To hear criminology professor Robert Gordon tell a nation-wide CBC Radio audience a few weeks ago, you’d think that action is readily, even automatically, taken to investigate suspected elder abuse when it is reported. You’d be mistaken to draw that conclusion.
The Current, CBC Radio’s flagship investigative program, profiled the tragic death of Betty Anne Gagnon, an Alberta woman living with her sister and brother-in-law, both of whom pleaded guilty to negligence in Ms. Gagnon’s death and are awaiting sentencing. The segment “What happened to Betty Anne Gagnon?” aired on June 18, 2013.
On air, Professor Gordon, Director of the School of Criminology at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University, said, “The Public Guardians and Trustees in Canada have a responsibility to ensure that individuals (who are abused or neglected or those who neglect themselves)… are protected.”
Prof. Gordon said that legislation governing the Public Guardian and Trustee offices in each province ensures that the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT), along with the health authorities and the police, “would be duty bound to actually investigate” complaints of elder abuse.
But how well does the Public Guardian and Trustee staff carry out those responsibilities and duties? And, how well are the criminal laws that supposedly protect citizens from elder abuse crimes being enforced? Let’s examine the evidence.
Reality: Media attention or exposing hidden video images can prompt action
Judging by the growing volume of disturbing cases brought to Seniors at Risk’s attention, reports of suspected elder abuse, and especially abuse by health care facility staff, are being routinely ignored by authorities, including and especially the police. Indeed CBC host Anna Maria Tremonti points out to Prof. Gordon that “family members tried to get help for Betty Anne (Gagnon) by calling the RCMP and various social agencies, but they say no one did anything.” You can (more…)