The fight against the mistreatment of seniors and vulnerable persons - An incomplete bill that fails to address financial abuse

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Quebec City, January 19, 2017 – During its appearance before the Committee on Citizen Relations, the Ordre des comptables professionnels agréés expressed concern that Bill 115 does not directly address material and financial abuse.

“The CPA Order believes that any discussion of the mistreatment of seniors and vulnerable persons must take into account material and financial exploitation and cannot only involve stakeholders in the health and social services network,” said Geneviève Mottard, CPA, CA, President and CEO of the Order. “In our view, there’s no two ways about it.”

• Material and financial abuse is one of the most common forms of mistreatment. It is at the root of about 40% of help requests.

• The growth of the elderly population, the extent of seniors’ financial wealth, the increasing vulnerability that accompanies aging, and the sophisticated means used to extract money from unsuspecting individuals are all factors that contribute to this growing phenomenon.

• And yet, Quebec recognized the importance of protecting seniors and vulnerable persons against financial exploitation by including section 48 in the chapter on economic and social rights of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The Order therefore proposes:

that Bill 115 address all forms of mistreatment, including material and financial abuse, and protect seniors and vulnerable persons in all aspects of their lives by providing, among other things, the necessary mechanisms to encourage the reporting of abuses.

Right for a professional to report a client’s incapacity

A law aimed at preventing abuse and protecting seniors and vulnerable persons should also provide for the lifting of professional secrecy, thereby allowing the reporting of situations where clients have become incapacitated, in order to protect clients from themselves and prevent potential abuses by others.

• Currently, a professional who notices that a client is incapacitated cannot, without the client’s consent, report the situation to a close relative or someone who can represent the client.

• In such cases, the client’s consent or refusal to consent to the lifting of professional secrecy has little validity due to the client’s own incapacity.

The CPA Order therefore proposes:

that the Professional Code authorize the reporting of a client’s incapacity when a professional deems that the client must be assisted or represented in the exercise of his or her rights.

Balancing professional secrecy and reporting

Although it does not exclude it, Bill 115 does not address material and financial exploitation, leaving professionals unsure about their right to report abuses despite being bound to professional secrecy under their code of ethics and section 9 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

• Professional secrecy belongs to the client and has a quasi-constitutional status.

• As with other recently adopted bills, Bill 115 not only allows the courts or the government to view information protected by professional secrecy, but it also encourages professionals to report abuses without any regard for professional secrecy, which could potentially include reporting their own clients.

• The bond of trust between professionals and their clients, which lawmakers sought to protect in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, is therefore directly undermined.

The CPA Order therefore proposes:

that the Professional Code clearly frame the right of professionals to report situations of material and financial abuse of seniors or vulnerable persons.

About the Quebec CPA Order
The Ordre des comptables professionnels agréés du Québec has 39,000 members and 5,000 future CPAs, making it the third largest professional order in Quebec. The Order ensures the protection of the public and the visibility of the profession. It represents all areas of expertise of the accounting profession, including assurance, financial accounting, management and management accounting, finance and taxation.

Read the brief submitted by the Order (in French only) [+] 

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Jean-Louis Laplante
Manager, Public Affairs
Quebec CPA Order
T. 514 288.3256 [3024]  1 800 363.4688

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