SAINT JOHN (GNB) – The Financial and Consumer Services Commission today released recommendations to safeguard older and vulnerable adults in New Brunswick from financial abuse.

The recommendations follow extensive research and consultation across the province undertaken between November 2017 and February 2018.

“The financial abuse of New Brunswick seniors is unacceptable,” said Rick Hancox, CEO of the commission. “Too often, financial abuse goes unrecognized. Even when it is recognized, many people are unsure where to turn or how to get help. We want to spearhead change in the province.”

The release of the recommendations coincides with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day recognized and supported by many organizations around the world to prevent elder abuse in all its forms. According to the federal government, the most common form of elder abuse in Canada is financial abuse.

Older victims of financial abuse, especially those on a fixed income, are especially at risk. Seniors who lose all or part of their life savings have less time to recover their financial stability. The impact of financial abuse goes well beyond the pocketbook. Being a victim of financial abuse can lead to social isolation, depression, anxiety and other negative health effects.

“We thought it was appropriate to release our recommendations on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is important to continue the conversation about senior financial abuse in New Brunswick and to identify the steps we as a society can take to prevent it,” Hancox said. “Our recommendations include legislative changes around the definition of financial abuse and protections for those who report it; support for industry professionals who suspect clients may be victims of abuse; educational initiatives to raise awareness of financial abuse and how to deal with it; as well as promoting inter-agency co-operation to combat the financial abuse of seniors and other vulnerable people.”

The commission developed its recommendations after reviewing feedback collected during in-person sessions held in six locations around the province as well as the written submissions from 17 provincial and national organizations. The following is a summary of the key recommendations:

  • Define financial abuse within legislation to ensure clarity in reporting and provide a ‘safe harbour’ for those who report suspected abuse.
  • Allow certain registrants and licensees to take steps to preserve assets in a client’s account when they believe the client is being financially abused.
  • Look at legislative changes that would require certain registered and/or licensed firms and representatives to obtain the name of a trusted contact person who may be reached if they suspect financial abuse or diminished capacity of a client.
  • Deliver webinars and create screening tools for industry on how to recognize the signs of senior financial abuse.
  • Expand on current outreach efforts to provide families of older or vulnerable adults with financial and consumer information.
  • Champion an inter-agency task force to determine how complaints and investigations of senior financial abuse should be handled.
  • Modernize and strengthen provincial power of attorney legislation.

A full summary of responses and of findings, including a compilation of other valuable comments, can be found on the commission website.

“Ultimately, we want to prevent financial abuse of seniors from occurring in the first place,” continued Hancox. “However, to combat financial abuse, we plan to implement those recommendations that fall under our mandate. We will co-operate with others on initiatives needing a broader co-ordinated effort.”

Resources found on www.fcnb.ca:

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation that regulates the following sectors: securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Online educational tools and resources are available at www.fcnb.ca.