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.