Canada has adopted broad statements of principles and values that create a general framework for the treatment of older persons within and by the law. These statements of principle are not legally binding, but should inform and guide the development of law and policy in this area. The statements are also significant as formal recognition of the need to promote the rights and needs of older adults as a matter of social policy.

A. United Nations Principles for Older Persons and the Madrid Action Plan

The first United Nations World Assembly on Ageing was held in 1982. The United Nations Principles for Older Persons, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1991,[11] were intended to provide guidelines regarding the entitlements of older persons. Signatory states were encouraged to incorporate those guidelines into national programmes, including legislation.

While Canada is the signatory to the United Nations Principles, policy and legislation affecting older adults is also developed at the provincial level. The Principles provide a practical and effective frame of reference for provinces seeking to develop an anti-ageist approach within legislation.

The Principles include:
· Independence;
· Participation;
· Care (including access to social and legal services to enhance their autonomy, protection and care and the ability to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility, including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and the quality of their lives);
· Self-fulfillment; and
· Dignity (including the ability to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse).
No evaluation appears to have been carried out regarding the extent and degree to which the Principles have been incorporated into Canadian legislation and policy, unlike the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.[12]

A second World Assembly on Ageing was held in Madrid in 2002. The Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging (MIPAA), endorsed by the General Assembly in 2002,[13] included the following action matters:

The full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all older persons;
Empowerment of older persons to fully and effectively participate in the economic, political and social lives of their societies;
Ensuring the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights of persons and the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against older persons; and
Provision of health care, support and social protection for older persons, including preventive and rehabilitative health care.
As a signatory to the MIPAA, Canada is committed to upholding the spirit and intent of the Plan of Action by integrating the rights and needs of older persons into national and international economic and social development policies.[14]

B. National Framework on Ageing

The United Nations Principles for Older Persons are mirrored in the principles and vision statement included in the National Framework on Ageing, an initiative of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors (the Ministers).[15]

The Framework is voluntary, with a shared Vision Statement and five Principles at its core:

Canada, a society for all ages, promotes the well-being and contributions of older people in all aspects of life

Five Principles
Dignity, Independence, Participation, Fairness, Security

The purpose of the National Framework is to facilitate a common approach for monitoring and reviewing changes to seniors programs and services across jurisdictions, and to assist in examining the cumulative effects of policy changes on Canadian seniors.

1. National Framework on Ageing Principles: Commentary and Suggestions

In A Time for Action: Advancing Human Rights for Older Ontarians, a Report released in 2004, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended that “the five principles contained in the National Framework on Ageing be integrated into policies and programs of public and private sector organisations.”[16] The Framework is also mirrored in the principles adopted by the Law Commission of Ontario to guide law reform in this area:

Dignity; and
Respect for diversity.

In their response to the Law Commission’s Consultation, the Ontario Bar Association urged the Commission to consider adding two additional principles:

the right to receive “care”- the right to access to health and institutional care, and to legal aid and social services; and
the principle of respect for human rights and freedoms

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE), in its response to the Law Commission Consultation, expressed concern about the use of the word “care” as it is “sometimes negatively equated with best interests.”[17] The ACE response suggested that the desired objective could be achieved if the principles of security (expressed in the National Framework on Aging) was “strengthened… to include access to legal and social services, as well as legal definitions of program eligibility for health and community based long-term care services, such that a person who meets the eligibility criteria is entitled to fully participate in the program regardless of competition for scarce resources.”[18] The principle of security is also consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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