Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Yellowhead for introducing the bill we are debating today. I also thank him for his years of service in another life.
We serve together on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. While I tend to disagree with the Conservatives on matters of justice or public safety, I have to say that I often nod my head when the hon. member asks questions or makes proposals in committee. That speaks volumes about the work he does in committee, and I thank him for that.
I also thank him for drawing the attention of the House to the important issue of elder abuse. This abuse can take different forms, as has been pointed out in the speeches we have heard so far. It can be physical, sexual, financial or emotional. I think it is important for the House to address this issue.
The NDP has always cared about this issue and has always understood the importance of judicial sentencing discretion. That is why I am pleased to tell my colleague that I will be supporting the bill at second reading so that the committee can examine this issue more throughly, given how serious it is.
As mentioned earlier, not only will our aging population continue to grow in the years to come, but statistics show that abuse is unfortunately becoming increasingly common in our society. This phenomenon is growing at an alarming rate, and it is underestimated and all too often under-reported.
I would like to use this debate as an opportunity to talk briefly about initiatives being taken in my riding. I must say, I am proud to support them in various ways. I became aware of the abuse that can be directed at seniors because of these initiatives.
First of all, I would like to recognize the contribution of the seniors' forum that is held in Chambly every October. It is organized mainly by the Association québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées. I want to salute Ginette Grenier, among others, from the Centre d'écoute Montérégie. I will come back to this in a moment.
The fair brings together almost every stakeholder in the territory. It brings together MPs, including me and my Quebec counterpart, as well as representatives of the Régie intermunicipale de police Richelieu-Saint-Laurent. It also brings together organizations that work to break the isolation of seniors in different ways and that consider issues directly related to my colleague’s bill. The fair takes place at the Chambly seniors’ centre every year. It is a prime opportunity to learn more about this issue which plagues our society.
It is disturbing to hear what the police have to say. The team that works at my riding office is at our booth to talk about the services offered to seniors. Our booth allows me to meet with representatives of various organizations. When police talk about the various forms of elder abuse, they tell us that this abuse is often perpetrated by caregivers, family members and friends.
We have heard many stories of abuse in our society. These stories involve not only seniors, but all vulnerable individuals, including children. The abuse suffered by these individuals is often perpetrated by the people who are meant to help them, such as family members, for example. That is unconscionable, and it is a problem that society overlooks.
After all, when we see a neighbour or someone who lives in our building helping a senior, we think that neighbour must be a very nice person. It may be the senior's niece, nephew or child who comes to help the senior every weekend. We tend to believe that the person is acting in good faith, in the interests of the senior, who may unfortunately have lost their independence and need help from their family as they get older. However, those family members may be treating the senior inappropriately, which could have a serious impact on the senior's finances and physical well-being, among other things. These can be horrible situations.
The seniors' forum led me to support the Réseau actif de dépistage des aînés à risque or RADAR, a network that identifies and helps at-risk seniors. It is an initiative that is being undertaken in the area served by the Richelieu and Patriotes local community service centres, which covers most of the riding of Beloeil—Chambly. This initiative was mainly funded by community stakeholders and the Government of Quebec and was supported by the efforts of members from both levels of government.
I would be remiss if I failed to talk about the stakeholders who worked on this project. Many organizations attended the seniors' forum, but the police were also there. That is important to point out, because the bill before us was introduced by a member who used to be a police officer. The police are on the front lines when it comes to identifying at-risk seniors. They see the horrible crimes committed against seniors. It is therefore crucial that they be included in this type of project, which also includes social workers from health and social service centres and local community service centres.
The frontline workers in Quebec will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that this initiative is quite novel and commendable. This is something rare that could be a model for creating other similar initiatives across Quebec and Canada to tackle this scourge.
We may think that seniors are not vulnerable because they are supported by family members, but we sometimes learn, to our utter dismay, that it is those same family members who commit acts of violence against them. This type of project seeks to bring them help from their community.
Now I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to the people at the Centre d'écoute Montérégie and talk about their work. I am proud to have had the chance to work with them to secure a federal grant that enabled them to hire a young man in his twenties to answer the help line. There are volunteers, but there are also employees. The centre also underwent a major renovation. It is located in an outdated building in the older part of Chambly, where zoning regulations make renovation extremely difficult. The people who work at the centre know what I mean, because we talked about it at length last time I visited. It is very expensive to maintain heritage buildings in old Chambly, which makes sense considering everything that has happened there lately. I am not saying that preserving our built heritage is not important, but it is a major burden for organizations.
I am proud to highlight this achievement, but the people at the centre deserve all the credit. I mentioned Ginette Grenier, whom I have known since I was first elected in 2011. She helped me understand why the organization's work is so important. These people dedicate time to a call centre to help seniors overcome isolation. Many of the people involved with the Centre d'écoute Montérégie are also involved in other initiatives.
The Centre d'écoute Montérégie's logo appears on the projetradar.org website because the centre is partly responsible for the success of this new initiative, which is just a few years old. The Centre d'écoute Montérégie works to help seniors overcome isolation, which is a significant factor in much of the abuse my colleague wants to tackle.
I would like to take this opportunity to talk about what is being done in my riding because everyone on the ground is aware of this issue, including organizations, police forces, elected representatives and municipal officials.
This bill shows that we can do more, through the Criminal Code, to ensure that crimes are punished in a way that raises public awareness. The population is aging and abuse is increasingly common, so we must get people to understand that any abuse is unacceptable in our society.
In closing, I would like to thank my colleague and reiterate my support for this bill at second reading, so that we can further study the issue. I hope that we can all work together to eradicate this scourge in every riding across Canada, because our seniors deserve better. They deserve to live with dignity, and we owe them that, at least.