Government of Canada launches consultation on federal policy definition of senior abuse

News release

June 15, 2021              Toronto, Ontario              Employment and Social Development Canada

Seniors are too often victims of not only physical and sexual abuse, but also neglect, psychological or financial abuse, often perpetrated by a person in a position of trust. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these harms by further isolating many seniors. Yet there is no one accepted definition of senior abuse in Canada or around the world, hampering collaboration, data collection and progress against this scourge.

Today, at an event organized by CanAge, Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario and the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Minister of Seniors, Deb Schulte, announced the launch of consultations with experts, stakeholders and Canadians on a definition of senior abuse. The creation of a federal policy definition of senior abuse will support more consistent and informed awareness and prevention activities, data collection, as well as program and service delivery.

An online consultation portal will be open until the consultation concludes on July 22, 2021. On June 22, the Government will hold two virtual national roundtables, hosted by Minister Schulte, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors Stéphane Lauzon. Five virtual regional roundtables will be hosted by Parliamentary Secretary Lauzon, in collaboration with the National Seniors Council. The regional roundtables will ensure that diverse voices from across Canada are represented.

After the consultations close, a “What we heard” report will be released and a draft definition will be circulated to partners for feedback before the definition is released.

The consultations build on recent federal investments to combat senior abuse. Justice Canada has provided more than $800,000 through its Victims Fund to support public legal education information projects with nine organizations to produce materials that are specifically designed to reach seniors, and those responsible for their care, on the issue of senior abuse and neglect. Budget 2021 invested $50 million for the Public Health Agency of Canada to design and deliver interventions that promote safe relationships and prevent family violence, including elder abuse. Senior abuse was also discussed at the recent virtual stakeholder symposium, “The Future of Aging in Canada,” hosted by the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum.

Quotes

“Senior abuse has harmed too many older people in Canada for too long, and more people are at risk as the population ages. The Government of Canada is working to strengthen how we combat senior abuse in all its forms. The creation of a federal definition is a foundational part of those efforts, and we look forward to receiving feedback from the public, experts and partners on this important issue.”
– Minister of Seniors, Deb Schulte

“The Government of Canada considers all forms of abuse and neglect of seniors to be very serious issues and we are committed to ensuring seniors are protected. Creating a federal definition of senior abuse will improve the tools we have at hand to better the lives of our seniors. We must take care of seniors across the country and ensure that their needs are met.”
– Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti

“Seniors are too often victims of not only physical and sexual abuse, but also neglect, psychological or financial abuse. Our government is committed to ensuring the safety of seniors. The creation of a federal policy definition will provide a shared understanding of senior abuse across the federal government to support culture change and public awareness in support of efforts to prevent senior abuse.”
– Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors, Stéphane Lauzon

Quick facts

  • Seniors are the fastest-growing demographic age group in Canada. By 2030, the number of seniors is expected to reach 9.6 million, representing close to one quarter of Canada’s population.

  • The National Seniors Council’s 2018–2021 work plan focuses in part on identifying measures to reduce crimes and harms against seniors, with a particular focus on financial abuse, fraud and scams.

  • Senior abuse and neglect are often perpetrated by a person in a position of trust. Signs of senior abuse include:

    • fear, anxiety or depression in relation to a family member, friend or care provider
    • unexplained physical injuries
    • poor nutrition or hygiene
    • improper use of medication
    • sudden drop in cash flow or sudden changes to legal documents.
  • Mandate letters addressed to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Seniors call on these ministers to work together to:

    • create a national definition of elder abuse;
    • invest in better data collection and law enforcement related to elder abuse; and
    • establish new offences and penalties in the Criminal Code related to elder abuse and neglect.

Associated links

Contacts

For media enquiries, please contact:

Daniel Pollak
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Seniors, Deb Schulte
343-551-7558
daniel.pollak@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
819-994-5559
media@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca
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