Elder abuse is a horrific crime against society’s most vulnerable citizens. And now the BC government has admitted just how prevalent it is.
“Every day in British Columbia, thousands of older adults are subjected to some form of physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse, and/or experience neglect.”
That is not a statement from a sensationalistic tabloid journalist or a Beacon News head-line writer. It is a statement made by the Government of British Columbia in a March 2013 document titled “Together To Reduce Elder Abuse—B.C.’s Strategy: Promoting well- being and security for older British Columbians.”
The BC Liberals, who have been in power for twelve years, stated as fact in a Ministry of Health document signed by the then Secretary of State for Seniors Ralph Sultan (himself a senior) that “every day” “thousands” of British Columbian seniors are abused.
Thousands? Every day? If true, this would be one of the greatest crime waves in Canadian history. Let me repeat: thousands of seniors are abused every day in BC. Why is this not headline news? Why did the BC NDP, the Official Opposition, not make this an issue in the May 14, 2013 provincial election? Why is this not common knowledge? Why isn’t BC an international pariah for being one of the worst societies on Earth? The best place on Earth? A place where thousands of older adults are abused every day?
It was reported in the Province on May 1, 2013:
MLA Ralph Sultan, who served as the first Minister of State for Seniors, said his government’s overhaul of the senior-care system is adequate and, about “as done as it is going to be done.”
When are seniors most vulnerable? When they are physically fragile and cognitively impaired. Where are the most physically fragile and/or cognitively impaired seniors? They live in long term residential care facilities. If, as the Government of BC states, thousands of seniors are being abused every day in BC, it is most likely happening in long term residential care facilities.
Those facilities are either directly administered by the government, or by service providers contracted by the BC government. Therefore: most of the abusers must be government employees or contractors with the Government.
Why is this not national headline news?
What is the government’s strategy to reduce elder abuse? If you read the twenty-four pages long document closely, with the exception of a little tinkering of some existing laws, the best the BC government can come up with is an awareness campaign.
The awareness campaign includes teaching staff in residential care facilities how to report abuse. Given that most elder abuse most likely happens in those same facilities, what is the likelihood that the staff don’t know what’s happened on their work-site? How likely is it that they will report what they know? (After a five years long investigation BC’s Ombudsperson Kim Carter concluded in February 2012: “The health authorities do not track the number of reports of abuse and neglect they have investigated or the number of support and assistance plans they have implemented in response to investigations of abuse and neglect.”)
There is a bizarre unreality to the BC government’s entire strategy to reduce elder abuse.
Nowhere does it propose a law similar to the U.S Civil Rights of Institutionalization of Persons Act (CRIPA), which I discussed in a previous column.
What BC needs is our Attorney General to have the power to intervene in any community care setting, (such as long term residential care facilities) when they have good reason to believe there are widespread civil rights abuses occurring. And, if necessary, to bring civil suits against the abusers.
Most of BC’s seniors are Canadian citizens. Canadian citizens have a civil right to equal benefit and equal protection under the law. If thousands of Canadian citizens are getting abused every day in BC, they’re not getting equal benefit and protection under the law. If thousands of older adults are abused every day in our jurisdiction, we are not yet a civilized society.
In the meantime, until BC gets a law like CRIPA, I advise seniors who can afford it to hire bodyguards.
Paul Caune is the Executive Director of CIVIL RIGHTS NOW! Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or his websiteWatch Paul’s film Hope Is Not A Plan here.