Ontario government warned that isolating seniors is elder abuse and violates the Charter

Jun 9th, 2020

 

CALGARY: The Justice Centre has issued a demand letter to the Ford government over the continued forced isolation of seniors in long term care homes, and policies which prevent family members from visiting to ensure their care and well-being.

Seniors in Ontario care homes have been confined to their rooms for the past 80+ days, deprived of family visits, socialization, proper exercise, and access to the outdoors. In some cases, elderly married couples have been prevented from visiting each other despite the fact that they reside in the same care facility.  Many families are reporting their loved ones are swiftly declining both physically and mentally, plus suffering intense anxiety and depression, despite having been healthy and alert prior to lockdowns. Family members are desperate, and their pleas to government officials have thus far been ignored.

The June 8, 2020 letter, sent to the Honourable Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario Minister of Long Term Care, demands that the government and the long-term care facilities it operates immediately grant family members access to see their loved ones, warning that the mistreatment of elderly Canadians is a breach of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

The Justice Centre’s letter states:

“Our office is inundated with … stories from people across Ontario, unable to see their loved ones, and stymied by government representatives. These desperate people would gladly help their loved ones if they could, but the current policies of your government and government-operated care homes are preventing them from doing so.

The forced isolation of seniors, the prevention of visitations by family members, and the neglectful and inadequate care provided to them is blurring the lines between long-term care and incarceration. We are advised that many long-term care home residents have been confined to their rooms for over 80 consecutive days. These seniors are suffering loneliness, depression, anxiety, neglect, lack of exposure to the outdoors and physical exercise, lack of loving interaction with family, and loss of dignity. They are suffering a profound and ongoing violation of their constitutional rights to life, liberty and security of the person as protected by section 7 of the Charter. Their neglect and isolation is also a violation of the Residents’ Bill of Rights as protected in section 3 of Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007. These infringements are inexcusable, unjustifiable and inhumane.”

“The Charter protects the fundamental rights of all Canadians, and that includes the thousands of elderly suffering alone in isolation in government-operated care homes,” states Jay Cameron, Litigation Manager with the Justice Centre. “Seniors have a constitutional right to receive visiting family members and have their family ensure their well-being. The families of thousands of seniors are desperate, and are not prepared to sit on the sidelines. They are preparing to litigate.”