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Legal Responses to Abuse of Older Adults

Some forms of abuse may fall under the Criminal Code. Saskatchewan also has a number of laws in place that are designed to protect older adults from different types of abuse.

For example, The Victims of Interpersonal Violence Act can protect older adults from violence and abuse by a family member, while The Power of Attorney Act, 2002 contains special provisions and restrictions on who can deal with a person's affairs under a power of attorney. Consumer protection laws are also in place to regulate marketing practices for things like the sale of hearing aids and door to door sales, and other regulations are in place to set standards related to elder care in personal care homes and long-term care facilities.

The Criminal Code

While there is currently no law that specifically identifies abuse of older adults as a separate crime, several forms of elder abuse may involve crimes such as assault, forced confinement, uttering threats, theft, fraud, forgery and extortion.

Neglect may also sometimes amount to criminal negligence if the behaviour involves a reckless disregard for another person’s life or safety. Failing to act when there is a duty to do so can also amount to criminal negligence.

When abuse or neglect involves criminal behaviour the police have the authority and the responsibility to investigate the matter.

If you have been abused or neglected or you think someone else is being abused or neglected, reporting the incident to the police may be an important part of protecting yourself or supporting the person being abused. Reporting an incident to the police is one way of possibly preventing further abuse.

A person who calls because they suspect someone is being criminally abused can remain anonymous. The police may, however, ask for the caller’s name and telephone number so they can get more information from the caller later. Depending on the circumstances, the police may come to the victim or the victim’s residence, or the person reporting the crime may go to the police station to report the crime. The person reporting the crime will normally be asked to give a full statement. Once a crime is reported to the police they will start an investigation. The police may need to talk to the person who reported the crime again during the investigation. They will also interview other potential witnesses and collect evidence such as photographs of injuries and medical reports.

It is helpful if someone makes note of the badge number and contact information for the officer in charge of the investigation and the police file number so they can be contacted for information about the investigation.

Although victims can and should be informed about what is happening, it is the responsibility of the police to investigate and decide what, if any, further action they will take. It can be safer and less stressful for the victim when they do not have the responsibility of deciding what should happen to the abuser. This way the abuser cannot pressure the victim to stop the investigation.

Detailed information about the court process, support from Victim Services, and possible outcomes is available here.

Playing it Safe

At the same time as reporting to the police it is important to take other steps to deal with the abuse. For example, in situations of financial abuse, making a formal demand for an accounting from a Power of Attorney, contacting the Public Guardian and Trustee, changing bank accounts, consulting with a lawyer to explore options that could be put in place, arranging for an assessment of mental competence, if appropriate and pursuing court action to apply for guardianship if necessary.

The Victims of Interpersonal Violence Act

More detailed information is available about this Act under Abusive Relationships.

In Saskatchewan, The Victims of Interpersonal Violence Act protects older adults from violence and abuse by a family member, such as a spouse or adult child, and by caregivers, whether they live with the older adult or not. Under this law a Justice of the Peace or Judge of the Court of King’s Bench may make certain orders aimed at protecting victims from their abusers.

Emergency Intervention Order

An Emergency Intervention Order may provide immediate, exclusive occupation of a home; direct police to remove an abuser from the home; direct the police to supervise the removal of personal belongings from the home; or prohibit an abuser from contacting the victim. Police and crisis intervention workers can help victims apply for these orders.

Victim’s Assistance Order

A Victim’s Assistance Order is designed to be used in non-emergency situations. In addition to the remedies listed above, an order may require the abuser to pay compensation to the victim or attend counselling. An order may also prohibit an abuser from dealing with a victim’s property.

Warrant of Entry

A Warrant of Entry may be issued where there is cause for concern about a person who may be a victim and unable to act on their own. The warrant permits police to enter and search a place after access to a possible victim has been denied. A warrant allows police to examine or help a possible victim and remove them from the home if necessary.

Other Laws

Saskatchewan has additional laws that include some safeguards to protect older adults and others from different types of abuse. For example...

  • Individuals who are paid to provide personal care or health care services for someone cannot be granted authority to deal with the person's affairs under a power of attorney.
  • Individuals who are an undischarged bankrupt cannot be appointed to deal with financial matters under a power of attorney.
  • There are provisions and safeguards in place to protect adults from granting a power of attorney to someone who has a criminal record for offences involving violence, threats, theft, fraud or breach of trust. Similar restrictions are in place to prevent certain individuals from acting as guardians or co-decision-makers.
  • Special consumer protection legislation is in place to regulate marketing practices for things like the sale of hearing aids and door-to-door sales, as well as a variety of other transactions. While consumer protection legislation protects all consumers, many provisions will be of particular interest to older adults, other vulnerable individuals, and caregivers.
  • Laws and regulations are also in place that set standards related to caring for older adults in personal care homes and long-term care facilities. Most facilities will also have written policies in place regarding residents' rights, their care and treatment, expectations for staff and complaint procedures.

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