N.W.T. MLAs discuss elder abuse, national pharmacare

·3 min read
Elders need a dedicated position and translator to conduct outreach because existing resources are not enough to tackle elder abuse, says Bonnetrouge. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Elders need a dedicated position and translator to conduct outreach because existing resources are not enough to tackle elder abuse, says Bonnetrouge. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Deh Cho MLA Ron Bonnetrouge says elders in his region face a "pandemic" of financial and emotional abuse, and in some cases have been ignored when they seek help from social services.

He said the issue demands an official position in communities to interview elders with a translator.

Bonnetrouge made his comments in the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly Tuesday, and added that social services "refused to assist because they are dealing mostly with child and family services — that is taking children away from families."

"We've got nobody there to advocate for seniors in the small communities. This is a serious issue and I would like to have some resources into our communities to assist in interviewing the elders," he said.

Health Minister Julie Green says elders are entitled to counselling and social services to help them navigate abusive situations.
Health Minister Julie Green says elders are entitled to counselling and social services to help them navigate abusive situations.

Health Minister Julie Green said she was "shocked" to hear elders were turned away, and that she would follow up on Bonnetrouge's concerns because social workers' job functions are not limited to child welfare.

Green said abuse of older adults is a "real and frightening problem" that is as complex as intimate partner violence.

"The victims are often shamed and not willing to come forward to say they've been taken advantage of," she said. "It can be difficult to have victims of violence come forward and say that they are, in fact, victims of violence, let alone reach out for help," she said.

Staff are trained to detect signs of senior abuse, but tackling the problem takes an attitude shift, said Green.

"It is a set of attitudes that people have toward elders in which they are neglected and exploited," she said.

Green Said the department is working with the NWT Seniors' Society to discuss potential regulations to make "real consequences" for failing to protect or for abusing elders.

Send outreach to Fort Providence to address elder abuse, says Deh Cho MLA Ron Bonnetrouge.
Send outreach to Fort Providence to address elder abuse, says Deh Cho MLA Ron Bonnetrouge.

But Bonnetrouge said he "rarely" sees the organization present in his region and frontline workers in the community "have serious reservations about what anybody is actually doing to help the seniors."

"They are facing them almost on a daily basis, they don't know where to go, who to turn to to help them address these issues of elder abuse," he said.

"It seems there is no end in sight," he said.

National pharmacare bill would benefit N.W.T.: O'Reilly

MLA Kevin O'Reilly says a private members bill in Parliament needs the territory's backing because it will benefit the N.W.T.
MLA Kevin O'Reilly says a private members bill in Parliament needs the territory's backing because it will benefit the N.W.T.

In his turn, Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly asked Green whether the N.W.T. government supports a national pharmacare program.

Her simple answer: Yes.

Asked whether the territory has voiced its support for Bill C-213 — a private member's bill to establish a universal, single-payer pharmacare plan — Green said the legislation "represents a real game changer" for prescriptions in the N.W.T.

Only half of the territory's residents have pharmaceutical coverage, Green said.

Cabinet supports national pharmacare, said Green, adding she is not aware of what communication the government had with MP Michael McLeod before the bill enters first reading Wednesday.

O'Reilly asked Premier Caroline Cochrane to "pick up the phone" and ask McLeod to vote in favour.