Know Your Rights

Protecting the Human Rights of Seniors

The United Nations: Human Rights, 1991

The General Assembly adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons.
The document outlined specific older person’s Rights regarding: independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity.
Summary of the 18 Human Rights Principles
Independence Principles:

  1. Older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help.
  2. Older persons should have the opportunity to work or to have access to other income-generating opportunities.
  3. Older persons should be able to participate in determining when and at what pace withdrawal from the labour force takes place.
  4. Older persons should have access to appropriate educational and training programmes.
  5. Older persons should be able to live in environments that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities.
  6. Older persons should be able to reside at home for as long as possible.

Participation Principles:

  1. Older persons should remain integrated in society, participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that directly affect their well-being and share their knowledge and skills with younger generations.
  2. Older persons should be able to seek and develop opportunities for service to the community and to serve as volunteers in positions appropriate to their interests and capabilities.
  3. Older persons should be able to form movements or associations of older persons.

Care Principles:

  1. Older persons should benefit from family and community care and protection in accordance with each society’s system of cultural values.
  2. Older persons should have access to health care to help them to maintain or regain the optimum level of physical, mental and emotional well-being and to prevent or delay the onset of illness.
  3. Older persons should have access to social and legal services to enhance their autonomy, protection and care.
  4. Older persons should be able to utilize appropriate levels of institutional care providing protection, rehabilitation and social and mental stimulation in a humane and secure environment.
  5. Older persons should be able 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 Principles:

  1. Older persons should be able to pursue opportunities for the full development of their potential.
  2. Older persons should have access to the educational, cultural, spiritual and recreational resources of society.

Dignity Principles:

  1. Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse.
  2. Older persons should be treated fairly regardless of age, gender, racial or ethnic background, disability or other status, and be valued independently of their economic contribution.

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Seniors in Ontario have Rights

Ontario’s Human Rights Code, was enacted in 1962.  The Code prohibits actions that discriminate against people based on a protected ground in a protected social area.
Protected grounds are:

  • Age
  • Ancestry, colour, race
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Place of origin
  • Creed
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status (including single status)
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)
  • Record of offences (in employment only)
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Sexual orientation.


All older adults have the Right to life, liberty and security.

Older adults in Ontario who are capable have the right:

  • to make their own decisions
  • to choose what is best for themselves
  • to expect services to enhance capacity
  • to maintain control over their destiny and decisions
  • to preserve and maintain their quality of life.

Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario upholds the Rights of all older adults

It is important to respect the following issues when providing help to abused or at-risk seniors:

  • Diverse cultural customs
  • Language differences and barriers
  • Religious beliefs
  • Sexual orientation
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Poverty
  • Socio-economic status
  • At-risk factors
  • Disabilities
  • Behaviours
  • Educational background
  • Family Relationships
  • Personal attitudes

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Seniors may be victims of Crime

Ontario Provincial Legislation for Victims of Crime:

The Province of Ontario passed: An Act Respecting Victims of Crime- Victims Bill of Rights, June 11, 1996
The Act supports and recognizes the needs and rights of victims of crime, including seniors, in both the criminal and civil justice system.
The Act specifies how victims of crime should be treated by justice system officials at different stages of the criminal justice process.
The statement of principles requires that victims:

  • be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their personal dignity and privacy;
  • have access to information concerning services and remedies available to victims;
  • have access to information about the progress of criminal investigations and prosecutions and the sentencing and interim release of offenders from custody;
  • be given the opportunity to be interviewed by police officers and officials of the same gender as the victim, when that victim has been sexually assaulted;
  • be entitled to have their property returned as promptly as possible by justice system officials, where the property is no longer needed for the purposes of the justice system (for example, to carry out an investigation, trial or appeal);
  • have access to information about the conditional release of offenders from custody, including release on parole, temporary absence, or escape from custody;
  • have access to information about plea and pre-trial arrangements and their role in the prosecution.

Canadian Victims Bill of Rights

The Government of Canada has proposed The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Act (Bill C-32)
The legislation seeks to create clear statutory rights at the Federal level to information, protection, participation and restitution, and to ensure a complaint process is in place for breaches of these rights.
Victims of crime including seniors would have the following rights:
(a) the right to information about the criminal justice system, the programs and services that are available to victims of crime and the complaint procedures that are available to them when their rights have been infringed or denied;
(b) the right to information about the status of the investigation and the criminal proceedings, as well as information about reviews while the offender is subject to the corrections process, or about hearings after the accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit to stand trial, and information about the decisions made at those reviews and hearings;
(c) the right to have their security and privacy considered by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system;
(d) the right to protection from intimidation and retaliation;
(e) the right to request testimonial aids;
(f) the right to convey their views about decisions to be made by authorities in the criminal justice system that affect the victim’s rights under this Act and to have those views considered;
(g) the right to present a victim impact statement and to have it considered;
(h) the right to have the courts consider making, in all cases, a restitution order against the offender; and
(i) the right to have a restitution order entered as a civil court judgment that is enforceable against the offender if the amount owing under the restitution order is not paid.
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