Ontario’s Official Opposition has called for a “full investigation” into the use of trespass orders against visitors and family members in retirement homes following a Marketplace investigation.
Joel Harden, the MPP for Ottawa Centre, called for the investigation during question period at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Tuesday.
“In my opinion, and I think in the House’s opinion, banning family members for raising concerns about living conditions of seniors is wrong,” he told the House. “My question for this government: will they launch a full investigation?”
Raymond Cho, the Progressive Conservative minister for seniors and accessibility, answered the question.
“It’s my understanding that one of the family members is banned from coming into the long-term care home because of some — how can I say it — uneasy incident,” Cho said.
He told the House the situation is under investigation so he could not answer in detail but that he will “make sure that we help the family and at the same time the staff and all of the residents in that retirement home.”
Harden filed for a “late show” following the exchange. Also known as adjournment proceedings, a late show is a period where members can seek further information from the government on questions raised in question period.
Harden will have five minutes to speak about the topic on Wednesday, after which the ministry will need to respond.
“It’s one of the parliamentary things we can do when we don’t like the answer to our question, and I certainly don’t like the answer to mine,” Harden told CBC News.
He said he wants to discuss the topic further so that the minister can speak to the broad problem of trespass orders in seniors’ homes, not just the specific examples found by CBC’s Marketplace. The investigation found that homes are using the Ontario Trespass to Property Act to ban family members from visiting loved ones in retirement and long-term care homes.
Jane Meadus, a lawyer and elder advocate with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, says the ways the homes are using the legislation are illegal.
Meadus told Marketplace that homes are banning family members who speak out about conditions in the facilities and that her centre gets calls about this kind of use of trespass orders at least once a week.
“What they’re doing is to try to control their premises, trying to stifle people from complaining and trying to stifle people from speaking out on behalf of these very vulnerable seniors,” she said.
Since the investigation aired on Nov. 22 and was posted online a day later, Marketplace has heard from about two dozen audience members who say they have been banned. Harden is appealing to families to contact him, saying that this issue “merits an immediate investigation.”
“When the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly … is saying it’s happening at a minimum once a week for them, that’s a problem,” Harden said, referring to Meadus’s statement.
“It tells me that we’re maybe looking at a tip-of-the-iceberg thing here. I am more than willing to give them a platform so they can impress upon this government that this isn’t an isolated matter.”