The Conservatives struck again with their "tough on crime" stance.
This time, Richmond MP Alice Wong presented a new act at the Minoru Seniors Centre Monday afternoon, which ensures tougher sentences for elder abuse crimes.
"Seniors deserve to enjoy the contributions they have made to our society," said Wong. "It's our responsibility to protect Canadians and make sure crimes are punished accordingly."
The Protecting Canada's Seniors Act came into force Sunday, defining elder abuse as "any action.which results in harm or distress to an older person."
Most common types of elder abuse include physical, psychological and financial.
It acknowledges that criminal offenses can be especially devastating on an older person, and takes into consideration the impact the crime has on the victim's quality of life when sentencing.
Although specific numbers for Richmond weren't available, police documented nearly 7,900 incidents of elder abuse Canada-wide in 2009. But only one in five cases are reported and 35 per cent are committed by family members.
"We hear a lot of stories from seniors," said Eva Busich-Veloso, senior services coordinator for the City of Richmond. "We partner with the BCCEAS (BC Centre for Elder Advocacy Support) to bring education and awareness to centres, and let seniors know where they can turn, including the RCMP. But many are reluctant to do that."
Older adults often become dependent on family members, be it giving Power of Attorney or relying on them for medical care, according to Grace Balbutin, director of social advocacy and outreach programs at BCCEAS. "Sometimes the person in control feels a sense of entitlement," she said. "That's how financial abuse often occurs."
However, Balbutin also acknowledged the stresses that come with a lack of funding and resources. Just last spring, Wong's own Conservative government announced cuts which raised the eligibility age for Old Age Security and Guaranteed Supplement Income.
"There's the sandwich generation that's both looking after their parents and their children," said Balbutin.
"They can get stressed out and may need to give up a job to provide better care. When that happens, the most available person to take advantage of is the senior."
Minoru Centre continues to increase education through workshops and presentations on topics such as financial literacy.