This section focuses on the process through which laws are developed and reviewed. The process, like the substance of the law in question, should comply with the principles. Laws may be analyzed and evaluated for their impact on older persons both at the time of their development, and later as part of a law reform initiative or assessment of their effectiveness. This section deals with the issues raised by either kind of process, with a particular emphasis on research and public involvement.
Applying the Principles to Step 2
Note: “Law” here refers to law, policy and practice, as appropriate.
The process for developing or reviewing laws is often complex and multi-layered, and will differ depending on the particular issue or the level of government involved. This process will have a significant effect on the final shape of the law. As citizens who are members of the broader community, older adults should be involved in this process, and have their perspectives and experiences taken into account in the shaping of the law. It is essential that the principles be applied to the process of evaluating and reviewing laws, as well as to the substance of those laws.
The overriding principle at stake here is that of promoting inclusion and participation, ensuring that older adults have the opportunity to be meaningfully involved as citizens in the development of laws and policies. Implicit in the principle of dignity and worth is respect for the value of the experiences and perspectives of older persons, indicating that these experiences and perspectives should be sought out, included in the process, and meaningfully considered. The principle of membership in the broader community highlights that participation in the development of laws and institutions is a responsibility as well as a right for older adults, as it is for others. The principle of autonomy and independence highlights the importance for older persons of the right to make choices on issues that affect them, not only in their day to day lives, but at a broader societal level. Finally, the principle of diversity emphasizes that in the law development or reform process, a wide variety of voices should be heard from, including the range of experiences and opinions among older adults. This requires that public consultation processes be accessible and inclusive.
QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION IN APPLYING STEP 2
Has research been carried out to determine how older adults may be affected by the law, and to ensure understanding of the particular circumstances of those older adults who will be affected?
Is the law based on current research and evidence regarding the needs and circumstances of older adults, so as to avoid reliance on ageist assumptions, attitudes and stereotypes, whether positive or negative?
Are older persons directly involved and integrally included in developing or reviewing the law?
Have steps been taken to ensure that a wide range of older adults and organizations have been informed about and had the opportunity for involvement in the process for developing or reviewing this law? Have efforts been made to reach out to older persons with differing disabilities, socio-economic status, racial or ethnic identities, creeds, sexual orientations, places of residence, and other aspects of diversity?
Have steps been taken to ensure that all stages of public consultation are accessible to older adults, within the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA.
Have steps been taken to ensure that all stages of public consultation are accessible to older adults who may face barriers because of their low-income, caregiving responsibilities, newcomer status, geographic area of residence, disability or health status, or other issues?
Is the process through which older persons are involved respectful of their contributions and mindful of their circumstances and experiences?
Have the perspectives and concerns shared by older adults been meaningfully considered in shaping the outcomes?
Have the analysis and decisions made throughout the development or review process with respect to older adults been documented?
APPLYING THE FRAMEWORK: EXAMPLE OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE PRINCIPLES TO LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENT
Public Consultations and the Ontario Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007
The Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007(LTCHA) was a long-awaited and significant transformation of Ontario law relating to long-term care, replacing three predecessor statutes. The aim of the reform was to modernize the legal framework, improve accessibility and accountability, and create a more resident-focussed system. In keeping with these aims, a broadly consultative approach was taken to the development of the new law. From the beginning of the process, informal consultations reached out to a broad range of stakeholders, to ensure that the goals of the reform were meaningful to those affected and the proposed mechanisms were practicable. The formal consultation process included three days of public hearings, and the receipt of hundreds of submissions. Stakeholders received formal responses on key issues raised by the consultations, as a means of furthering discussion and ensuring a positive outcome. The focus on communication and consultation has continued through the implementation of the new law, including the development of the Regulations and of information tools for long-term care residents.
In these ways, the process for developing the LTCHA embodied the principles of respect for the dignity and worth of older adults, and of promoting inclusion and participation. The close connection between the values embodied in the development process and those reflected in the provisions of the Act illustrate how respect for the principles in the process of developing laws and policies may effectively promote respect for the principles in the resultant law or policy as well.
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