Don’t Grow Old in Canada

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If there’s one piece of advice I would give to prospective Canadians, it’s this: Don’t grow old in Canada. Aging, that universal and reviled aspect of human existence is not welcome here. The elderly are not welcome. Perhaps the most cynical aspect of the Canadian state is found in the way we treat our elderly. While you are a productive tax paying citizen, you’re taken care of, but the moment your capacity to contribute is diminished, the state washes its hands of you and casts you into a system that seems designed to guarantee your speedy passing.

The Globe and Mail released an article on May 26, the title of which speaks for itself: Canadian military releases ‘deeply disturbing’ report on Ontario long-term care facilities. Not known for being expositionally hyperbolic, if the Canadian military finds something deeply disturbing, you can bet it’s an order of magnitude more shocking than they’ve described. And now we’ll see headlines replete with condemnations and promises of investigation and action as public officials – the very same who were responsible for overseeing and designing Ontario’s policies towards the elderly – pretend that they didn’t know how bad long-term care homes were in Ontario. They’ll say they were not told, that they didn’t know people taking care of their elders were being forced to chose between placing their loved ones in homes with abysmal conditions or unemployment while they received little to no help from the province. They’ll pretend like the hospice systems weren’t neglecting patients or pushing them towards assisted suicide. They’ll pretend that it’s a surprise these programs are underfunded and poorly staffed.

I remember when then-Premier Kathleen Wynn unabashedly proclaimed during a provincial election campaign, “We take care of people.” I looked over at my grandmother – a stroke victim with severe cognitive impairment, needing 24-hour care. We had been on the waiting list for a nursing home for almost three years because we were unwilling to place her into one of these poorly run facilities. We didn’t feel taken care of. Wynn’s proclamation stuck in my head long after. Every time I see a politician on a podium spewing empty promises, I think of it.

I’d challenge anyone to find a family that’s happy about their treatment at the hands of Ontario’s elder-care regimes. It would be such a rare scene that I would want to run out and record it as though I were watching a neutron star explode. None of this was a shock to citizens of Ontario; there were articles about it in almost every major publication. People who live here know – they’ve experienced it first-hand. Why are our elected officials now suddenly so shocked? From what I hear, the rest of Canada is not handling elder care much better.

There’s no single fact that flies in the face of the image of the gleaming progressive beacon of the Canadian welfare state more than the way we treat our elderly. We should be ashamed.

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