Ottawa explores criminal reform as a liberal MP table bill on long-term care neglect


In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kathy Leger first saw the situation that older caregivers were enduring and the intense pressure that personal care staff were under.

A retired infection control nurse volunteered for her service at the Orchard Villa home where her father-in-law Nick lived in April 2020 and witnessed the system deeply “broken” before being infected with the virus. Said.

Fear to know that when she was isolated at home, her father-in-law, Nick, was left in the room for almost 24 hours with the corpse of a resident who had seen him slowly succumb to illness for two days. Did.

The horrifying stories that emerged from long-term care facilities, especially in the early days of the pandemic, promise that the Free Government will work on penal code amendments in a 2020 speech to the throne, especially as reported by members of the Canadian Army brought in to help. “Explicitly punish those who ignore the elderly under their care.”

Almost two years later, the government hasn’t made much of a move.

As a result, Leger, a party to a large class action proceeding against a nursing home in Ontario, feels even more cynical about confirming accountability. Yeah, we do this. “And does anyone coast again? “

Liberal Hedy Fry, the longest-serving female member of the House of Commons, is trying to take the matter for herself and propose changes that may shape the roadmap for the government’s approach.

In late June, she passed a private bill, Bill C-295, which amends Article 215 of the Penal Code, which specifically criminalizes care facility owners and managers for failing to provide “necessities” to vulnerable adults. Introduced.

It also tells the judge that a person convicted of the crime or under probation is “age, illness, mental illness, disability or weakness.”

Frey said it was intended to prevent long-term care failures during a pandemic from happening again.

“COVID has exposed many vulnerabilities that we always thought were taken care of as a government, a caregiver, and myself as a doctor. It was clear that there was a hole in the safety net. “It became,” she said in an interview. “The system was unable to fulfill its mission.”

Mr Frey said the bill was “no problem” by Justice Minister David Rametti, and answered affirmatively when asked if he believed the government was participating in this approach.

A spokesman for the Justice Department would just say that officials are “exploring potential criminal reform options to better deal with elder abuse and neglect.”

Experts say the bill is a step in the right direction, but if the government decides to support it alone, it’s a public relations effort and there is a risk that it won’t make a meaningful change.

The criminal law amendment itself looks like a “very viable approach,” said Graham Webb, managing director of the Center for the Advocacy for the Elderly and formerly a longtime staff lawyer.

“I really don’t know that a single accusation has ever been made because of caregiver negligence,” Webb said. “I think it is important for the criminal justice system to be able to respond to such serious cases of institutional abuse and the negligence of the elderly.”

He fine-tuned the definition of “manager” and “owner” of a home so that the top individual who manages the money and resources available to staff is responsible for negligence, not the front line of the individual. I added that I can do it. Line worker.

However, Christa James, National Director of the Center for Elders of Canada, said the charges under Section 215 were already low and in the meantime, and she is skeptical of the implications of amending them.

“Criminal reform requires criminal infrastructure reform to be influential,” she said, police and prosecutors need to be trained, and criminal and evidence standards are broad for it to work. He explained that it would have to be promoted. “If it was just changing the law.”

Asked if he thinks the bill would be a deterrent, James said: did not do it. “

Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said “has no effect” on the abuse and neglect exposed during the pandemic, or the unnecessary death of residents for reasons other than COVID-19 due to poor infection control. Said. Dehydration and hunger.

While there is much to be done by the state government that oversees long-term care, Ottawa’s role is to hold the state responsible for better standard care by tying more to federal health transfers. Is responsible for.

And finally, we carry out our promise to hold the villain criminally liable.

“If the lives of older people don’t deserve a formal government bill, I think we need to find a conscience,” she said.

Marie Daniel Smith

Canadian press