April 19th, 2023

Vaugeois introduces bill to protect families’ rights to visit seniors in care

QUEEN’S PARK - Today, MPP Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay--Superior North) joined MPP Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre) in a united effort to protect the rights of Ontario families to visit and advocate for their loved ones in care. Vaugeois and Harden held a joint press conference this morning alongside Maria Sardelis, founder of Access to Seniors and Disabled Advocacy Group and Cherie Vandebenne, who shared their personal experiences. Vaugeois later introduced her first Private Members Bill, 'An Act to Establish the Advocate for Older Adults', co-sponsored by MPP Laura Mae Lindo in the legislature - doubling down on her commitment to seniors.

Currently, home operators are inappropriately using the Trespass Act to retaliate against family members who speak out about their loved ones’ living conditions. Instead of responding to family’s concerns, certain home operators illegally use the Act to ban them.

“Because police do not know the correct and incorrect uses of the Trespass Act, and family members who have been banned do not know who to turn to for help, home operators are getting away with ripping families apart to avoid accountability for the quality of care in their homes,” Vaugeois said. “Worse, people in care are threatened with retribution if their family members persist in raising concerns.”

Harden formally introduced Motion 129, also known as "Voula's Law," in the legislature in 2021. On March 4, the non-binding motion was passed by all members from each caucus. However, the motion was only the first step. Harden, Vaugeois and the Ontario NDP have continued to ask the Ford Conservatives to respect the legislature's will and clarify to care home operators that trespass orders cannot be issued to ban family members who speak out about their loved ones' living conditions.

“What we are seeing here is a minority of rogue home care facilities that think they are kings of the castle," said Harden. “Now more than ever, we must prevent the incorrect and illegal use of the Trespass to Property Act to deny families visitation rights.”

Under the proposed legislation, if the actions of an advocate were dangerous, however, as in all other settings, criminal laws would continue to apply.

The NDP has started a petition to support Voula’s Law and urge individuals who have been affected or resonate with those affected to sign.

Quotes

Maria Sardelis, Founder of Access to Seniors and Disabled Advocacy Group , whose 97-year-old mother was denied access for 316 days after raising concerns about her mother's living conditions:

"When an individual is unlawfully denied their freedoms to come and go as they please, like others in society, and forced to submit to unlawful restrictions on their choices and movements, that person’s Charter rights are infringed. The TPA and Motion 129 protects against Charter infringements."

Cherie Vandevenne shared her experience of being trespassed from her mothers long-term-care home in Chatham:

"It is our legal obligation in Ontario to report abuse or suspected abuse. Advocating is not a crime, it should be praised and encouraged."