A Seniors’ Advocate for BC

7 August 2012

By Alison Taylor

7 August 2012—The BC Ministry of Health recently published a Discussion Paper on a Seniors’ Advocate for BC (click here to download), inviting comment from individuals, families and service providers alike on a number of questions with respect to the mandate, role and functions that the Seniors’ Advocate might play.  The Ministry also held a series of public consultations throughout the province in May and June this year as a means of seeking input into the creation of this new office.

As a topic that falls squarely within our mandate, the Canadian Centre for Elder Law attended a public consultation and made a written submission to the Ministry on the issue of a Seniors’ Advocate for British Columbians.  The CCEL made 21 Recommendations relating to the structure, mandate and role of the Seniors’ Advocate. To view a full copy of the CCEL’s written submission, click here. Its two appendices are available here: Appendix A and Appendix B. We highlight some of our main recommendations below.

In its submission, the CCEL strongly supported the creation of a Seniors’ Advocate as a useful and important step in addressing an existing gap in services that will only increase with the shifting demographic pressures of an aging population.

In terms of its mandate, the CCEL encouraged the Seniors’ Advocate to ensure that it had a significant focus on addressing elder abuse issues.  We further recommended that the Seniors’ Advocate explore the role that it might play in reporting or investigating elder abuse cases and working with existing stakeholders to harmonize responses to elder abuse and neglect in BC.  In addition, the CCEL recommended that the Seniors’ Advocate primarily focus on systemic advocacy, with the power to investigate individual cases as appropriate, on all issues relevant to seniors, without being limited exclusively to the health context.

The CCEL emphasized the importance of the Seniors’ Advocate being efficient and accountable to the government and the public through adequate reporting mechanisms and the development of a system of evaluation and measurement of performance.

Of primary importance, the CCEL underlined the need for the Seniors Advocate to be strictly independent of government, similar to the BC Ombudsperson or the Children’s Advocate.  The CCEL stressed that without this legitimacy, the position would end up conflicted, restrained, and without either the voice or the legitimacy the position requires.  The CCEL recommended that as a feature of this independence, the Seniors’ Advocate should be allowed to review, investigate and challenge public bodies, including government, health bodies, and systems affecting older persons without fear of defunding or reprisal.

The CCEL will continue to monitor the development of the Seniors’ Advocate and will be pleased to provide further comment and advice to government on specific issues as the process advances.

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