would be interacting with one another. Those are opportunities for seniors to continue to contribute to society, which I know many of them want to do.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I had the honour of being a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women with my Liberal colleague. We heard a number of witnesses in the course of a study on the abuse of older women. We had witnesses tell us that there had been cuts to women’s rights organizations.

Since my colleague spoke about prevention, which could also improve the situation, I would like to ask her whether she thinks cuts of this type have damaged the situation—

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member from York West.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
Government Orders

April 27th, 2012 / 12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague and I sat on a committee together and did some reasonably good work on a report which at some point will be tabled in the House. The report could have been much stronger and much more effective, but we did not have the time to go into those kinds of details.

The organizations throughout Canada that are having their funding cut are the same organizations that would have been dealing with seniors, that would have been there in a very proactive way to help people to prevent the issue of elder abuse.

Spending millions of dollars on fancy TV ads does alert people to the issue of elder abuse, but what do we do to prevent it? Bill C-36 would not prevent any of that. Investing in many of our community organizations that would be alert to where seniors are, what is going on with them and what is happening in their lives would be helpful. Seniors need someone to talk to about their concerns, such as about money missing out of their bank accounts and possibly family members abusing their privilege. It often happens. Unfortunately, much of that funding to many of those organizations is being cut.