An Act to amend the Criminal Code (neglect of vulnerable adults)


Hedy Fry  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


In committee (House), as of March 8, 2023

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This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create an offence for long-term care facilities, their owners and their managers to fail to provide necessaries of life to residents of the facilities.
The enactment also allows the court to make an order prohibiting the owners and the managers of such facilities from being, through employment or volunteering, in charge of or in a position of trust or authority towards vulnerable adults and to consider as an aggravating factor for the purpose of sentencing the fact that an organization failed to perform the legal duty that it owed to a vulnerable adult.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


March 8, 2023 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-295, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (neglect of vulnerable adults)

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 8th, 2023 / 3:50 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-295, under Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from February 17 consideration of the motion that C-295, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (neglect of vulnerable adults), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2023 / 1:55 p.m.
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Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be here today as the seniors critic for the NDP to talk about Bill C-295, an act to amend the Criminal Code targeted at neglect of vulnerable adults.

This bill would do two things. First, it would amend the Criminal Code to create a specific offence for long-term care facilities, their owners and managers to fail to provide the necessaries of life to residents of the facilities. Second, it would allow the court to make an order prohibiting the owners and the managers of such facilities from being, through employment or volunteering, in charge of or in a position of trust or authority towards vulnerable adults and to consider as an aggravating factor for the purpose of sentencing the fact that an organization failed to perform the legal duty that it owed to a vulnerable adult.

I am going to be in support of this bill. We saw dreadful outcomes during the pandemic. So many seniors across this country faced challenges that we cannot imagine and then there were deaths beyond our imagination. It is really important, as we remember this time, to remember the men and women in uniform who serve this country, who were sent in to some long-term care facilities and saw things they were horrified to see in their own country.

It is really important to understand that when we ask those in our military to step up for us, they are used to stepping up outside of our country in these kinds of circumstances. They were in this country and saw seniors who had died just because of neglect, because they were dehydrated. This is Canada and that should never happen. Those folks did a huge service to us, something I hope they never have to do in their own country again.

It is also important to point out that the vast majority of seniors never enter long-term care. That is important. I hear from the Seniors Advocate in British Columbia all the time that we should remember most people stay at home and that is where they end their lives. However, when seniors move into such facilities, families and loved ones need to know those people are safe and that standards are in place, something they can put their trust in.

We know that sometimes families move their loved ones to be closer to them from one province or territory to another. What is surprising is that the standards are different in each part of this country, which really leaves increased vulnerability. I appreciate that the government did table some long-term care standards, but the thing that was terrifying to me is that they are voluntary. A lot of good work was done in looking at those standards, making sure they made sense for long-term care, and now we see that they are voluntary.

This worries me because it provides a huge risk to seniors and the people who love them most. Again and again, we see loved ones doing the best that they can. If they live far away or there are any kinds of challenges, knowing that their loved one is in a long-term care facility and not getting the support that they want makes people feel ill.

I am going to quote something important by Candace Rennick, CUPE's national secretary-treasurer, who said:

Voluntary standards did not protect the 17,000 residents of long-term care homes who have died so far because of COVID-19. Canadians want better protections for seniors. This country needs standards that are backed by the force of law. People need to know that their loved ones will spend their last days living with dignity and respect. They need to know that there will be penalties and consequences for long-term care service providers that don’t follow the rules.

If all we have in this country is a national voluntary standard, there will never be the level of accountability that I think Canadians want to see.

This bill would amend the Criminal Code, but I am afraid that it will not do all that it must to protect seniors. We need more long-term support for them and a practice of having more accountability. What this really means to me is that when seniors die in this situation, there need to be actual charges laid, and we are not seeing that. We are seeing families taking on long-term care facilities, and that is not right. There needs to be a process and we need to start having charges laid. That is a real deterrent.

Graham Webb, executive director and former staff lawyer of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, has called the Criminal Code amendments “a very viable approach”. However, he said, “I'm really not aware of a single charge ever having being laid for the neglect of a long-term care resident. I think it’s important that the criminal justice system is able to respond when we see such flagrant cases of institutional abuse and neglect of older adults.”

I think that is startling. Even if we see a minor change to the code, it is still not fulfilling the other end, which is the actual movement toward laying those charges and holding people accountable.

Members know just as well as I do that when people are held to account, other people observing start paying attention. I think it is shameful that in this country seniors are so vulnerable that they can be sacrificed without a thought. They built our country. We owe them so much more, and we owe them dignity.

One of the things I found particularly painful in my role as the seniors critic is how many people with loved ones in a seniors facility have come to my door and talked about how hard they worked to try to look after them. They could not always be there the way they wanted to, because they had to work or because they had children. Then, when they went to visit, they saw things that horrified them, and they fought in that system the best that they could and with everything they had. Now that their loved one is gone, the pain is so raw that they do not want to talk about it because of the guilt they feel. They feel guilt because our system is broken. That is wrong, and that is why we must fix this.

To me, it goes back to the simple reality that we need to see the long-term care standards in legislation. We need to raise the bar. I get that every province and territory wants to do their own thing. I respect that, but let us make this the bar. If any province or territory wants to be higher than that bar, good for them. Let us make sure that no senior in all of Canada falls below it. Let us make sure that no family is in a position that they would think of moving their loved one from one province to another, simply so that they get better care. That is ridiculous.

I think Canadians need to listen to those on the front lines. For example, Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, noted that there has been “no consequence whatsoever” for the abuse and neglect that was exposed during the pandemic, or for the needless deaths of residents due to poor infection control and non-COVID-19 reasons, such as dehydration and starvation. How could a senior be starved to death in this country? This is Canada. She further noted, “I think we need to search our conscience if the lives of the elderly are not worth a formal government bill and real change with teeth.”

As we vote on the bill before us, which hopefully people will support because it is a small change in the right direction, I hope we all think about our commitment to the people who built this country. Those people are increasingly vulnerable as they age. Think about the hard-working families who are doing everything they can to support that loved one. Think about the fact that we still do not have legislation that has teeth so that we can make sure to support seniors as they age.

In closing, as a person who represents a rural and remote community, we also have to recognize that those in small communities often see their loved ones go far away to get long-term care. They have to travel a great distance, which means they cannot be with them. Let us all fight to make sure that wherever one's loved is, they are safe.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2023 / 1:45 p.m.
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Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to talk about Bill C-295 and the new offences it would create in cases of neglect of seniors. The neglect of seniors and vulnerable people is a serious problem in Canada, and abuse is endemic.

Ensuring the protection of vulnerable seniors is a very personal matter for me. My grandfather and his companion were defrauded by a caregiver. They were vulnerable seniors who were victimized by an individual who they had every reason to believe they could trust. The circumstances are sadly familiar to thousands of other families who have endured senior abuse. They spent the final months of their lives worrying about money.

My grandfather's companion of nearly 30 years not only endured my grandfather's final months of illness and death, but also feared confrontation with the individual who defrauded them and remained in their neighbourhood. She worried about running into her at the grocery store or other places. My grandfather, who was 90 years old and in ill health at the time, did not live long enough to see justice done.

The police did not treat the case as a priority despite the case being relatively simple and straightforward. There was a poster in the police station that invited members of the public to report situations of abuse. The public communication around this problem is that it is a problem and should be reported to police, yet the police are slow to act and did not act within my grandfather's remaining time alive.

My grandfather was luckier than many. He had the support of family and was not ruined financially by the fraud. The particular fraud was not sophisticated and it was detected. Eventually, charges were laid and an arrest was made. He was not injured in body and was not denied physical care, but he was a vulnerable person like so many other Canadians.

I thank the member for drawing attention to the issue of vulnerable Canadians through this private member's bill. This bill is welcomed.

Sadly, neglect does not only occur in institutional settings, but this bill would address issues where neglect within institutions occurs by making changes to the Criminal Code that would hold operators and managers of such facilities to account when they neglect to provide the necessities of life to people in their care. I think all Canadians would agree that this level of neglect is a criminal matter and ought to be a criminal matter.

This bill would also allow courts to make an order prohibiting persons charged with certain offences from working in proximity to vulnerable Canadians. That is a good step forward as well.

There is so much that could be done. With private member's bills, we are very limited in what we can do with the one chance we get if we draw a low number for Private Members' Business. I certainly do not blame the member for all the things her bill does not do. However, there are many problems that need to be addressed, including fraud, emotional abuse, violence against seniors, abuse, neglect and other harms that occur outside of institutional settings. These are pressing issues the government needs to deal with.

I am disappointed by the government in this case. It has taken a private member's bill to make any headway on this issue, despite the Minister of Justice's own mandate letter, which calls upon him to take action. His mandate letter calls upon him to finalize a proper definition for “elder abuse”. It calls upon him to get better data on this problem and to establish new offences and penalties. He has not done so. This bill from a private member will, but the government, which has said this is a priority, has failed to do so.

The bill would actually fulfill a piece of the Conservative platform that my colleagues and I were elected on, so I certainly support the member in this. It does not matter to me who gets credit in this kind of thing. We want to improve the lives of Canadians, and that is what we can often do in Private Members' Business, so I support her efforts, but I am disappointed in the government for its lack of progress in this area.

We have a minister who was tasked with this, and I wish he had spent more time on protecting vulnerable Canadians than he has on expending enormous effort on Bill C-21, where the Liberals have had to backpedal on those amendments they put forward at committee. There was Bill C-5 that the minister put forward, which would actually weaken penalties and sentencing for violent crimes and other crimes.

Therefore, it is disappointing that we do not have a minister who will take this seriously, but fortunately we do have a private member who is taking a positive step forward.

We know the vulnerabilities of seniors in institutional care, like the vulnerability to neglect. This was all laid bare during the pandemic. We heard other members comment on this. The abandonment of vulnerable seniors, the failure to supply the necessities of life to seniors, is appalling. It was appalling to many Canadians, so action needed to be taken.

It is outrageous, really, that the Canadian Armed Forces would be called in to provide care in seniors facilities. That is not the purpose of our armed forces. That is not something we would normally think of in terms of aid to civilian authority by the Canadian Armed Forces. We are thankful for their ability and the work they did, but what a failure it was, down to an individual level in some cases, and certainly a failure of the management of facilities to ensure that vulnerable Canadians are able to get the necessities of life.

On the data, the minister's own report says there is an enormous gap and a failure to understand the extent and patterns of types of abuse, but Statistics Canada knows a bit about that. It says that between 2014 and 2019 the rate of violence against seniors grew faster than for any other age cohort, so we know that violence against seniors is on the rise. We know that fraud among seniors is on the rise.

I support what this member is doing with her bill. I am glad that this House is now taking time for us to give public voice to the vulnerable and to ensure that, I hope, fewer families and fewer seniors spend their final months as victims of crime. With that, I thank the member for her private member's bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2023 / 1:35 p.m.
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Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Joliette, because I want to take the extra minute that he left on the table.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the second reading debate of Bill C-295, an act to amend the Criminal Code, neglect of vulnerable adults.

At the outset, I would like to start by applauding the member for Vancouver Centre for her leadership on this file and for emphasizing that caring for and protecting vulnerable persons and adults is of the utmost importance. It is an important topic of discussion, not only to me personally, but also to my constituents at my seniors community council meetings.

I would like to acknowledge the following private and public long-term care facilities, along with their staff, for the great service they have been providing to the community of Richmond Hill: the Mon Sheong Care Complex, the Revera Elginwood Long Term Care Home, the Richmond Hill Retirement Residence, Delmanor Elgin Mills, Sunrise of Richmond Hill, the Langstaff Square Care Community and Mariann Home Richmond Hill.

Protecting vulnerable residents in long-term care is a laudable and important goal, not only for me and my constituents, but also for many Canadians. This issue is of national importance. Canada's population is aging, and more persons may find themselves living in institutional care or will be in the near future. Statistics Canada reported that the number of people over the age of 65 has increased by 42% since 2010. This is the fastest-growing rate among all G7 countries. As our national demographics shift, there will likely be a corresponding increase in the number of residences offering long-term care and the number of adults residing in them.

In addition, more than one-third of women 85 years of age or over live in care facilities. In Ontario, for example, approximately 54% of residents in long-term care are over the age of 85, and approximately 10% are over 95 years old. Importantly, it is not only seniors who live in long-term care. In Ontario, 6.6% of all residents are 64 years of age or younger.

All residents have diverse needs, and we have a responsibility to protect them from abuse. We are so grateful for the many excellent health sector professionals who take care of our vulnerable populations. We want to ensure that all residents of long-term care facilities receive the high-quality service they deserve.

Beyond individual harms, we must also be mindful of systemic issues that adversely impact the quality of life of residents. Systemic practices, such as understaffing, overcrowding and insufficient resources, can all harm those whom have come to care settings precisely because they cannot receive the care they need at home. In light of these statistics and issues, Bill C-295 will address the systemic challenges and the harms that would continue to potentially impact a growing part of our population.

Our criminal law already contains a wide range of measures to address the abuse and neglect of vulnerable persons, including offences of assault, fraud and failure to provide the necessaries of life. Bill C-295 will build on this framework and improve protections in the context of long-term care accommodation. Residents of long-term care facilities accounted for 43% of the COVID–19 deaths in Canada from 2020 to 2021. They were 13 times more likely to die of COVID than non-residents 69 years of age or older.

We have seen too many harrowing situations involving seniors in recent years, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are provided with an environment free of neglect. This is why our government doubled down on its strong leadership and action to support vulnerable adults all across the country. It will continue its collaborative work with provinces and territories to help support improvements in long-term care, including $1 billon for the creation of the safe long-term care fund and $740 million in the safe restart agreements.

On January 31, 2023, the Government of Canada welcomed the release of complementary, independent long-term care standards from the CSA Group and the Health Standards Organization, or HSO. Together, these standards provide guidance for delivering services that are safe, reliable and centred on residents' needs, that foster a healthy and competent workforce and that create safer physical environments by promoting a culture of quality improvement and learning across long-term care homes. Additionally, budget 2021 provided $3 billion over five years to support provinces and territories in their efforts to improve long-term care in their jurisdictions.

Currently, there are 2,039 long-term care homes in Canada. Forty-six per cent of them are public and 54% are private. The percentage of facilities that are public versus private varies considerably from province to province. For example, 86% of long-term care facilities in Quebec are public, while only 16% are public in Ontario. Whether for profit or otherwise, the operators of such facilities have significant responsibilities to their residents, and this bill would ensure that those responsibilities are fulfilled regardless of the environment where care is provided.

Bill C-295 would provide important new tools to respond to practices that fall below the standard expected and that put seniors and other vulnerable persons at risk. COVID-19 strained our long-term care facilities and shone a spotlight on system weaknesses, offering us a key opportunity to introduce reforms and do right by our elderly and vulnerable populations.

Bill C-295 provides us with this opportunity by introducing the following three major improvements to our Criminal Code.

First, the bill would add a category of persons in section 215 under “Duty of persons to provide necessaries”, specifically targeting owners and managers of these facilities who fail to provide the necessities of life to their residents.

Second, it would create a prohibition order against these people so that for a period of time determined by a judge, they are prohibited from seeking, accepting or keeping any employment, even as a volunteer, where they would be responsible for adults who are vulnerable.

Third, as the sentencing stage is an integral part of the criminal process, following a conviction, a judge must consider a variety of factors to determine the best sentence to impose in the circumstances of the crime committed. This means that Bill C-295 would create aggravating factors at sentencing for an organization that has failed to meet its legal obligations to a vulnerable adult.

I think the reasoning behind Bill C-295 is quite simple: that organizations have a responsibility to the vulnerable, and failure to meet this obligation must be punished in a clear and unequivocal manner.

The situation of vulnerable people in long-term care facilities has been repeatedly denounced over the past few years, with the conditions of these facilities and the care provided coming under increased scrutiny, particularly at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While law reform alone will not eliminate neglect and abuse in long-term care facilities, it will send an unequivocal and clear message.

I am proud to fight on behalf of our seniors and other vulnerable populations who use Canada's care facilities. Through this bill, we can inform all facility residents that we care about their well-being and are looking out for them. We can also support the many wonderful health sector professionals who provide care to residents every day by fixing operational problems and systemic challenges in facility management.

In closing, Bill C-295 is a crucial first step in providing a level of accountability and restoring the public's trust in Canada's long-term care system. Focusing on the role of owners and managers by proposing measures to target their criminally negligent behaviour is important. I support Bill C-295 because it recognizes the responsibility that long-term care organizations have to their residents. Neglect cannot and will not be tolerated. I urge all members to do the same.

The House resumed from November 29, 2022, consideration of the motion that Bill C-295, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (neglect of vulnerable adults), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2022 / 6:25 p.m.
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Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased, as always, to stand and speak on behalf of the people of Vancouver Kingsway, bringing their concerns, ideas, hopes and aspirations to this chamber.

As health critic for the New Democratic Party, I am always happy to see a bill that addresses the state of health in our country and proposes a solution. This bill is very specific. Bill C-295, an act to amend the Criminal Code, targeted at the neglect of vulnerable adults, would do two things.

First, it would:

[amend] the Criminal Code to create a specific offence for long-term care facilities, their owners and their managers to fail to provide the necessaries of life to residents of the facilities.

Second, it would:

[allow] the court to make an order prohibiting the owners and managers of such facilities from being, through employment or volunteering, in charge of or in a position of trust or authority towards vulnerable adults and to consider as an aggravating factor for the purpose of sentencing the fact that an organization failed to perform the legal duty that it owed to a vulnerable adult.

All Canadians were horrified over the last two years to see residents in Canada's long-term care homes living in the deplorable and, frankly, outrageous conditions that so many of the people who built this country are forced to live in. We saw how seniors in long-term care homes have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Canada, long-term care residents accounted for 43% of all COVID-19 deaths.

Between March 1, 2020, and August 15, 2021, over 56,000 residents and 22,000 staff in Canada's long-term care and retirement homes were infected with COVID-19, resulting in more than 14,000 deaths among staff and residents. Frankly, the most astounding figure that I saw was that Canada had the worst record of all OECD countries, the highest percentage of deaths in long-term care homes on a per capita basis of any OECD country. That speaks to a deplorable and long-standing issue in our long-term care sector.

Throughout the pandemic, there was a difference between for-profit long-term care facilities and public or non-profit facilities. The for-profit facilities had much worse patient outcomes than not-for-profit homes in general. According to an analysis by the Toronto Star, residents of for-profit facilities have been more three times as likely to catch COVID-19 as those in a non-profit facility, and for-profit facilities have seen more than twice as many staff infections per bed. Resident deaths have also been more common in for-profit facilities.

All Canadians were stunned when we saw that the provinces of Ontario and Quebec had to call for the Canadian Armed Forces to be deployed in some of the hardest-hit long-term care homes across Canada, where they documented horrific accounts of inhumane treatment, abuse and substandard care. “Assault” is not too strong a word.

According to the CAF reports, residents in two Ontario nursing homes died not from COVID-19, but from dehydration and neglect. The stories were documented by soldiers. I have read those documented notes of CAF soldiers, who simply wrote down in unembellished form what they saw when they entered those homes. They read like a horror story from a third world. They found residents lying in bed in soiled underpants. They found instructions that care aides were not allowed to change the bedding on a bed for 24 or 48 hours, even when the patient had an incontinence problem. Incorrect medications were given to patients. Patients were malnourished and were not fed properly. This was simply outrageous.

I want to make the point that COVID did not cause these problems. COVID exposed these problems in Canada's long-term care sector.

To date, more than 30 proposed class actions have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic across Canada, and several of them allege that the owners and operators of long-term care and retirement facilities failed to take appropriate health and safety measures to protect their residents from COVID-19. Several provincial governments have adopted legislation limiting the potential liability of long-term care owners and operators.

For example, under the Supporting Ontario's Recovery Act, 2020, plaintiffs now need to show that those operating long-term care centres were grossly negligent to avoid statutory liability protection. That is a higher standard than applies to ordinary negligence claims. In this country, what provincial Conservative governments have done is to act not to protect the vulnerable patients in long-term care homes, but to protect the managers and owners of those long-term care homes who were responsible for unbelievable incidents of abuse and neglect. That is shameful.

The courts have not yet considered the meaning of “gross negligence” under that legislation, but the phrase has been defined by the Supreme Court of Canada going back 80 years. I can state that it is a very marked departure from the generally required standard of care or even simple negligence.

Under section 215 of the Criminal Code, it is currently an offence for a person to fail to provide the necessaries of life to a person under his or her charge if that person is “unable by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge,” and “is unable to provide themselves with necessaries of life”, and “the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be injured permanently.” That is a very high standard, because it requires death or a permanent injury to be the foreseeable outcome.

Bill C-295 would create a specific offence under section 215 of the Criminal Code where a person is an owner or manager of a long-term facility and fails to provide necessaries of life to residents of the facility, and where “the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be injured permanently”.

We have some concerns about even that test, but the point is that bringing the attention of Canadians and members of the House to the deplorable conditions in the long-term care sector in this country is a valuable and worthy exercise of our time in this place. Anything that we can do to address that is needed.

We think that Canada's New Democrats have a much better and more structured approach to this problem. We want to end for-profit long-term care and bring long-term care homes under the public umbrella.

Long-term care is part of our health care system. When seniors are in hospital, they are in a health care system. Very often after that they are transferred to a long-term care home and suddenly they drop off the health map. That is incomprehensible and it endangers these people. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the reality that for-profit companies cannot be reliably counted on to protect our loved ones and keep workers safe.

We also believe that the victims of negligence in Canada's long-term care facilities deserve justice. That is why, due to the confidence and supply agreement, the one that the Conservatives scoff at, the New Democratic Party was able to force the Liberals to commit to tabling a safe long-term care act, to ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve no matter where they live.

I was in this House for nine years of the Conservative government. It never passed a long-term care act. With the current government, in the seven years since the Liberals have been in power, they have never passed a long-term care act. It took the New Democrats to come to this House and demand that on behalf of Canada's seniors. That is a positive step that we look forward to enshrining in this place.

Although Bill C-295 is a step in the right direction, it of course will not solve the problem. Rather than addressing the issues through a private member's bill, Canada's New Democrats expect the Liberal government to honour the confidence and supply requirements through government legislation. We will be present for that.

Finally, the Liberal Party promised in the last election to invest $6.8 billion in long-term care, $1.7 billion to ensure personal support workers are paid $25 an hour and $500 million to train personal support workers. That money has not flowed yet and New Democrats are calling on the government to honour its commitments and start putting money into the long-term care sector so that every senior in this country, no matter where they are, gets access to safe, quality, long-term care as their age and their contributions to our society so dearly benefit and deserve.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
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Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-295 is a bill that makes sense. It is a bill that we want to study in committee, that we want to support so that it moves forward. Like most bills in their original form, it is far from perfect, but it is worth examining.

In Quebec, like elsewhere in Canada, the pandemic tested us in ways we never wanted to experience. The worst of what we went through was the abandonment of our seniors. Some seniors had a much harder time during the pandemic than most people, particularly those living in long-term care facilities. They were sometimes left alone in wretched conditions. They were isolated from their loved ones. They were often inadequately fed or only given something to eat at odd hours. I think that is shameful. In this situation, we behaved like ungrateful children towards our seniors. I hope that this sort of situation never happens again. We have a duty to work on that.

In Quebec we have the law to combat elder abuse and the abuse of any vulnerable adult. This legislation provides for fines to be imposed and protects informants, because there are people in long-term care facilities who will testify and intervene to try to prevent certain situations from deteriorating. We need to protect those people. We must encourage people to blow the whistle on untenable situations. In Quebec, with this legislation to fight against abuse, we are able, or we try by giving ourselves the tools, to better protect people who assume their responsibilities and intervene in situations like that.

The federal government's legislation parallels Quebec's legislative provisions, but in my opinion, and at first glance, it is doing so within its own jurisdiction. For now, from what I have seen of Bill C‑295, I am satisfied. We will have to take a closer look at the bill. There are some aspects that could easily go off the rails. We know that the issue of protecting jurisdictions is relevant to almost every bill introduced in the House. We will have to look at this more closely, but I agree, at first glance, Bill C‑295 seems to stay within the parameters set for federal jurisdictions.

The bill refers to the Criminal Code, and that is obviously a federal law that was passed and amended under federal jurisdiction. That particular aspect seems to be appropriate. However, the bill must not push boundaries and lead to interference in Quebec's and the provinces' jurisdictions.

Having said that, I am somewhat concerned. When I look at Bill C-295, I am concerned that this bill will be considered as a panacea and that we will ease our consciences by believing that passing Bill C-295 means that we will have done what needed to be done to protect seniors and give them better living conditions. Everyone knows that is far from true. The federal government's first responsibility is to properly manage the taxes it collects. We know that the taxes the federal government collects far exceed the cost of its own responsibilities, which means that it must return some of that money to the provinces, especially for health care.

At first, 50 or so years ago, the federal government was paying around 50% of the health care costs of each province and Quebec. Today, the proportion is around 20% to 24%, and it keeps going down all the time. The provinces are calling for a health transfer equivalent to 35% of their expenses. That is a reasonable figure that takes into account all the formulas. I would even say that this figure is lower than it should be, but it is still too high in the eyes of the federal government. The provinces can no longer manage.

I was talking earlier about a scandal—elderly people left in beds without care, medication and adequate services for hours, people often not eating all day because there was no one to bring them a meal. These situations are unworthy of us as a society. They are 99% due to a lack of funding. The institutions are no longer able to pay the staff they need to take care of our seniors. How much longer will we tolerate this?

I think we have a responsibility to prevent this. The primary responsibility of the federal government is to give the provinces the excess money it has collected in taxes. It must transfer the money to the provinces so that the provinces can manage their health care institutions properly. That is the only way to address the problem.

I recognize that this bill is about looking after seniors, and of course that is commendable. I am certain that not one of the 338 members in the House would say that that is unimportant or that the money should be used for something else. We all agree it is important. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that in order to run health care facilities properly and take care of our seniors properly, the money needs to be transferred. It is cruel and pointless to keep this money here in Ottawa when it is the provinces that need it. Health transfers are essential. We recognize this and the provinces are asking for it.

What is the federal government's response? It says there are conditions. It will transfer the money if we use it in a certain way, if we provide this or that type of care in a given facility, if we expand business hours, if we do this, that or the other thing. There are conditions.

Let us keep in mind that this money does not appear out of nowhere. It is tax money the government takes from Quebeckers. The government says it will give the money back, but only if they comply with its conditions. It can impose conditions when it has jurisdiction the other level of government does not.

If I give children pocket money, I may tell them they cannot spend more than a dollar on candy. I may impose conditions in an attempt to teach them to manage their money properly. The thing is, the federal government does not manage any health facilities. The federal government manages health care for indigenous people and veterans and looks after new drug approvals and quarantines, but it does not manage a single long-term care facility or hospital. What makes it think it has the authority to impose conditions?

The conditions that the federal government wants to impose on the provinces are very likely to do much more harm than good, not to mention that they will prevent a rapid resolution of the problematic situation that has continued year after year. The provinces do not have the money to operate hospitals. The federal government says that it will not provide funds unless the provinces agree to its conditions.

In my view, this stubborn refusal is unworthy of a responsible government and leads to situations such as those that occurred during the pandemic. I do not want to put all the blame on the federal government. We all have some soul searching to do, especially the governments of each province, and I am certain that is what they are doing. The Quebec law I mentioned earlier was passed specifically to prevent this type of situation from happening. That is a good example.

However, the money is there to provide dignified care for our seniors. I am asking our government to carry out its responsibilities, to be fair, to be responsible with respect to our seniors and to transfer the money to the provinces to provide better care.

Bill C-295 is a bill that we must study, that we are going to study and that we will probably improve. I think the idea behind it is good, and we will work hard on it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
See context


Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, first and foremost, I want to thank my colleague from Vancouver Centre for introducing this private member’s bill to strengthen the Criminal Code provisions to protect our loved ones who reside in long-term care facilities.

Almost every Canadian knows someone who has been a resident of a long-term care facility. It goes without saying that when a family member or friend gets to that point in their life when they need extra care, we want to know that they are safe and being taken care of.

I also want to take a moment to thank the health care aides, nurses and the kitchen, laundry, housekeeping and recreation staff who work in our long-term care facilities across Canada. They should know how appreciative we all are of everything each and every one of them do.

Whenever we talk about frontline health care workers, I always feel that there is not enough attention given to those who work in our long-term care facilities. They provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It does not matter if there is a blizzard or horrendous weather, they answer the call and go to work. From working holidays to working night shifts, I know that it is not always easy on their families. I also know that the job is not easy on their bodies. They do it because they truly care for the residents that they serve.

In many cases, the residents they care for start to feel like a member of the family. Long-term care facilities are not hospitals. They are people’s homes. The people who live there are not patients. They are residents. While this distinction may seem trivial, I can assure members it is not. In most cases, this will be people’s last home. It behooves us all to ensure that we do everything we can to protect those who are most vulnerable and in need of care.

The pandemic showed how fragile our long-term care facilities are in this country, as my colleague just outlined in the presentation of her bill. There is a litany of reasons for that, but I want to start by talking about the challenges that both health care workers and the residents of those facilities face.

A significant number of the workers in our long-term care facilities are shift workers, who must either pick up extra days or work double shifts to try to get 40 hours a week. There are very few full-time health care aide or nursing positions that guarantee 40 hours a week. Many health care workers have a job at another long-term care facility to earn enough money to provide for their families.

We quickly saw the consequences of how long-term care facilities are staffed as soon as the pandemic started. Immediately, staff could no longer work in more than one facility to contain the spread of COVID. The result was that facilities were then short-staffed. It only got worse as people either had to quarantine or could no longer work as many hours as their child care options became severely impacted.

Sadly, we watched in horror as the news stories started to emerge about how short-staffed certain long-term care facilities were. Some families had the ability to take their loved ones into their homes as soon as the pandemic started. However, it was only a small number as the level of care was too much. As family members were prohibited from entering care homes due to the pandemic, all they could do was hope and pray that their loved ones were taken care of.

In many cases, when a parent, sibling or close friend becomes a resident of a long-term care facility, it is not unusual to visit them multiple times a week. Children come into the facility to help their parents eat, wash and clean up their rooms. Anyone who has ever worked in a long-term care facility knows how integral family members are to the well-being of the residents. A lot of family members also become volunteers at the long-term care facility, to help where they can, to ease the workload and to make the residents as comfortable as they can.

All that support was gone as soon as the pandemic started, and with the staffing challenges that were already present going into the crisis, unfortunately, we quickly learned of the dire consequences for many residents.

We must never forget the Canadian Armed Forces medical and support personnel who were temporarily deployed to support our long-term care facilities. It was their report they tabled in May 2020 that brought considerable attention to the conditions they encountered in our long-term care facilities.

They discovered systemic deficiencies in the establishment and management of infection control areas within long-term care facilities. There was a lack of care and distribution of personal protective equipment and enforcement of personal health measures. As well, as previously stated, there were severe staff shortages that compounded problems in long-term care facilities.

It is with that in mind we can turn our attention to the provisions contained in Bill C-295. I welcome the debate and attention on amending the Criminal Code to protect those who live in long-term care facilities.

Currently, the Criminal Code states under “Duties Tending to Preservation of Life” that a parent, guardian or spouse is under a legal duty to provide necessaries of life to those under their care when they are unable to do so themselves due to age, illness, mental disorder or cannot otherwise provide for themselves. That is the most important area.

There have been numerous court cases over the years where people have been charged and convicted of such crimes, but to the best of my knowledge, never has the owner or manager of a long-term care facility been charged and convicted under this section of the Criminal Code.

Bill C-295 would amend the Criminal Code to clearly stipulate that owners and managers of long-term care facilities would be added to that list of being legally responsible to provide necessaries of life to residents of their facilities. This level of legal protection for those who live in long-term care facilities, as stated in Bill C-295, must be studied. I would urge my colleagues to vote in favour of this bill.

It is imperative we refer this legislation and have the much-needed debate about how the federal government can better legally protect those who live in long-term care facilities. As the onus would be on the Crown to lay the charges, we must carefully craft the legislation to ensure there are no loopholes.

I would recommend to my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to invite legal and health care experts to ensure the definition of “necessaries of life” is adequate to ensure there are legal penalties for those who fail in their duties. This will start a much larger debate about whether provincial regulations, which dictate the operations and level of care, including accountability provisions, are stringent enough.

As we debate this legislation tonight, I can assure members there are currently long-term care facilities that are running short-staffed. We know there are staff having to work double shifts so residents can get the care they need. As well, there are still far too many rooms in long-term care facilities with four beds, which is a challenge at the best of times let alone during a pandemic or flu season.

We can all agree that all levels of government, including the non-profits and companies that provide long-term care, must dramatically improve the conditions of long-term care facilities.

In closing, I was proud to run under our Conservative platform in the last election which would have directly provided federal funding that would have boosted the number of health care aides and other critical staff working in our long-term care facilities. I welcomed our commitment to prioritize and streamline immigration to include new measures to attract health care workers, especially in priority areas and regions. Our pledge to devote specific federal infrastructure funding to renovate and improve long-term care facilities was well received by many who work in the health care field.

Let us ensure this is just the start of a much larger conversation about how we can improve the living conditions, including the level of care, our loved ones receive. This legislation should pass second reading and be sent to the justice committee as quickly as possible.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
See context


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

moved that Bill C-295, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (neglect of vulnerable adults), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand for the second reading of my private member's bill, Bill C-295, which would amend sections 214 and 215 of the Criminal Code to include penalties for the neglect of vulnerable adults.

What this amendment would do is add some definitions. One is “long-term care facility”, which means somewhere with three or more adults unrelated to the owner or manager by blood or marriage. We are also defining what a manager is. A manager is somebody who administers, hires staff, purchases supplies like medical supplies, directs the daily performance of facility staff, coordinates and plans care for the residents and how the staff provides that care, applies protocols and procedures to give good care, and controls and evaluates those procedures and the quality of care in order to do something very important, which is to provide the necessities of life to residents.

Section 215 of the act defines the duty to provide necessities of life and the bill defines the failure to perform this as meaning to endanger life or to cause health to be injured permanently. Those are the two things we mean by the words “failure to perform”.

This bill would also prohibit an offender who has been found culpable from seeking or obtaining work in any facility that takes care of vulnerable adults, or even volunteering in a facility that takes care of vulnerable adults. By “vulnerable adults” we mean anyone who is vulnerable as a result of age, mental disorder, illness or disability or who is frail. The penalty for failure to do this means a person would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or would be punished on summary conviction.

Why are we bringing this up right now? It is because COVID-19 showed us that vulnerable adults are very much at risk. Let us look at the deaths in Canada as a result of COVID-19. Sixty-nine per cent were vulnerable adults, compared with the international average of 41% anywhere else in the world. We know that long-term care facilities are under provincial jurisdiction, so what we saw across this country during COVID-19 was a large variability in the results and deaths by province, depending on what province they were living in.

It is interesting to note that in long-term care facilities, residents got 3% of the total COVID cases, yet that resulted in 43% of deaths from COVID. For instance, in Ontario, the incidence of death in long-term care facilities was 13 times higher than for the average 69-year-olds living in the community. What does that tell us? It tells us that there is a definite association between long-term care facilities and deaths and outbreaks due to COVID.

We know that 54% of long-term care facilities in Canada are private, and what we have seen is that many of them are not only private but for-profit. Following the first year of COVID, we got a report from the 4th Canadian Division's joint task force. If members will recall, we sent in the armed forces to help in some of these long-term care facilities. We also had a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, or CIHI, as it is called. Both of these were scathing reports. They sounded like something out of a horror movie.

We heard that many of the aides who worked in these areas did not have any real training. They did not have any ongoing medical education or health education training. Many of them did not follow protocols and many were not registered. Many of them were also not able to provide the care they were supposed to be providing.

We found that cleanliness was a huge issue, according to those two reports. There were cockroaches in these areas and people did not take care of residents who soiled themselves. They laid in their soil, sometimes for a whole day.

We found that the ability to give medication was compromised. Medication was often outdated in the facilities, and for the people who were getting medication, it was not even working for them. We also found out that cross-contamination was huge. Many persons who were working in these areas would go from one patient to another without changing their personal protective equipment and without washing their hands, causing cross-contamination.

We heard some horror stories. We heard about the abuse of these patients, where if they complained of pain or decided that they needed help, quite often they would get pushed roughly and handled badly. However, it was the lack of any protocol to deal with the pandemic and an epidemic that was very frightening in some of these facilities.

These facilities are run by the provinces. Long-term care facilities are a provincial jurisdiction. What can the federal government do? What we can do is make those people who own or manage these facilities liable with a penalty under the Criminal Code for the failure to provide the appropriate care by any medical standard whatsoever.

Let us remember that there was burnout at these long-term care facilities. There was also the fact that many of the people who worked in these facilities were being paid less than equivalent medical personnel in other facilities of any kind.

We have just thrown seniors under the bus in many of these long-term care facilities, and we saw that with the deaths from COVID. I think we should be ashamed that, in Canada, we have a 69% COVID death rate in vulnerable adults versus 41% in any other country in the world. We need to do something about it. We are saying that we should make accountable anyone who manages such a facility, or owns such a facility, who did not have any of the protocols and did not do anything about cross-contamination.

We found out that the reason a lot of the aides were not doing the kinds of things they needed to do with personal protective equipment was that they were told that they should not spend money and that they should use it once, twice or three times. We know that is not how to deal with contamination.

Some of this was all about saving money. Some of it was about being scared. Some of it was about not knowing what to do and not having sufficient protocols and procedures. I really believe that we need to work with the provinces to create new sets of protocols and a real set of standardization of care for persons in long-term care facilities.

We need to make those who run or own those facilities very accountable under the Criminal Code. We could have the same penalties as under the section of the Criminal Code for the abuse of children or for failure to provide care for children who are vulnerable. We need to do this now for seniors.

I think that most of us know that COVID-19 is not our last pandemic. We know that with globalization, with people travelling everywhere, anyhow at any time, the cross-contamination of disease from one jurisdiction or one country to another can create what we now call pandemics. Pandemics are happenings, and pandemics are here to stay.

We need to be very clear about setting clear accountability and clear penalties for those who fail to provide care for vulnerable adults, which is the first thing. Then, as most of you will know, we need to also look at how we work with provinces to provide a pan-Canadian standard of care and a clear standard of care for many of these facilities. We know that 54% of them are for-profit organizations and are private sector organizations, and they do not have the appropriate ability to take care of adults.

Members who know a senior person or a vulnerable adult, whether they be disabled or senior, who actually perished or was harmed irrevocably under COVID-19 in one of these facilities would support this bill, because they know that it is important. If we do not care for the vulnerable among us, if we allow people to make money off people's vulnerability, if we allow people not to take due care and not to have compassion and the best quality of care for those who live in their long-term care facilities as adults, then we are failing, and we are failing badly.

I hope members will support this bill, because I think it is absolutely necessary. It is currently the only way the federal government can take care of this problem. It will take a while to negotiate with provinces. It will take a while to look at standards of care. It will take a while to do that, but in the interim, those who fail to provide appropriate care for vulnerable adults living in long-term care facilities will be penalized under the law, under sections 214 and 215 of the Criminal Code.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

June 20th, 2022 / 3:55 p.m.
See context


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-295, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (neglect of vulnerable adults).

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce my private member's bill, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding neglect of vulnerable adults, and I want to thank the member for Alfred-Pellan for seconding the bill.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed clear evidence of abuse of seniors in care facilities across the country. With the lack of appropriate care and protection, as well as negligence and failure to follow accepted protocols, this situation resulted in appallingly high rates of COVID transmission in many long-term care facilities and led to increased mortality rates.

This bill aims to prevent a recurrence of those tragic outcomes by creating an offence for owners and managers of adult care facilities who fail to provide due care in accordance with accepted protocols and who are negligent in their duty to provide the necessities for a good quality of life. It would also allow courts to make an order prohibiting the owners and managers of such facilities from being in charge of or in a position of trust or authority toward vulnerable adults and to consider, as an aggravating factor for the purpose of sentencing, the fact that an organization failed to perform the legal duty that it owed to a vulnerable adult.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)