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Evidence of meeting #11 for Status of Women in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was seniors.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Patricia Fleischmann  Police Constable, Community Mobilization Unit, Toronto Police Service
Jared Buhler  Elder Abuse Intervention Team, Edmonton Police Service
Isobel Fitzpatrick  Detective Sergeant, Coordinator, Eastern Regional Abuse Issues, Ontario Provincial Police
Isabelle Coady  Detective, Elder Abuse Unit, Ottawa Police Service
Leslie Craig  Inspector, Manager, Crime Prevention Section, Ontario Provincial Police

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

That fits with the comments of your colleague, Constable Coady, who said that privacy trumps safety. The exchange of information is difficult with health care employees, and mandatory reporting of suspected elder abuse would be helpful.

Could you just expand on how we could help elder people with that mandatory reporting, and what it would involve?

5:15 p.m.

Isabelle Coady

I think people feel they have no choice but to report; for example, in Ontario, you have no choice. Whoever you are, you have to report abuse against a child, and it's illegal not to. People feel protected in reporting. It doesn't matter what they do, what their relationship is to the victim, they feel that they are free to report—actually, the punishment for not reporting is greater than the potential punishment for doing it. I think that if you got that wide-ranging protection, it would help.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Irene Mathyssen

Thank you very much.

The NDP caucus, please, for five minutes.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you very much for being here.

I have a question that I think any of you could answer. A difficult reality that a lot of people need to come to terms with, I guess, is that seniors just don't necessarily report or want to prosecute.

Detective Sergeant Fitzpatrick, you mentioned that the Criminal Code and sentencing was sufficient, but that sometimes criminalizing this was not appropriate. I think all of you have shed some light on the fact that it is a very complex issue, and that, in terms of sentencing under the Criminal Code, it's not the whole picture.

How can we then address those situations where criminalizing this is not appropriate?

5:15 p.m.

Cst Jared Buhler

I think a good start is the model that a lot of cities do have, which is similar to ours, and that's collaboration. I certainly agree that it is not appropriate in all situations to proceed with criminal charges. But if you can offer other services and other supports, we'll always try to get eyes on the situation, whether via home care or just our nurses following up, and things like that. At least we can monitor the situation and follow it along to some extent. Certainly the industry standard is to go with a collaborative multidisciplinary team. It's how we put those teams together and how we support them that is the key issue, in my mind. I know that we can do good work within that type of model, but we're overwhelmed right now.

5:20 p.m.

Inspector Leslie Craig Inspector, Manager, Crime Prevention Section, Ontario Provincial Police

Coming from an OPP perspective, when we consider rural dimension of this.... Obviously, Jared is in Edmonton, and Isabelle is in Ottawa. Just to follow up on that whole infrastructure of support for seniors in the community, as we mentioned earlier, most seniors want to stay home and have the services in the home. Long before anything gets to a police perspective, we could have, and do have to some degree, that enhanced support of seniors in the community identifying things and intervening long before it even gets to the police. It's not then about criminalization, because it might not even be reported to us, but the issue might be addressed in the community.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Great, so it's about prevention on a long-term scale. I think we also saw that it doesn't necessarily start when we are older, but it could be over a whole lifetime.

Great, thank you. I don't even know where to start, other than that. We've also heard witnesses say that sensitization training for police officers is something that is helpful. Has that been your experience, or could you comment on that? Would mandatory police training combat elder abuse, or give an understanding of how to combat elder abuse?

5:20 p.m.

Det Isabelle Coady

In Ottawa we're lucky because we have a trainer. There are elder abuse courses. The detective in charge is now in the training branch, and she systematically trains all the recruits now. I know that this course is offered from time to time to the membership at large. I believe that e-training is being put in place for the membership. It's very important, and it's being worked on right now.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Yes, and it has a significant impact in helping?

5:20 p.m.

Det Isabelle Coady

Yes, it does. People recognize--

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Great.

I'm going to pass my time to my other colleague.

5:20 p.m.

Cst Jared Buhler

I bristle a little bit at the notion of sensitivity training. I think the problem with elder abuse and policing is that police fail to see a crime. What you have to teach police to do—particularly because police become police to investigate crime—is not to see this as an airy-fairy social issue but to dig deeper to find the crime. So when police start believing it's a crime, they will investigate it.

I take the point of view that we need our police to treat it like a sexual assault or a homicide. These cases have to be investigated like homicides.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Treating them equally, in other words....

5:20 p.m.

Cst Jared Buhler

They need to be supported and investigated as if you don't have a witness.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Irene Mathyssen

Thank you.

I'm sorry to cut you off, but we need to go to Ms. Ambler for five minutes.

November 22nd, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, all four of you, for being here today and for your very interesting presentations.

Detective Sergeant Fitzpatrick, would you please tell us more about the coordination efforts that you talked about, the sharing of best practices? With what other organizations do you share information? From whom have you learned as the OPP, or who learns from you? Perhaps you can give us an example of a situation where those best practices led to improved service in the area of elder abuse.

5:20 p.m.

Det Isobel Fitzpatrick

I certainly could.

I am a graduate of the Ottawa Police course, and many of our OPP people attend that training.

At the local detachment level, we have different victim services in the area. So we would have our victim services, known as VCARS, shelter services, sex assault services, and the victim witness assistance program. We have a lot of hands-on services in each area. At a detachment level we would have a coordinating committee, and many of these people would sit at a table and get to know each other better, and not just with respect to crime against seniors, and what they can all do for each other when someone has a case. At detachment level we have that.

Those issues are at times raised to me, because I'm a regional coordinator, and I'll reach out to the other five regional coordinators and tell them about what I'm hearing about this type of crime and ask them if they've dealt with it before and whether they have an answer for it. We'll reach out to Shelley Tarnowski, who is the provincial coordinator, and our senior assistance team in to access someone who has faced a situation before. If somebody else has already solved the problem and it's worked, let's try to adopt it and apply it.

The LEAPS committee is very progressive. At the meetings, everybody talks about what is working well for them or about a challenge they're facing. The minutes of the LEAPS meetings are circulated back to the regional coordinators. I have abuse issues investigators in every one of the 17 detachments in the eastern region of OPP, and that information is passed to them at quarterly meetings. So we're moving the information up and down within the OPP, and outside of the OPP with our municipal counterparts, through LEAPS.

Then there are the Ontario Police College courses that bring in people from all kinds of police services, with fabulous keynote speakers addressing issues that are timely right now.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Fantastic, thank you.

You also mentioned that the calls for service have been on the rise and that you believe they will continue to rise. Do you believe that's because there's more abuse happening, or because there is greater awareness?

5:25 p.m.

Det Isobel Fitzpatrick

My personal view is that there is more awareness. Every time someone does a public education campaign, there is a fabulous ripple effect from people who didn't know of it or it didn't touch them before, and suddenly it's touching them. So it suddenly makes sense to them. They say, oh, that's what's happening at my neighbour's house. I'm going to call.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

I'll use this as a public service announcement to mention the new horizons for seniors program. Our government is continuing to fund it, because we believe that awareness is key to solving and alleviating the problem of elder abuse in our society. Our most recent budget that passed yesterday committed an additional $10 million for a total of $45 million per year. It includes an ad campaign that you're probably aware of. Phase two, I believe, starts next February. We believe that's important as well.

Constable Buhler, you said that elder abuse is a complicated problem. If you had to choose one recommendation to alleviate the problem, what would it be?

5:25 p.m.

Cst Jared Buhler

Do you mean in order to alleviate the problem, or in response?

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

What can the government do to reduce the incidence of elder abuse?

5:25 p.m.

Cst Jared Buhler

The pessimist in me says the problem will never go away. It has been around for a long time, but we're just starting to realize it. The message I would give you is that we're under-resourced when it comes to responding.

I put together presentations and educational stuff all the time. There's no shortage of resources for me to refer to. But what I need is help in investigating crimes that are occurring; I don't need another tool or another resource.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Irene Mathyssen

You have no more time. Thank you. I'm awfully sorry.

5:25 p.m.

Cst Jared Buhler

I don't have a good answer for you. I'm sorry.