(Photo: Nik Shuliahi for Unsplash)
ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL SKILLS. On June 9, the Quebec government introduced a bill aimed at strengthening the fight against abuse of vulnerable adults. However, the CPA regulation believes that changes need to be made before it is enacted to improve the conditions for detecting financial abuse.
“Without being revolutionary, this bill brings some interesting changes, in particular a clarification of the definition of abuse and the explicit addition of financial abuse,” stresses Me Christine Morin, Associate Professor and Associate Researcher at the Antoine Turmel Research Chair in Legal Protection of seniors at Université Laval.
Bill 101 expands the scope of Section 21 of the Abuse of Elderly and Other Adults in Vulnerable Situations Act, which defines reporting requirements. Indeed, the bill clearly states that, with the exception of notaries and lawyers, any professional who, in the exercise of his profession, has reasonable grounds to believe that an elderly person living in intermediate care may have a CHSLD or even a Private Senior Residence (RPA) becomes a victim of abuse must report it immediately.
“This bill also makes it very clear that this obligation does not only apply to healthcare professionals, as it explicitly mentions the dimension of financial abuse,” explains Me Morin. CPAs, for example, are therefore subject to it. »
The reporting requirement is also targeting more people, as it was previously limited to seniors living in CHSLDs and those who were subject to foster care, guardianship, or protection orders. The brief, presented to the Citizen Relations Committee by the Antoine Turmel Research Chair, also contained reservations about extending it to include seniors living in RPAs, as many of them are autonomous and cannot be considered vulnerable. These individuals should therefore be able to choose whether or not to report abuse and be confident that professional secrecy will be maintained by those who serve them.
According to Geneviève Mottard, President and CEO of the Ordre des CPA du Quebec, CPAs are well placed to identify cases of financial abuse. “Often our members have been serving their clients for several years, so they can sound the alarm if they see suspicious changes – for example financial assets suddenly falling or large sums being withdrawn from the bank account,” she explains.
However, she acknowledges that these situations remain delicate. Professionals sometimes have to balance the need to report abuse with respecting their clients’ consent. Since abuse is regularly perpetrated by the victims’ relatives, they hesitate to report it.
CPAs are also unable to determine if an individual has lost too much autonomy to properly manage their wealth or resist outside pressures. “But they know how to exercise judgment and report when in doubt,” says the president.
In addition, the CPA Order is currently working in collaboration with the Center for Research and Expertise in Social Gerontology to develop training for its members to help them make the right decisions and deal with these situations.
However, Geneviève Mottard regrets that the lifting of professional secrecy proposed in the draft law does not apply equally to all professional groups – lawyers and notaries are excluded. She doesn’t understand how some professionals are somehow given the right to turn a blind eye to such serious abuses. For this reason, the CPA regulation wants financial planners, financial advisors and employees of financial institutions who are in a good position to uncover situations of financial abuse to also be required to report them.
In addition, the CPA Order advised the Public Curator on the drafting of a new law that will take effect in 2022 and aims to better protect people in vulnerable situations. “We have been involved in overseeing the reporting that those in charge of managing the financial assets of an incapacitated person must submit to their supervisors, so that this becomes even more transparent, comprehensive and regular,” explains Geneviève Mottard.
Bill 101 should normally come into force in the spring, but has yet to be considered in the parliamentary committee. Changes could therefore alter the final version as required by the CPA regulation.