While it is generally recognized that older adults make up a significant and growing proportion of Canada’s population and that they may have needs, circumstances and experiences that differ from those of younger members of society, nevertheless laws and policies do not always take into account these needs, circumstances and experiences. As a result, laws and policies may have unintended negative effects on older adults, may work at cross-purposes with each other, and may fail to achieve their intended goals. In some cases, stereotypes or negative assumptions about older adults may shape the way law is developed, implemented or enforced. In this way, the law may be ageist in its impact on older adults.
The Law Commission of Ontario is embarking on an Elder Law project to develop guidelines for policy makers, legislators and practitioners involved in any aspect of the implementation of our laws. The Older Women’s Network is proud to contribute to this process with two members of our Board, Mary Hynes and Margaret Hawthorn, participating in meetings over the projected 18-month period. Our perspective on the problems faced by older adult women in accessing justice is valued. Older women may have inadequate incomes, low literacy and computer skills and other factors that handicap them in their encounters with legal issues.
A confidential 50-page draft has been prepared that takes all these discriminatory variables into account. We will be working on further amendments to what is basically an excellent document. When finished, it will serve to improve prospects for older women as they face the law.
As information on this process becomes available, we will add it to this page.
Margaret Hawthorn, Mary Hynes
Legal Aid Ontario maintains a number of local community legal clinics to provide representation, public legal education, law reform and community development services to low-income individuals and groups within a defined geographical area. Social assistance and housing law are two key areas that clinics focus on. These clinics also provide services in other areas of law, depending on local community needs. Please also refer to their list of specialty legal clinics, which focus on special areas of the law, such as Advocacy Centre for Elderly and South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.
Eight members of the Older Women’s Network formed a focus group for the Law Commission of Ontario on Elder Law on October 21, 2011, the first of some seven such groups to be held before the Commission issues its final report and recommendations. Lively and informative discussions touched on the following points among others:
- The law should be based on our societal values of caring and protection, and should be a bias-free system eliminating inequities.
- Useful avenues to explore would be: more detailed definitions of ageism, more attention to patients’ rights, better pension and consumer rights information, and a more effective complaints process.
- Advocates are definitely needed to help with navigating the law.
- A problem was also seen in monitoring the effects of the law. It was noted that good laws are often negated by bad regulations and enforcement.
Altogether, the Law Commission staff felt that the discussion was helpful. Thanks to all participants!
More OWN members offered to participate than could be accepted. If any OWN member has thoughts on the application of Ontario’s laws, she is welcome to submit a letter or e-mail to the Commission; click for contact information.
The Law Commission of Ontario has issued their final report on A Framework for the Law as it Affects Older Adults. This report highlights legal issues around elder abuse, operating a motor vehicle, appropriate housing, denial of benefits to workers over 65, wills, and second marriages affected by one partner’s dementia. Over-zealous protective laws take away elders’ right to make decisions. Power of attorney needs safeguards as there is inadequate monitoring of these arrangements. “Ageism may be conscious or unconscious” according to the Report, “…manifested in attitudes that see older adults as less worthy of respect, less able to contribute and participate in society and of less inherent value than others.” Executive Director Patricia Hughes and staff lawyer Lauren Bates consulted widely over three years, including a focus group from OWN. OWN members Margaret Hawthorn and Mary Hynes attended the Commission meetings regularly and contributed an older woman’s perspective to all discussions. OWN is proud to have been a part of this process, reportedly the first such analysis in the world.
Page last updated: July 27, 2012