Open Letter: Canada should Support a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons

Read the official PDF and view all signatories by clicking here. 

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Parliament of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Freeland:
We are a national consortium of experts who serve and advocate for the needs and rights of older people. We
are delighted by the recent appointment of a new Minister of Seniors, and send our congratulations to the
Honourable Filomena Tassi. We are also encouraged by our Government’s commitment to support the health
and economic well-being of all Canadians, and heartened by your promise to listen to, and to be informed by
feedback from Canadians. It is in this spirit that we are writing today regarding the need for Canada to provide
support and leadership with a goal of developing and ratifying a United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights
of Older Persons.
In the context of massive global demographic shifts and an aging population, insightful and careful reflection by
the leaders of our organizations has led to universal and strong support for the creation and implementation of
a UN Convention to specifically recognize and protect the human rights of our older persons.
A UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons will:
• enshrine their rights as equal with any other segment of the population with the same legal rights as
any other human being;
• categorically state that it is unacceptable to discriminate against older people throughout the world;
• clarify the state’s role in the protection of older persons;
• provide them with more visibility and recognition both nationally and internationally, which is vitally
important given the rate at which Canadian and other societies are ageing;
• advance the rights of older women at home and as a prominent factor in Canada’s foreign policy;
• have a positive, real-world impact on the lives of older citizens who live in poverty, who are
disproportionately older women, by battling ageism that contributes to poverty, ill-health, social
isolation, and exclusion;
• support the commitment to improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples; members of the LGBTQ
community, and visible and religious minorities; and,
• provide an opportunity for Canada to play a leadership role at the United Nations while at the same
time giving expression to several of the Canadian government’s stated foreign policy goals.
We have projected that the cost and impact of not having such a Convention would have a significant negative
impact on both the physical and mental health of older Canadians. The profound and tragic consequence
would have a domino effect in all domains of their lives including social determinants of health, incidence and
prevalence of chronic diseases, social and psychological functioning, not to mention massive financial costs to
society. There is recognition of this need internationally and ILC-Canada, along with other Canadian NGOs and
organizations have been active at the UN to help raise awareness of the ways a UN Convention on the Rights of
Older Persons would contribute to all countries.
Changes have already been implemented by our Government that are consistent and aligned with a UN
Convention, such as improving the income of vulnerable Canadian seniors, funding for long term care and
support for community based dementia programs. These initiatives are all in keeping with support for a
Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. They are also reflective of our country’s commitment to engage
more fully with the United Nations and provide Canada the stage to demonstrate leadership on a vital
international issue. It is an opportunity to champion the values of inclusive government, respect for diversity
and human rights including the human rights of women.
Scientific evidence demonstrates that human rights treaties help to drive positive change in the lives of
vulnerable groups of people. In many countries in the world, older people are not adequately protected by
existing human rights law, as explicit references to age are exceedingly rare. Even in countries like Canada,
where there are legal frameworks that safeguard older people, a Convention would provide an extra layer of
protection, particularly if the Convention has a comprehensive complaints mechanism.
Older adults need to be viewed as a growing but underutilized human resource. By strengthening their active
role in society including the workforce, they have tremendous capacity, knowledge, and wisdom to contribute
to the economy and general well-being of humankind.
We are requesting you meet with our representatives, to discuss the vital role of a UN Convention on the
Rights of Older Persons and the role your government could play in improving the lives of older people in
Canada and around the world. The fact that Canada is ageing is something to celebrate. We are all ageing,
whether we are 20 or 85. This is a ”golden opportunity” to showcase Canada as a nation that will relentlessly
pursue doing the “right thing” for humanity by supporting a UN Convention that ensures that our future is
Please accept our regards, and thank you for your attention to this request. We await your response.
Margaret Gillis, President,
International Longevity Centre
Dr. Kiran Rabheru, Chair of the
Board, International Longevity
Centre Canada
Linda Garcia, Director, uOttawa
LIFE Research Institute