Abuse continues to be a concern for all seniors. The abuse can be physical, mental or financial. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms specifically prohibits such abuse, stating: “Every aged person and every handicapped person has a right to protection against any form of exploitation.”
We recently read in the newspaper of the precarious situation of one of the surviving Dionne quintuplets as a result of her son absconding with all her savings. Unfortunately hers is not the only case.
A woman lived in the basement of a building she owned. In 2006 her son moved into the ground floor. In 2010 she gave him the property after which her health deteriorated, she stopped taking her medications, and there was no medical follow-up. Her daughters noticed that bills had not been paid and that there were unexplained amounts regularly withdrawn from her bank account that far exceeded her needs.
In March the mother moved in with her daughter. At this time she met with an inspector from the Human Rights Commission and provided details of her son’s behaviour. In June 2011 the mother made a mandate in the event of her incapacity in which she appointed her elder daughter her representative.
The mandate took effect in November of that year. The mother died in 2013 at the age of 83. The house was sold in September 2014.
The son had lived in the building since 2006 without paying rent. He had not made any effort to collect rent from the tenant on the second floor but had charged his mother $400 a month.
Considering these facts and the bank withdrawals, The Human Rights Commission found the son had acted in violation of the Quebec Charter and that the transfer of the house had been made under duress. The mother had been a victim of her son’s exploitation and the son had been acting in bad faith. He was ordered to pay his mother’s estate an amount equivalent to the value of the house as material, moral and punitive damages.
In another case, a man was devastated following the death of his wife and relied completely on friends to wind up the estate of his late wife and to manage his personal affairs. They, in turn, exercised total influence upon him and isolated him from his family. They took almost all of his money by way of advances, expenses and other means.
It was learned that between the years 2004 and 2009 the value of his assets had tumbled from over a million dollars to less that five thousand dollars. The Human Rights Commission found the victim was a vulnerable senior who had the right to protection but whose dignity had been violated over several years as a result of the exploitation he had been subjected to by the defendants.
He had suffered emotionally when he realized that those he had thought to be his friends had profited from him, to his detriment. He was awarded material, moral, and punitive damages in excess of $1 million.
There are numerous cases involving financial abuse of the vulnerable by children, relatives, and friends. Now the Quebec government is tackling institutional abuse.
On October 15, 2016 the Quebec government tabled Bill 115, An Act to combat maltreatment of seniors and other persons of full age in vulnerable situations. It does that “by enacting measures to facilitate the reporting of maltreatment and to promote the establishment of an intervention process with respect to maltreatment of seniors.”
Institutions providing health and social services will be required to adopt and implement a policy to counteract the maltreatment of persons in vulnerable situations.
A “person in a vulnerable situation” means a person of full age whose ability to request or obtain assistance is temporarily or permanently limited because of factors such as a physical, cognitive or psychological limitation, illness, injury, or handicap.
The Act also contains measures to protect the identity of persons who report maltreatment, protect them against reprisals, and grant them immunity from legal proceedings, suspension, or loss of their jobs. The government will also be able to make regulations governing the use of monitoring mechanisms, such as cameras or any other technological means, on the premises of these institutions.
The Act also allows for sanctions, in particular, disciplinary sanctions that could be applied in cases of
The anti-maltreatment policy must be implemented by any operator of a public or private seniors’ residence governed by the Act respecting health services and social services.
The Act gives the government the power to require any group it designates to adopt a policy to combat maltreatment of persons in vulnerable situations. The minister responsible for seniors is to be accountable for the carrying out of the Act. Institutions governed by the Act will be given 18 months from the time it becomes law to adopt the required anti-maltreatment policy.
We hope this projected legislation will help protect seniors and vulnerable persons from institutional abuse. It is however still a bill and not yet law. As of this writing the bill has passed first reading and public hearings were scheduled in Quebec City in January.
We will be watching with great interest as this bill progresses through the national assembly and eventually becomes law.