Time to End Elder Abuse

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is marked each year on June 15. It is an official United Nations International Day acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

Since 2006, communities throughout the country and around the world have honoured this day to raise the visibility of elder abuse by organizing events to share information and promote resources and services that can help increase seniors’ safety and well-being.

Locally, C.A.R.P. will join Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers in their “See Something, Say Something” Elder Abuse Awareness presentation on Zoom on June 11th at 11 am.  This program provides seniors with a safe and anonymous method to report what they know about suspected criminal or abusive behaviour. You can register by calling 604-717-2585.

To think that elder abuse is so prevalent is disheartening.  Child abuse is often front and centre in the media as it is today with the ‘Every Child Matters’ message following the egregious murder of Indigenous children in residential schools.

Horrific.

But so is any kind of abuse including elder abuse.

Elder abuse is harm done to an older person by someone in a position of care or trust. That harm can be physical or emotional abuse, neglect or financial abuse. Elder abuse can be a crime under the Criminal Code o Canada, but even when it is not criminal, it is always wrong.

C.A.R.P. believes strongly that professionals dealing with dependent older adults have a ‘duty to report’ elder abuse whenever it is discovered.

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 7 in 10 crimes against older Canadians are never reported to police. There are many reasons for this including fear, shame and not knowing where to turn. It could also be due to language barriers and/or physical and cognitive disabilities. It could be due to dependence upon the abuser for care and financial security. It could be due to social isolation.

According to the C.A.R.P. website, today, half a million seniors in Canada potentially experience some form of elder abuse, representing up to 10 percent of the population aged 65 and over.

C.A.R.P. is calling for a comprehensive strategy to end elder abuse.

About ten years ago, I was invited by MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay when she was Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Minister of Justice, to take part in a discussion about this important subject.  There were representatives from various local senior agencies around the table. They talked about every subject under the sun.

I was the only attendee who spoke directly about our position on ending elder abuse. A decade later, we are still asking.

C.A.R.P. is calling for a comprehensive strategy to end elder abuse. While the recent change to the Criminal Code to increase sentencing for elder abuse convictions was welcomed, more is needed. Action is needed to prevent the abuse from occurring in the first place.

We recommend the following:

  • Elder Abuse Hot Line – a single point of first contact like 911 or the one Crime Stoppers has
  • Duty to Report which reflects social responsibility. There must be clear guidelines for action and intervention, protection and the professional investigative capacity to respond to such reporting.
  • Added caregiver support for the 3.8 million Canadians now caring for loved ones at home.
  • Expedite passage of provision for Exacerbated Sentencing for hate crimes and breach of trust already in the Criminal Code
  • New Criminal Offence of Elder Abuse if warranted following a review.

So we have ‘Black Lives Matter.’ and ‘Every Child Matters’.

It’s time for ‘Every Senior Matters’.

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