On July 18, 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Filomena Tassi, a Hamilton M.P., as Canada's new Minister of Seniors. Earlier today, the Dementia Justice Society of Canada delivered the following message of congratulations to Minister Tassi:
23 July 2018
The Honourable Filomena Tassi, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Seniors
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Re: Message of Congratulations
On behalf of the Dementia Justice Society of Canada, I wish to congratulate you on your new appointment as the federal Minister of Seniors. We applaud the Government of Canada for making this important addition to cabinet. Your appointment is an important step in dismantling the siloed approach to seniors issues among government departments, particularly with respect to the many matters that cut across both health and justice.
Dementia Justice is a federally incorporated non-profit society dedicated to advancing the rights, needs and dignity of people with dementia who are, or are at risk of becoming, involved with the criminal justice system. We aim to achieve our objectives through public advocacy, awareness-raising, education, and interdisciplinary legal and policy research.
Earlier this year, we were fortunate to have attended the National Dementia Strategy Conference in Ottawa, hosted by the Public Health Agency of Canada. As you know, this event was required by the National Strategy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Act, which states that the federal Health Minister must convene a conference with various stakeholders for the purpose of developing a comprehensive national dementia strategy.
While the conference program did not explicitly address civil or criminal legal issues (e.g., accessibility-rights, discrimination, capacity/consent, elder abuse, criminal justice), we were heartened that the topics were raised in several sessions and by many attendees, including those with lived experience who have been champions in the area of dementia and human rights.
We were especially pleased that conference participants acknowledged the importance of addressing “new” and traditionally invisible sub-populations of persons with dementia, including prisoners who are ageing in the correctional system, as well as those whose dementia symptoms (e.g., aggression, disinhibition) bring them into conflict with the criminal justice system.
As you may know, we have expressed concern to your government that the dementia strategy legislation limits the ministerial advisory board’s mandate to advising on any matter related to the health care of persons with dementia. In our view, to be a truly comprehensive strategy, the plan must address matters that extend beyond the health sector. Indeed, it is a legislative requirement: section 3 of the Act calls upon the government to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy that addresses all aspects of dementia.
Without question, the health care needs of persons with dementia must be a top priority. But as you know, dementia has the potential to touch all aspects of a person’s life, including as it relates to civil and criminal justice. As such, with your appointment as Minister of Seniors, we are optimistic that the federal government will dissolve the artificial and outdated silos between health and justice, and take a truly comprehensive approach to dementia.
Once again, congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Seniors. We are delighted that this demographic will have a strong voice in cabinet.
We look forward to working with you and your colleagues on improving the lives of older Canadians, including persons with dementia who are conflict with the criminal justice system.
Heather Campbell, BA (Hons.), LLB, LLM
Dementia Justice Society of Canada
cc: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Justice
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Safety
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health