OTTAWA – Ontarians have a right to visit and advocate for their family members in care, and the Ford government must ensure that right is protected, said MPP Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), who presented an NDP motion to stop operators of care homes from banning family members from seeing their loved ones.
“Advocating for your loved one is not a crime, but some operators are treating it like one,” said Harden. “It’s unfair and inhumane to ban family members from visiting their loved ones and my motion makes it clear that this practice must stop.”
Harden, the NDP’s critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, presented “Voula’s Law” at a Thursday morning press conference with the families of people in care: Mary Sardelis and Joy Seguin, and advocate, Graham Webb, Executive Director of Advocacy Centre for the Elderly. Voula’s Law requires the Ford government to provide clear direction to operators of retirement homes, long-term care and groups homes that they cannot use the Trespass to Property Act to ban family members who speak out about their loved ones’ living conditions.
Motion 129 or “Voula’s Law,” is named after the 98-year old mother of Mary Sardelis who was banned from her mother’s retirement home in Ottawa for 316 days. The motion comes in response to some senior care facilities and group homes issuing trespass notices against family members who have raised concerns about conditions in the home.
“Unlawful trespass of family has created a palpable culture of fear and silence in seniors and their families, my mother still suffers long standing trauma,” said Sardelis. “This motion is a necessity, we need a clear directive on the enforcement of the Trespass to Property Act which clearly upholds the right of the ‘occupant’ to receive visitors of their choice.”
“The Trespass to Property Act must provide clearer direction within all care settings” said Joy Seguin, who was threatened with a trespass notice and eventually her son Andre was evicted by a group home for people with developmental disabilities in Cornwall. “Otherwise, families who dare to care can continue to expect threats with official or implied trespass orders; in our case, after implied trespass orders, we had our son 'discharged' on our doorstep.”
"The use of trespass orders to interfere with the legal right of retirement home tenants, long-term care home residents and occupiers of other congregate living accommodation is contrary to Ontario law, and is particularly harmful when used as retaliation for whistleblower complaints," said Webb. “The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly urges the government of Ontario to provide clear direction to operators that the Trespass to Property Act does not permit them to issue trespass notices to exclude substitute decision-makers and guests of the occupants of retirement homes, long-term care homes, and other congregate care accommodations when they raise concerns about their loved ones’ living conditions."
Harden’s motion builds on Lisa Gretzky’s “More than a Visitor” Act enshrining rights for essential caregivers and will be debated on March 4. It was drafted in consultation with experts from the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.