Ms. Diane Bourgeois (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-439, which establishes the office of the Ombudsman for Older Adult Justice and the Canadian Older Adult Justice Agency.
This bill is based on a good intention, we agree: the protection of older adults. Furthermore, the Criminal Code amendments in pages 21 and 22 of the bill are interesting, and some of them deserve to be taken up by another bill. I say another bill because, in addition to these amendments to the Criminal Code, Bill C-439 contains provisions that we find thoroughly unacceptable.
Some provisions are not within federal jurisdiction; others would duplicate structures that already exist in Quebec. Yet others, if adopted, would cause widespread confusion rather than help older adults. That is why, although we appreciate the concern expressed by the hon. member for Sudbury for the welfare of the elderly, we cannot support her bill.
If I understand it clearly, the bill provides for the creation of an office of the Ombudsman for Older Adult Justice, a kind of youth protection agency for seniors. The ombudsman would be responsible for supervising the work of curators. There are curators in Quebec. This ombudsman would thus have the right and power to carry out research on successful guardianship practices and systems. That already exists in Quebec.
The ombudsman would also be responsible for supervising institutions in the provincial health networks, since the bill gives him or her the power to develop and recommend guidelines to assist institutional review boards.
Imagine the confusion, for instance, at Saint-Charles-Borromé hospital—a case we have heard about—if we suddenly found ourselves with two parallel inquiries resulting from two sets of recommendations.
The bill also provides for the establishment of the Canadian Older Adult Justice Agency, an institution quite similar, in fact almost identical, to the Conseil des aînés in Quebec. It is already responsible for advising the minister on planning, implementing and coordinating governmental policies, and programs and services to meet the needs of seniors, and for proposing to the minister the implementation of programs and services to meet the needs of seniors and to prevent and correct the situations in which seniors can become victims of abuse.
The Conseil des aînés is already responsible for producing and distributing documentation and information programs about seniors and the services and benefits available to them, and promoting creation and distribution through third parties.
There is also the issue of information distribution. In Quebec, we have CLSCs, a type of institution which is unique in Canada. They already do good work in providing home support services to the sick. The CLSCs already do a great deal of promotion, prevention and distribution. To a degree, in fact a large degree, supporting Bill C-439 would ignore the excellent work the CLSCs are already doing in Quebec.
I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues and hon. members of this House to the following definition, in the bill, of the term abuse:
The knowing infliction of physical, psychological or financial harm—
This leads me to think that either there is no awareness or the member did not see the expression “financial harm” or else she was not thinking.
For example, the guaranteed income supplement scandal was and still is inflicting serious financial harm on seniors.
I wonder, then, if we could not infer that the government is guilty. Under this legislation to establish the office of the ombudsman for older adult justice that the member wants passed, would not the Government of Canada be accountable, since this program was knowingly hidden from seniors entitled to the guaranteed income supplement?
Obviously, the government failed to provide information to ensure seniors could access the guaranteed income supplement. Obviously, this government did not take measures to locate these seniors, even if it meant going door to door or using the CLSCs and seniors' centres to find them. In looking at what happened, I think that such legislation will do nothing to help seniors.
I want to remind the House that 270,000 Canadians, including 68,000 Quebeckers, were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement. My colleague, the member for Champagne, did an excellent job with regard to the awareness campaign we initiated to find all those adversely affected by the failure, voluntary in my opinion, of this government to provide the guaranteed income supplement.
Finally, people told us that they did not need legislation to protect them but that they did need information and our help in accessing these funds. We need social justice. I do not think that Quebec truly needs this legislation to establish an office at the ombudsman for older persons.
In Quebec, we found that the financial rights of these people had been adversely affected. Quebeckers realized this. Some CLSCs focus on prevention and protection. There is also the office of the public curator in Quebec. So, Quebec does not need this legislation.
Although this bill is filled with good intentions, it is not acceptable to us, and we will be voting against it.
Subtopic: Older Adult Justice Act