For the first time in history, there are more seniors than children living in Canada. According to the 2016 census, there are 5.9 million Canadians aged 65 and older. Seniors as a group have unique legal needs. Some are vulnerable and need the protection of the law. Others need legal advice and representation that is different from other populations. That is why a group of lawyers in Ontario, with the support of the OBA and its many Sections, established the first ever Elder Law Section this year.
Our first Executive Committee is made up of some of the most knowledgeable and experienced legal minds serving seniors in Ontario. I am proudly announcing my gratitude and admiration to the members of our inaugural Executive including our Vice-Chair Kim Whaley, our CPD Liaisons Tim Kennedy and Lionel Tupman, our Public Affairs Liaison Katherine Batycky, our Website and Newsletter Editor Graham Webb, our Secretary Amelia Yu, our Technology Liaison Lawrence Swartz, our Regional Representative Harold Geller and our Members-At-Large, Heather Hogan, Jane Martin, Marion Korn, Carla Whillier, Darcy Hiltz, Mary-Alice Thompson, Holly LeValliant, Ray Leclair and Sara Beheshti.
During my years as the Chair of the Family Law Section, I observed many issues arise that concerned the elderly population. Yet such issues did not fall squarely in the mandate of any one OBA Section. The same dilemma occurred with the other OBA Sections. Even though, the CBA National has an Elder Law Section, the vast majority of legislation, policies, issues and community resources that address the elderly are provincial in nature. Indeed, the Province of Ontario has separate Ministries for the elderly, namely the “Minister Responsible For Seniors” and the “Ontario Seniors Secretariat”. This is in addition to the “Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care” that also cares for the needs of the elderly.
Hence, I am pleased to report that we now have an OBA Section representing the legal needs of Ontario seniors in the following areas:
- To offer education to the profession in legal matters concernigng the elderly
- To advocate for and collaborate with other stakeholders regarding the needs of seniors
- To build a network of lawyers that have expertise and commitment to the older population
Some of the legal issues that have arisen in the field of Elder Law are:
- Housing in provincial long-term care facilities, nursing homes, retirement homes. assisted living facilities, hospitals, acute care homes and in private residences
- Physical abuse, exploitation, mistreatment and injury of seniors
- Age discrimination
- Financial abuse, economic crimes and fraudulent activity targeting seniors
- Estate planning, substitute decision making, testamentary capacity and predatory marriages
- Physician-assisted end-of-life planning
- Elder divorce
So whether you are a lawyer practising in real estate, family law, health law, housing, human rights, criminal law, business law or estates (just to name a few), please join our Section and attend one of our programs. If you are new to the practice of law, consider building a practice that serves the largest population of people in Canada, and who have very few lawyers directly serving their needs. Our Section will provide you with the resources, tools, and expertise required to serve older adults across a broad spectrum of practice areas.
About the author
Steven Benmor, Section Chair