Jean Wilder case in court today

 

Despite the efforts of Jean Wilder’s family and friends, and a letter-writing campaign by the public earlier this year, this 61-year-old woman is still being held in an Interior Health Authority (IHA) hospital with no apparent justifiable reason or legal authority.

 

In February 2012 Jean Wilder was transferred from the Invermere & District Hospital’s acute care department to an extended care unit (ECU) to recover from complications following surgery a month earlier. When Jean and her family raised concerns about the care she was receiving at the ECU, hospital staff suddenly detained Jean against her will, banned her family and friends, and refused to allow Jean to see a lawyer. See previously published stories.

Now, nine months later, Jean Wilder is still being held without any due process. The IHA has not provided Jean Wilder’s family with any information about why, or under what legislation, she is being forcibly detained without her consent. The Interior Health Authority also appears to be making all health care decisions for Jean Wilder, even though they have no lawful right to do this.

Jean Wilder’s voice and rights to her own life and liberty, now long ignored, will likely be completely snuffed out this week.

On December 12, 2012, a court in New Westminster, B.C., 800 kilometres and a 9 hour drive from Invermere, BC, will take 5 minutes to hear the case to declare Jean Wilder legally incapable.

Why and how did this happen?  The short answer is that she became an unwilling victim of elder abuse by the Interior Health Authority and the Public Guardian and Trustee. After Jean Wilder’s family and friends raised concerns about Jean’s care, hospital staff reported them to the B.C. Public Guardian & Trustee’s office (the PGT). From that moment on, the unsupervised, unaccountable PGT bureaucrats and lawyers rolled out their all-too-common irrational, unjustified, disrespectful bullying …

  • The PGT immediately froze Jean’s assets before completing any investigation, placing a caveat on her property, meaning that it could not be sold or encumbered as collateral, even if she needed access to her assets to pay for her care.
  • The PGT sent a letter to the person holding Jean Wilder’s Power of Attorney, saying that the PGT had received a complaint about his handling of Jean’s finances. No details of the complaint were made known. The PGT then commenced a series of harassing letters and phone calls with Jean’s attorney (POA) and family members.
  • The PGT secretly sought out another family member and encouraged him to apply to the court to declare Jean incapable, and to apply for guardianship of her person and her assets.

As Seniors at Risk has observed in reviewing multiple case files, these are standard tactics used by the Public Guardian & Trustee’s offices across Canada, particularly in B.C. and Ontario.

These could be reasonable, prudent actions to take to protect a senior – IF there was any credible evidence to support the complaint made to the PGT that the senior was at risk. As we have frequently observed, there is often no evidence to support the complaints or the PGT’s aggressive moves to act on those complaints and to seize a senior’s assets.

Even more disturbing, the accusations and the identity of the accuser are kept secret by the PGT. This is an extraordinary thing. Even police are not permitted to keep evidence secret forever, unless it is a matter of national security. The accused person in a PGT investigation is frequently not told what they are accused of and by whom.

In Canada, or any nation governed by the rule of law, it is unlawful to convict a person without the person seeing the charges against them. Why then are provincial government agencies and health care providers routinely making autocratic decisions with profound impacts on human rights and freedoms, based on anonymous and/or unsubstantiated claims?

Removing barriers for complaints to be made to authorities about suspected elder abuse is welcome, as long as that process has built-in checks and balances to detect and prevent fraudulent claims being made by people seeking to discredit others for their own gain.

The existing one-sided PGT complaint mechanism provides a tempting opportunity for ill-intentioned people to falsely accuse others, and thereby seize control of assets and domain over the elderly person. In effect, secret complaints encourage malicious accusations, be they against the elderly person, or against someone else who is trying to protect the elderly person. In B.C. and other Canadian jurisdictions, it is not illegal to make false and malicious allegations to a government agency. There are no repercussions, and no deterrence whatsoever to anyone who decides to make an unfounded and unproven malicious complaint.

This puts the elderly person at enormous risk, effectively rendering them “sitting ducks” for anyone with ulterior motives.

Aggressive, bullying behaviour standard practice of Public Guardian offices

Instead of working with families to iron out any concerns about health care services or cautiously investigating anonymous complaints from dubious sources, in a disturbing number of cases, authorities and public agencies like Public Guardian & Trustee offices take a different approach. They bully, intimidate, threaten and deceive in an orchestrated campaign to confuse and wear down family members.

Our case files show that when there is a split in family relationships, health care providers and authorities will take advantage of it and often exacerbate it. Where there is family unity, health care providers and authorities will do their utmost to divide a family, trying to pit one against another.

This is what happened to the Wilder family.

When Jean’s daughter Trina Wilder and Trina’s partner, Marc Normand, raised concerns about finding Jean Wilder in distress in her hospital room, trying in vain to get help to the bathroom, they unwittingly unleashed an aggressive torrent of deflection, intimidation and deception from authorities. Staff stone-walled the family when they tried to get information about Jean’s care. Jean suddenly wasn’t allowed to go out of the hospital on day trips anymore. Then family and friends were banned from the hospital. In the final assault on her human rights, health care staff refused to permit Jean to see a lawyer.

Marc Normand, seeking to fulfill his duties as Jean Wilder’s chosen Power of Attorney, was stunned to receive letters stating that Jean’s property was frozen under a caveat by the PGT.

Jean Wilder’s husband Curtis Wilder received threatening phone calls from the PGT, even at his work place. Jean and her husband separated the year before, at the suggestion of the Interior Health Authority, in order for Jean to qualify for assisted living. Their separation was amicable, but he too was banned from seeing Jean. Confronted by inexplicable legalese and bureaucracy, Curtis Wilder was fearful of having the home he lived in, and co-owned with his wife, seized or forfeited. He had been planning to get a loan to replace an aging roof when the PGT put the caveat on their house.

Family and friends appealed to the Health Authority, to regulatory and watchdog agencies, only to receive patronizing or duplicitous responses, such as suggesting they ask the Health Authority to investigate (itself). They appealed to media, and Seniors at Risk picked up the story, helping to arrange a public letter writing campaign.

Jean Wilder abandoned by elected representatives and watchdog organizations

Members of the public sent letters to elected officials and watchdog agencies, but these were ignored or deflected with useless sentiments of sympathy and no offers of help or concrete action.

The B.C. Ombudsperson, Kim Carter, went even further in distancing herself from Jean’s plight. Ms. Carter, who was just reappointed to another 6-year term a few months ago, replied to members of the public who had written letters on Jean’s behalf, suggesting that they had no business asking her office to take action unless they themselves were  “personally aggrieved” by Jean Wilder’s situation. It would seem that all people of good conscience would naturally be “personally aggrieved” by the treatment Jean Wilder has received, but Ms. Carter feels that the public should be quiet and look the other way instead. It’s astonishing that such arrogance and negligence can be tossed out into the public realm without any comment by community leaders, media or our political opposition parties, but there it is.

The Wilder family could not afford a lawyer, and legal aid organizations that were contacted said they didn’t provide legal aid for elder law cases, only for other types of legal matters, tenancy issues and so on.

Continuing their efforts to get help, Trina Wilder and Marc Normand reached out to another family member in mid-April, the adopted son of Jean and Curtis Wilder (Trina is their natural daughter). Tim Wilder lives 800 kilometres away from Jean in the BC region known as the Lower Mainland. Tim Wilder had not kept in close or regular contact with his adoptive family, but Trina and Marc thought he might be able to help. The last time he’d been back to visit his family was in November 2011, so Tim hadn’t seen Jean since her operation in January 2012 and wasn’t aware of the current situation at the hospital.

Trina and Marc spoke with Tim, sharing details about Jean’s situation and their efforts to satisfy authorities about the hospital’s complaint to the PGT about alleged financial mismanagement. They asked Tim to help them try to release Jean from forced detention and isolation behind hospital walls. Tim Wilder also spoke with a volunteer advocate from  Seniors at Risk. He said he wasn’t sure what was going on at the hospital with Jean, but expressed strong concerns about the possible loss of financial control over the family home.

Duplicitous conduct by the PGT

Marc Normand continued to try to satisfy the PGT’s demands and to understand their continuing unspecified and unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing. The PGT dismissed his submission of the requested financial accounting, claiming it was not submitted by the end of the day on the date it was due, and that he was therefore not acceptable to act as Jean’s attorney under the Power of Attorney document.

The evidence shows that Marc Normand did indeed submit the requested documents before their deadline, and that he even followed up with an email and a phone call the same day, confirming with staff that the information demanded by the PGT had been received by them. Begging disbelief, the letter Marc received from the PGT, ruling his submission ineligible and him unacceptable to be Jean’s attorney in their view, was dated, signed and sent on the day the information was due. It is clear that the PGT had decided even before receiving Mr. Normand’s submission that they were unilaterally, and without cause, disqualifying him as Jean’s attorney (POA), and threatening to make Jean Wilder a ward of the state.

When Mr. Normand and Jean’s family challenged the decision, the PGT agent Launa Monette responded with a laughable (even for a bureaucrat) definition of ‘end of day’ saying that no information had been received by the “end of my work day”. However, records show that Marc Normand received both email and telephone confirmations of receipt of his submitted information from PGT staff before the deadline, and that he was informed Launa Monette had “left for the day” at or before 4 pm. That may have been the end of her work day but it is not the standard business or legal definition of ‘end of day’.

And given that Ms. Monette claims to have then written and sent the letter to Mr. Normand before she left for the end of her work day, she must have made the decision to dismiss his financial accounting material even earlier in the work day. She also claims in her letter, falsely, that the information Marc Normand submitted to the PGT, “did not contain any of the detailed information that had been requested.”

Such overtly duplicitous behaviour is just another outrageous example of the deliberate efforts by Public Guardian staff and lawyers to thwart and confuse the public, actions that would normally result in reprimands and firing in any other organization if the employee persisted in such behaviour. Yet, such conduct is rife amongst PGT staff. Indeed, after examining the records of case files brought to our attention, this conduct seems to be the ‘norm’.

Puzzled by Tim’s lack of engagement, Trina and Marc and Jean’s friends continued their efforts to have the visiting restrictions lifted, to take Jean out again and to try to resolve the legal impasse with the Interior Health Authority. Bizarrely, the Interior Health Authority tried to prevent Marc Normand from paying Jean’s hospital bills.

Secret efforts by PGT sow seeds of family dissent

It wasn’t long before Trina and Marc learned why Tim wasn’t demonstrating much willingness to work with them to help Jean. Without telling Trina or Marc, Tim had been collaborating with the Health Authority and the PGT behind their backs. After the family complained about the care Jean was receiving, the Interior Health Authority and the Public Guardian and Trustee had quietly contacted Tim Wilder without telling the rest of the family, and persuaded him to go to court to have Jean declared incapable.

Tim Wilder’s lawyer sent letters to Trina and Marc, and to Curtis Wilder, asking each to give their consent to Tim to become Jean’s guardian. Trina and Marc both refused, but Curtis Wilder signed, believing that this was the only way to save the family home from the PGT.

Fearing the health authority and the PGT wanted Tim to be in charge because Tim would not be there to observe Jean’s care and treatment and that the hospital would continue to have a free hand to do whatever they wanted, Trina and Marc asked Tim Wilder to become co-guardians. They proposed that Tim apply to be guardian of Jean’s financial affairs, and that Trina and Marc apply to become Jean’s guardians for health and personal care matters. Tim refused.

The PGT had once again succeeded in their efforts to establish a permanent rift in a once-united family.

Bizarrely, in a subsequent email to Marc, even after Tim had decided to go to court, he agreed with Marc that “taking responsibility for a person’s care is very difficult from this far away”,  and also that he expected Marc and Trina would “not back away” but would continue to monitor Jean’s care and well-being. One can only conclude that Tim either does not care about Jean’s welfare, or is ignorant of the implications of his sole guardianship, or both. He ought to have understood that neither Trina nor Marc will be permitted to do anything to “look after” Jean if Tim is appointed guardian (committee) of Jean’s person and her estate (financial affairs). They will be lucky if they are permitted to even see her.

In the files of case after case brought to our attention, Seniors at Risk sees this same pattern. Health care providers and Public Guardian and Trustee offices seek out the most compliant, least-interested or least-available person to be given substitute decision-making authority. That is of course, when health care providers and the PGT don’t assume that authority themselves, legally or otherwise.

Five minutes of court time is not a “hearing”

Tim Wilder has requested a total of five minutes of court time for the entire court hearing. That is barely enough time for the judge to utter the words that will strip her of her rights as a person. Such is the ease and speed with which the rights of seniors can be stripped by B.C.’s courts. That’s not a “hearing” that’s a sentencing. A fait accompli, a ‘done deal’.

Jean Wilder will not have a lawyer to represent her interests, nor will Trina Wilder and Marc Normand. They won’t even be present in the courtroom. The hearing will take place in New Westminster, B.C., near Tim Wilder’s home, 800 kilometres and a 9-hour drive away from Invermere, B.C. where Jean Wilder is being held, and where Trina and Marc and Jean’s friends live.

The courts rely entirely on two doctors’ assessments of incapability to strip the rights of a person. The doctors’ affidavits obtained by Tim Wilder are cookie cutter statements. Jean Wilder had no opportunity to get independent medical opinions, the only medical assessment provided in court will be those of the doctors affiliated with the hospital that has detained Jean without due process.

Medical assessments lacking, provided only by doctors affiliated with the same hospital

Jean Wilder has a form of chronic muscular dystrophy called myotonic dystrophy. The doctors’ assessments suggest that myotonic dystrophy is the primary reason they have declared Jean Wilder incapable. This begs the question, is every person who suffers from muscular dystrophy at risk of being declared legally incapable by doctors, and having their rights and freedoms taken away?

Curiously, both doctor assessments obtained by Tim Wilder do not mention the surgery that Jean had in January 2012, or the surgical complications at the hospital that resulted in her being detained in the extended care unit for recovery rather than discharged back to her assisted living apartment. Why did the doctors omit any mention of the very recent surgery and the subsequent complications? Were they trying to hide that fact to protect their medical colleagues? Is this the reason hospital staff refused to allow Jean to see a lawyer?

The potential for self-interest to arise in doctors’ assessments for guardianship court cases is reason enough for independent medical opinion to be sought.  As it is, there is no proof that the assessments of Jean Wilder were conducted properly. It should be required that all medical assessments conducted for the purposes of legal actions be video-recorded, and that the tests be conducted only when the person is free of the effects of prescription drugs that impair cognitive function, like sedatives, antipsychotic drugs and narcotics, to name a few. Without any such substantiating evidence that tests were properly conducted, and that the person was not under the influence of powerful drugs at the time, we have no way of confirming whether these doctors have done a good or ethical job of assessing Jean Wilder’s cognitive capabilities.

One further point of interest is that there was no declaration of incapability by doctors until August/September 2012. So, by what authority did the hospital staff refuse Jean Wilder the right to see a lawyer?

How can they do this?

In March 2012 as holder of Jean’s Power of Attorney, Marc Normand tried to get information about how or why Jean was being detained against her will. A hospital staff member told him “Section 59 of the Guardianship Act.” Marc replied, “Well, I’ve read the Act. What part of Section 59?” She told him, “Oh, I’m not at liberty to say,” and just walked away from him.

It used to be that the province of British Columbia only had two means of stripping or suspending a person’s legal rights, both of which at least have some modest built-in safeguards to prevent doctors, police and others from abusing their authority and improperly stripping a citizen of their rights.

One legal tool is the B.C. Mental Health Act, a law that permits authorities to apprehend, detain and treat people against their will if they are a danger to themselves or others. In the 1990s the B.C. government added a disturbing and notorious clause to the MHA, one that allows authorities to apprehend, detain and treat a person against their will if someone believes that the person’s mental or physical health may deteriorate. No evidence is required, only the “belief” of the complainant doctor, police officer or other person making the allegation. The court is not required to take action in order for a person to be detained under the MHA, doctors and bureaucrats can detain a person without any other body agreeing to this action.

The other means by which the rights of a person can be stripped in British Columbia is the Patients Property Act. Under the PPA, anyone can apply to become the guardian of another person who they feel is not capable of handling their financial and/or health care and personal care decisions. PPA applications are adjudicated in court, with a decision rendered by judge alone, not a jury. This is the law Tim Wilder is using to declare Jean Wilder incapable.

With both the MHA and the PPA, authorities must inform the person and/or the person’s legal substitute decision makers and their next of kin in writing, and opportunities for appeal are available. In addition, there are prescribed time limits and other conditions that authorities must comply with if they make a decision to suspend or remove a person’s legal rights. They simply can’t throw someone in prison and throw away the key.

Section 59 – Stalin would have been proud of this law

Apparently though, these two laws, both of which are increasingly being used against seniors, are not enough for B.C. law makers. They needed a third mechanism, and this one is a doozy. Under this law, in British Columbia, authorities can indeed throw someone in prison, and “throw away the key”, figuratively speaking.

Most of the public is unaware of the provisions of the B.C. Adult Guardianship Act contained in Section 59, or of the danger this law poses to anyone’s life and liberty. Section 59 removes all constraints from authorities, enabling them to apprehend citizens without any safeguards against malicious or inappropriate apprehension, detention and treatment. This amendment greatly increases the powers of health care and other authorities to apprehend people – without any of the safeguards that exist with apprehension under the Mental Health Act or application for guardianship under the Patients Property Act.

Section 59 of the Adult Guardianship Act permits authorities to enter a person’s home without a warrant or a court order, and to apprehend, detain and treat the person against their will. There are no time limits as to how long a person can be detained, no provisions compelling authorities to notify anyone of the person’s apprehension, and no mechanisms for appeal.

This appears to be how Jean Wilder, a woman suffering from a chronic physical condition, has been seized, muzzled and confined behind locked doors, and is being prevented from seeing family and loved ones, as well as a lawyer.

We say “appears to be” because no evidence or documents attempting to explain how and why she was detained nine months ago have been provided by Invermere Hospital, the Interior Health Authority, by her doctor or by her adopted son Tim, who is apparently collaborating with the Interior Health Authority to remove Jean’s legal rights as a person. Having a condition such as muscular dystrophy is no reason to refuse Jean her right to leave the extended care unit, or to see her family and friends, or to consult a lawyer. But this is precisely what B.C.’s elder law makers have created. They have abandoned the cornerstone of our legal system, and in so doing, put one of our most vulnerable groups of citizens in peril.

The concept of habeas corpus has been the foundation of the legal system in all healthy democracies for hundreds of years, “the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedoms against arbitrary and lawless state action,” LegalDictionaries.org

When Amy Wilder (Tim’s wife) served Trina and Marc with the legal documents a few months ago, Trina asked Amy when the visiting restrictions would be lifted, and when Jean could go out with them again. Amy Wilder replied that the hospital said that access to Jean would not be settled until after the court hearing. Before the hospital began denying Jean the right to go outside the facility, Jean regularly enjoyed meals and outings with Marc and Trina. Now Trina and Marc fear that Jean has been drugged into submission, and that her health and abilities have been compromised by this and by forced isolation and callous care.

Whether anyone in her family will ever see Jean’s medical records, to know what treatment and prescription drugs she is being given, is anyone’s guess. Whether anyone in Jean’s family will be allowed to know or give informed consent to Jean Wilder’s care and medical treatment, is anyone’s guess. Will the hospital remove the restrictions on Jean and her family and friends visiting? That too is anyone’s guess.

It is unlikely that Tim Wilder, a young man who works full time, and lives 800 kilometres  away and rarely visited his family back in Invermere in the past, will be in a position to provide regular monitoring of his adoptive mother’s care and medical treatment behind the closed doors of the hospital.

Imprisoned for the crime of having muscular dystrophy?

So what is likely to become of Jean Wilder? Isolated behind locked doors, kept apart from her family and friends, she is confined to the stale corridors of an extended care unit. Most of the information that Tim Wilder will get about his adoptive mother will be what the hospital chooses to tell him, not what he observes or hears from Jean or her friends. The responsibility of a guardian is to ensure the safety and well-being of the person. Tim Wilder will not have the opportunity to confirm for himself that the reports of health care providers are accurate and truthful.

This is not “informed” consent to health care, and it’s surely not in Jean Wilder’s best interests.

With the culmination of the court action this week in New Westminster, the B.C. Public Guardian and Trustee’s office has succeeded in wrecking a woman’s life and destroying a family.

There is little likelihood that Jean’s rights will be recognized or respected by the court, given the record of B.C. courts for swiftly dispatching the rights and freedoms of seniors. Unless a compassionate, wise and strong judge takes a good look at the evidence, Tim Wilder’s guardianship application will be quickly approved.

For all intents and purposes, it seems Jean is likely to be left without any outside, independent observers to monitor her care and condition on a regular basis, or watch over the conduct of health care providers who keep her in isolation, refusing to permit her family and friends, her legal substitute decision makers or a lawyer to visit her. Or even to allow her to taste, touch, see, smell and hear the world that we all take for granted.

Jean Wilder is, by every definition, a prisoner of the government of British Columbia, but one who has committed no crime, and presents no danger to herself or others.

We should all be deeply ashamed, but none more so than the legal minds who hatched these cleverly flawed and self-serving laws, and handed them over to the health care providers, bureaucrats, public agencies and lawyers to use as they see fit, with impunity.

Knowledge. Compassion. Courage. Action.

Take a stand against institutional elder abuse.  

Write your elected representatives, voice your concerns online, let others know what’s happening, or… take whatever steps you think will help make a difference to protect seniors’ legal and human rights from abuse by Canadian health care institutions and public agencies.

The Coalition to Support SENIORS AT RISK     http://www.seniorsatrisk.org

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5 Comments »

  1. JEAN WILDER COURT… The actions of the PGT, as described in this article, are common in the PGT’s standard of practise. It is reprehensible and needs to change. The PGT needs to be held accountable. The problem is that many individuals are facing this. Alone they make no headway. A united front is needed. Best if a public inquiry were to be held

    Comment by Gerry — December 12, 2012 @ 8:51 am

  2. JEAN WILDER COURT… It’s sad that Tim and Amy didn’t support Marc’s decision to fight with paperwork. I have been through all the documents and it appears Marc and the local family were very close to having a solid case to present if forced to court with PGT. I believe Marc and Trina’s reasons for not supporting Tim were valid but it’s unfortunate they didn’t get the opportunity to summit their hard work to the courts. Those care homes are able to hide so much.

    If your reading this Tim, please keep your eyes and ears open and never let your guard down. These people are trained to deceive you. It’s clear Marc saw right through all of it.

    Comment by Jill — December 20, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

  3. JEAN WILDER COURT… I just hope that Tim allows the family there to be Jean’s comfort advocate. Surely he can appoint Marc and Trina to be his first line of advocacy for his mother considering Tim doesn’t live in Windermere [Invermere] and the health care providers would then have to deal with Marc and Trina. A committee has to do what is best for the patient and not what is best for the health care provider.

    Comment by Audrey — December 24, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

  4. JEAN WILDER COURT CASE… The PGT is …

    1. … not controlled by the public (its clients, their families, the voters)

    2. … not a responsible guardian (they meet their ‘clients’ once every two years)

    3. … not to be trusted.

    Comment by communicator — March 22, 2013 @ 11:42 pm

  5. WILDER COURT CASE… I had no idea the extent that this kind of thing is occurring. This is absolutely insane! I found a link to this site from Elisabeth May’s MP site.. wow. I thought it was merely a matter of mistreatment or abuse by caregivers (attending nurses). Have any of these cases or evidence been presented to the Human Rights Tribunal?

    Comment by Gord B. — May 27, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

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