Department of Justice Canada



Department of Justice Canada

January 14, 2013 16:14 ET

Legislation Protecting Canada's Seniors Comes Into Force

RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Jan. 14, 2013) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Alice Wong, M.P. for Richmond and Minister of State (Seniors), welcomed yesterday's coming into force of the Protecting Canada's Seniors Act.

"Our Government is ensuring that crimes against our elderly are punished appropriately," said Minister Nicholson. "Elder abuse is disgraceful and appalling; the Protecting Canada's Seniors Act will ensure tougher sentences for those who take advantage of these vulnerable members of our society."

"This legislation further supports our Government's existing action to eliminate elder abuse in all forms," said Minister Wong. "Elder abuse will not be tolerated. Our Government continues to ensure that Canadians are made aware of this serious issue and that they have the necessary information and supports for preventative action."

The Protecting Canada's Seniors Act better protects seniors by ensuring tougher sentences for those who take advantage of elderly Canadians. Under the amendments to the Criminal Code, evidence that an offence had a significant impact on the victims due to their age - and other personal circumstances such as their health or financial situation - will now be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

The Government addresses elder abuse in a number of ways, including its elder abuse awareness campaigns and the New Horizons for Seniors Program. In 2011, the Government increased its investment in this program, which includes projects to increase elder abuse awareness, by $5 million per year, bringing its annual budget to $45 million.

More information about elder abuse can be found at www.seniors.gc.ca.

An online version of the Protecting Canada's Seniors Act is available at www.parl.gc.ca.

Internet: www.canada.justice.gc.ca

(Version française disponible)

Backgrounder

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is any action, often committed by someone in a relationship of trust, which results in harm or distress to an older person. Commonly recognized types of elder abuse include physical, psychological and financial abuse, and neglect. Financial abuse is the most commonly reported type. Often more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time. Abuse can be a single incident or a repeated pattern of behaviour. Elder abuse often occurs because of the abuser's power and control over an older person. In some situations the abuse may also result from addiction issues (drugs, alcohol or gambling), mental health problems, a cycle of family violence or discrimination against older people. In many situations of elder abuse, the abuser is dependent on the older adult for money, food or shelter.

Abuse can happen when the aggressor wants to intimidate, isolate, dominate or control another person. Police reported that nearly 7,900 seniors were victims of violent crime in 2009. Of those reported crimes, 35 percent were committed by a family member, 35 percent were committed by a friend or acquaintance, and 29 percent were committed by a stranger. However, it is difficult to estimate the prevalence and incidence of elder abuse in Canada due to factors such as under-reporting.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act

The June 3, 2011, Speech from the Throne stated that the Government "will continue to protect the most vulnerable in society and work to prevent crime. It will propose tougher sentences for those who abuse seniors." It is estimated that by 2036 there will be more than 10 million Canadians aged 65 or over, representing almost 25 percent of the country's population. Therefore, it is important that laws are in place to protect elderly people from abuse and other forms of crime.

Under the Protecting Canada's Seniors Act, evidence that an offence had a significant impact on the victims due to their age and other personal circumstances, such as health or financial situation, will now always be considered as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. The amendments will help ensure the consistent application of the established sentencing practice, that violence against individuals who are vulnerable due to their age and other personal circumstances should be treated seriously. The Criminal Code already contains similar measures that denounce the abuse of vulnerable persons. For instance, it states that the abuse of a person under the age of 18 is an aggravating factor at sentencing.

Government Action on Elder Abuse

In 2008, the Government of Canada launched the Federal Elder Abuse Initiative (FEAI), a successful $13-million, multi-departmental, three-year initiative to help seniors and others recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse, and provide information on available supports. This initiative successfully concluded on March 31, 2011. Building on the momentum created through the FEAI, the Government remains active in addressing elder abuse through its awareness campaigns and the New Horizons for Seniors Program.

The New Horizons for Seniors Program is designed to help ensure that seniors benefit from, and contribute to, the quality of life in their communities through social participation and active living. The program was expanded in 2007 to include elder abuse awareness activities. The elder abuse awareness stream of the program helps organizations develop national or regional education and awareness activities to reduce the incidence of abuse of seniors. Additional funds were announced in Budget 2010 for projects that focus on raising awareness of the financial abuse of seniors. In 2011, the Government increased its investments in the program by $5 million per year for two years, bringing the program's annual budget to $45 million. A portion of this funding will continue to support projects that expand awareness of elder abuse, including financial abuse.

As noted above, 35 percent of crimes against the elderly are committed by family members. The Government of Canada's Family Violence Initiative (FVI), a partnership of 15 federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations, is led and coordinated by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The FVI aims to reduce the occurrence of family violence in Canada. It works toward this goal by promoting public awareness of the risk and protective factors associated with family violence; strengthening the capacity of the criminal justice, health and housing systems to respond; and supporting data collection, research and evaluation efforts to identify innovative and promising practices and a range of effective interventions.

To find out more on what the Government of Canada is doing for seniors, visit www.seniors.gc.ca or call:

  • 1 800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232)
  • TTY: 1-800-926-9105

Contact Information

  • Julie Di Mambro
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Justice
    613-992-4621

    Media Relations
    Department of Justice
    613-957-4207