The biggest problem for citizens living in long-term care (LTC) facilities is they have no practical way to enforce their civil rights, writes Paul Caune, an advocate for people with disabilities. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
Seniors, people with disabilities have rights enshrined in Canadian law — but need a way to enforce them.
By Paul Caune
The biggest problem for citizens living in long-term care (LTC) facilities is they have no practical way to enforce their civil rights.
I know because I experienced this.
In 2005, I challenged the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority when they told me I couldn't refuse to be moved to the centre. The details of what happened after are covered in the CBC documentary The Golden Rule.
While I'm no longer a resident at George Pearson, it's not surprising to me to see similar complaints at the same facility. For years, residents and their families have fought for better care at George Pearson. It's been a long and frustrating battle that's been made worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
My experiences inspired me to co-found Civil Rights Now, an organization that has proposed since 2012 that the B.C. government pass a law similar to the U.S. Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).
A woman waves to a relative through a window at the George Pearson Centre in Vancouver on Dec. 3, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
This law would give an independent government agency the authority to investigate conditions in both public or private facilities for disabled citizens. If justified by the evidence, the agency could bring legal action against the owner of the facility. If a judge is convinced that residents' civil rights were violated, the judge could impose large fines on the owner.
This law would give an independent government agency the authority to investigate conditions in both public or private facilities for disabled citizens.
The U.S. Justice Department has successfully used CRIPA litigation since 1980 to force dozens of LTC facilities, prisons and institutions for people with developmental disabilities to stop violating their residents' civil rights.
Canada has no similar law.