Parliament for 2013
Richmond Electoral District
Address by Honourable Alice Wong for the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 7th World Conference and Commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Prague, Czech Republic – May 28, 2012
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In many cultures around the world, elders are considered a source of immeasurable knowledge and wisdom.
In the Aboriginal cultures of my country, Canada, elders have taught us that life is an endless circle, and that we have to create around us circles of protection, healing and mutual support.
We are gathered here today, at this 7th World Conference and Commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, to create such a circle.
It’s very encouraging to see people here from so many different nations. It’s good to know that in the fight against elder abuse, we have so many allies in the international community.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Gloria Gutman from the INPEA and Jan Lorman from Zivot 90 for organizing and hosting this important event.
Gloria and her team, by the way, are based in Canada, and I want to thank them for all the important work they do to raise awareness of elder abuse both at home and around the world.
Elder abuse is difficult to talk about. It’s an emotional issue. But talking about it, breaking the silence and helping people understand the magnitude of this problem is essential for it to stop.
We all hope we can grow older without losing our autonomy. But a time may come when we are dependent on others, and more vulnerable than we are now.
So it’s troubling and terrible to think that the people we trust might take advantage of us.
That is why elder abuse is such a tragedy—because it is so often a betrayal of trust.
This betrayal of trust is also the reason why elder abuse is hidden and under‑reported.
Elder abuse robs older people of their dignity and peace at a time of life when they ought to feel secure.
The Government of Canada recognizes that elder abuse is a problem with devastating consequences—a problem that must not be tolerated.
We are taking action in various ways to prevent and fight the neglectful acts that may harm vulnerable seniors.
For example, through a program called New Horizons for Seniors, we invite Canadian organizations to apply for funding to implement local, regional or national projects to address elder abuse.
When we issued a request for proposals last fall, the response was overwhelming. Organizations across the country contacted us with ideas for suitable projects.
Last month, we announced over $35.6 million in funding for small community-led projects, some of which address elder abuse.
And, in the coming weeks, we look forward to announcing funding for larger pan-Canadian projects related to elder abuse awareness.
On the judicial side, our government has moved to defend older Canadians who are mistreated.
We recently proposed legislation to amend Canada’s Criminal Code to ensure consistently tough penalties for offences involving the abuse of older people. This will further help protect our seniors against these crimes.
Of course, prevention is always better than punishment. Educating the public about elder abuse is still our first line of defence.
In Canada, we continue to raise awareness with our national elder abuse awareness campaign called “It’s Time to Face the Reality.”
The most recent campaign ran this past winter and included television, print and Internet elements.
We’re very proud of this successful campaign, and I am pleased to be able to show you today the television ad that has been airing across Canada.
We hope this campaign and our other initiatives to combat elder abuse will continue to spark a change in attitudes in communities across our country.
I am very proud of the leadership role that our government is taking to address elder abuse. But we cannot do it alone. Everyone has a role to play in fighting elder abuse.
In Canada, we continue to work closely with other levels of government, and organizations like the INPEA and the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.
By the way, I am very happy to see at this conference Dr. Lynn McDonald from the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly, otherwise known as NICE, and Marie Beaulieu, holder of the Research Chair on the Mistreatment of Older Adults at the Université de Sherbrooke. And I would like to acknowledge all the excellent work they are doing.
NICE recently completed an important research project supported by the Government of Canada entitled Preparatory Work to Measure the Mistreatment of Older Adults in Canada.
They will be doing a presentation on this topic later today, and I think you will find it very insightful.
Canada is pleased that World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is now officially recognized by the United Nations.
The Day gives us an opportunity to shine a brighter light on the problem of elder abuse, which affects people around the globe.
In this regard, the INPEA has been a tremendous influence for good. Without your dedication and determination to combat elder abuse, this critical issue would still be unaddressed and unrecognized.
I am glad to be with you at this event today. I am interested to hear the outcomes.
I also look forward to participating in the International Federation on Ageing’s 11th Global Conference on Ageing tomorrow.
Working together, we can create a circle of protection around vulnerable elders and make a difference in their lives.
Working together, we can put a stop to elder abuse.
Thank you for inviting me today, and I wish you all a productive and successful conference.