Two-day symposium inspires ongoing debate
Thanks to a national conference with international reach, more than 150 academics, lawyers, advocates and students are talking about elder rights, ageism and the law, access to justice and law reform for older persons.
Such was the focus of the fifth annual Canadian (International) Conference on Elder Law, October 28-29. Hosted by the Law Commission of Ontario, the Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL) and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE), the conference aimed to promote and advance the discussion of elder law issues.
“Often when I talk to people about elder law, they dismiss it as a capacity issue,” says Judith Wahl, executive director of ACE and a conference organizer. “The LCO has realized it’s so much more than that. We need to get more people to look at the bigger implications of how it affects things like access and rights.”
She credits the conference and the LCO with helping to do just that.
“We’re getting a lot of calls with requests for information and people saying, ‘I never thought of elder law in that way.’”
University of Ottawa law student Flora Stikker agrees: “It really opened my eyes to how the issues cross the professions. Treating people with dignity, protecting the interests of vulnerable clients, abuse, consent and capacity — lawyers can’t handle it all on their own.”
“We approached the issue of elder law from the perspective of access to justice,” explains LCO staff lawyer Lauren Bates. “Our goal was to raise the profile and encourage scholarship around these issues.”
The annual conference was pioneered by the CCEL, a national non-profit centre dedicated to exploring legal issues of significance to older Canadians. This is the first time it has been fully co-hosted, as well as its first time in Toronto. The 2010 event featured experts on elder law and access to justice from across Canada and around the world, including The Honourable Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Roger Smith, director of U.K. access to justice think-tank JUSTICE; and Justice Marcia Neave of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Court of Appeals.
Their comments and the roundtable discussions are helping to inform a larger Law Commission of Ontario project on the law as it affects older adults. An interim project report, including highlights from the conference and feedback on the LCO’s research reported last winter, will be published in early 2011.