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By Jennifer Nguyen

My name is Jennifer, and I am a first-year law student at the Peter A. Allard School of Law. During this past school year I had the wonderful opportunity of working with the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse through Pro Bono Students Canada.

My work partly pertained to the CNPEA projectAccess to Justice for Older Victims of Sexual Assault.” This was the first year of a three-year project to gather and curate a set of materials and resources to the CNPEA Hub on issues about sexual assault of older adults. I am extremely grateful to have been able to work on the project in its starting year.

My other responsibilities included researching specific issues in elder abuse law, writing blog posts about them, and constructing plain language fact sheets on mandatory reporting and camera policies in long-term care facilities. It was an enriching experience where I developed my research and writing skills and learned about the intricacies of elder law and the Canadian legal system and their intersections with Canadian society.

As a first-year law student I came into the position unaware of many of the legal issues relating to elder abuse. While I was aware of elder mistreatment, issues on older adults’ access to justice, procedural legal barriers, evidentiary problems, and legislative duties were unfamiliar. I tried to use my blog posts as a way to educate both the readers, and myself.

My first blog post acted an introduction to themes of sexual abuse of older adults explored in Professors Isabel Grant and Janine Benedet’s article, “The Sexual Assault of Older Women: Criminal Justice Responses in Canada”. This post was a great way for me to familiarize myself with the topics and themes that I would be exploring for the rest of the year.

Among many other things, the article discussed the question of consent to sexual activity when mental incapacity is involved, which became the basis of my second blog post. In that post I looked at how case law has interpreted the statutory scheme for consent in the Criminal Code. My other blog posts included a review of the 2018 Canadian Elder Law Conference, and the intersection of ethnicity and elder abuse reporting.

The second half of my term was spent working on creating two fact sheets summarizing facts about mandatory reporting and camera surveillance policies in long-term care facilities across Canada. I naively thought that there would be general consensus across Canada on these topics. However, I soon realized that this was not the case and that more often than not, there was no clear, official answer on these matters. The majority of my research for these required analyzing the individual legislation of each province to deduce their individual policies. Because of the relatively new issue of camera installation in LTCs, I looked to a variety of news sources from each province to fill in the gaps where the legislation was otherwise silent.

The fact sheets were one of my favourite parts of my PBSC placement. They required that I turn hours of legislation and case law research into a few, plain-language bullet points. This reminded me of the human nature of law which often gets lost on you as a law student. My own confusion during this process only echoed how inaccessible and complex the legal system can seem, so I am grateful that I was able to assist in some way.

As my time with CNPEA is officially coming to a close, I would like to extend my thanks to Pro Bono Students Canada for my placement with CNPEA. I am especially thankful to Bénédicte Schoepflin, who was my program coordinator during the year. She challenged me to dig deeper in my analysis of topics, provided excellent guidance for my research, and caught and edited many copy mistakes.

I am extremely excited to see the growth of CNPEA, and especially the Access to Justice Project, over the next few years. I have no doubt that it will be a huge success!



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