OTTAWA — To Parminder Raina, age is really just a number — scientifically speaking.
Raina, the scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, points to the difference between complex movements a young person can do compared to the simpler motions of an older person because of how the body weakens over time.
But the age when all that happens isn’t necessarily the same for everyone, he says, and as Canadians live longer, the markers we set around aging need a rethink.
It’s why Raina is keeping an eye on the latest census figures scheduled to be released on Wednesday morning that will detail how the country aged between 2016 and 2021.
By the time the 2016 census rolled around, the ranks of Canada’s seniors over age 65 had for the first time outnumbered the nation’s youth 14 years of age and younger.
The results from the 2021 census count will likely show an acceleration of that trend, with the proportion of seniors potentially edging close to accounting for one-fifth of the national population.
And, as Raina notes, the results should show how life expectancy has changed and how that may also reshape the policy decisions linked to an aging population.
“This is some of the realization the research community and the policy-makers are having — maybe not the politicians as yet — but that just looking at the birth age or chronological age is not going to be a good indicator of determining what happens,” he said.
“There is a lot of research that is happening now to think about, how do we actually measure what the biological age of a person is, can we use some indicators to come up with that number, then use that number to adjust the chronological age, so you’re not inflating that idea of the age.”
The census figures will likely show the population aging faster in Atlantic Canada, and maybe British Columbia, with a youth movement showing most in Alberta, said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics.
Though even there, Norris suggested that the youngest provinces may see a faster pace of aging than those that already have a high proportion of senior citizens, because of the expected decline in the number of 20-somethings over the past five years.
The pace of aging nationally is expected to jump through to 2031 when the youngest baby boomers turn 65 — the oldest would have hit 85 — and Canada’s proportion of seniors rivals levels that peer nations like Japan encountered five years ago.
“The impact of aging really won’t be felt for a while, but it’s coming and will likely be another five or 10 years when we really start to see big increases in that 75- and 80-over population,” Norris said. “And that in turn has implications for health care, for nursing home needs (and) for long-term care.”
The census will also detail where many of those seniors live. Wednesday’s release will include details on the types of dwellings people lived in on census day, including “collective dwellings” like long-term care homes.
The vast majority of seniors won’t live in such a facility, which Raina said has implications for community planning so people can age at home.
If, as expected, the census shows that rural areas are aging faster than cities, it may force a rethink of health-care planning often done through an urban lens, said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization.
“This census is an opportunity for us to pull apart some of what aging at home actually means in a concrete way, as opposed to a hand-waving, high-level way,” she said.
A new data point on the census will come from a revamped short-form question about gender, providing details on transgender and non-binary populations.
The figures will not only help shape government policy, but ensure non-binary populations are recognized where still ignored, said El Chenier, a history professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who focuses on the historical treatment of homosexuality.
The census data, then, may provide a tool for non-binary populations to pressure organizations to recognize them, and help groups that already recognize them better adapt programs and services.
“When a government body like Statistics Canada says, ‘we’re gonna collect data on this,’ it literally says, ‘this exists and this is real,’ and people to this day continue to deny that trans people exist and that non-binary people exist,” Chenier said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2022.
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg man pleads guilty to manslaughter in the death of Saskatchewan RCMP officer
A man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of a Saskatchewan RCMP officer. RCMP Constable Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. Patton, of the Indian Head Detachment, was killed on June 12, 2021, after being hit by a pickup truck during a traffic stop. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
By Jeremy Simes in Regina
The mother of a Saskatchewan RCMP officer who was killed two years ago says it was “hell” to watch a Winnipeg man plead guilty to manslaughter in her son’s death.
Alphonse Stanley Traverse pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the charge in Regina Court of King’s Bench for his role in Const. Shelby Patton’s death. Traverse also pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing a motor vehicle.
“It’s very traumatic,” Melanie Patton, the mother of the 26-year-old Mountie, said in an interview.
“It’s better than sitting through a trial, but at the same time there’s so much trauma and we’re not going to recover. It’s like I’m living in hell.”
Shelby Patton was killed more than two years ago when he attempted to stop a stolen truck, driven by Traverse, near the town of Wolseley, east of Regina.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Traverse had been driving from Winnipeg to Saskatchewan in June 2021 to play VLTs. He was with Marlene Pagee at the time, and they chose to go to Saskatchewan because bars were open in the province. COVID-19 measures meant bars were closed in Manitoba.
Traverse was on warrant status for various Criminal Code offences, the document said, and Pagee had been on bail with conditions. She also faces one count of accessory to murder after the fact in Patton’s death.
Court heard Traverse and Pagee were driving a stolen green truck as they made their way to Saskatchewan. They were both using crystal meth.
However, the green truck wasn’t working well, so Traverse and Pagee began looking for another vehicle. The document said they came across another truck near Pipestone, Man., and stole it. The truck was unlocked and had keys in the ignition.
The document said Traverse and Pagee made their way to Wolseley and stopped outside a hotel. Patton was then dispatched to investigate a suspected stolen truck in town.
When Patton arrived, court heard the couple noticed the Mountie’s car, so they decided to drive away. However, Patton stopped them shortly thereafter and walked towards the driver’s window, speaking with Traverse.
Court heard Patton had asked Traverse if he worked for the company that owned the truck. Traverse lied, saying he did. Patton then told him the truck had been reported stolen, asking him to step out of the vehicle until the issue could be sorted.
Traverse then turned to Pagee, saying “I can’t,” and started the truck.
Court heard Patton stepped up on the truck’s running board and reached for the key’s inside. The truck then accelerated rapidly and jerked.
The document said Patton fell off the running board. The rear driver-side tire ran over his body, killing him.
Melanie Patton said her son’s death was no accident.
“He was a very good officer. He did not make a mistake,” she said. “I’m sure any officer would have done the same. The job is very dangerous and getting more dangerous, unfortunately.”
She said she hopes Traverse is given the maximum penalty.
Traverse is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 17.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2023.
Rota debacle renews calls to examine history, including war crime records
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller leave a meeting during the Liberal Cabinet retreat in Charlottetown, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. Canada could revisit calls to declassify documents about the presence of Nazi war criminals in the country, Miller said Wednesday, as the fallout continued over Parliament’s recognition last week of a man who fought for the Nazis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
By Mia Rabson in Ottawa
Canada could revisit calls to declassify documents about the presence of Nazi war criminals in the country, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday, as the fallout continued over Parliament’s recognition last week of a man who fought for the Nazis.
“Canada has a really dark history with Nazis in Canada,” Miller said, heading into the weekly Liberal caucus meeting.
“There was a point in our history where it was easier to get (into Canada) as a Nazi than it was as a Jewish person. I think that’s a history we have to reconcile.”
Many Jewish organizations in Canada say doing that requires a public airing of information, and that means all the records Canada has about the presence of war criminals must be opened up.
“I think part of the problem here is that the records are closed,” said B’nai Brith senior lawyer David Matas in an interview.
“You can’t remember the past unless you know the past, and you can’t know the past unless you get the records.”
B’nai Brith Canada and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center both reiterated their long-standing calls this week for the government to make public all records about the admittance of former Nazi soldiers.
That includes the entirety of a 1986 report from a public commission on war criminals, which is often referred to as the Deschênes Commission for the judge who led it.
The report has never been fully released, including an appendix with the names of 240 alleged Nazi war criminals who might be living in Canada that the report recommended Canada investigate.
“It’s now time for Ottawa to not only release the unredacted files related to the Deschênes Commission, but to also address the stark reality that there are still former Nazis with blood on their hands living in Canada,” said Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center President Michael Levitt.
Matas noted that in June, a House of Commons committee studying Canada’s access-to-information system recommended all historical documents be released in full after 25 years.
He said implementing that recommendation would fulfil the desire to see Canada’s war criminal records.
Currently, records can be released 20 years after someone’s death. But Matas said that rule doesn’t apply in this case, because information about people who died can’t be accessed unless their names are available.
He said it’s not that every person named in the records is guilty, but that a justice system relies on openness, and you can’t have justice without transparency, whether you’re guilty or innocent.
There is also little to no information publicly available about what follow-up was done to investigate alleged war criminals named in the Deschênes report, or bring any of them to justice.
All of this comes after what some have called the most embarrassing international debacle in Canadian history.
On Friday, during an official visit by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the House of Commons Speaker pointed to a guest in the gallery he identified as a war hero.
Parliamentarians and dignitaries who were present gave two standing ovations to a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian war veteran without knowing or understanding that the unit he fought with was formed by Nazi Germany to fight against the Soviet Union.
Speaker Anthony Rota, who said he did not know about Yaroslav Hunka’s background, apologized for making an egregious mistake inviting him to Parliament. He announced Tuesday that he would resign from the role.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an apology on behalf of Canada and all parliamentarians for the debacle.
University of Alberta professor John-Paul Himka pointed out that nobody seemed to immediately understand how Hunka’s military history implied he would have fought with the Germans.
That’s because of a great lack of understanding of history, even among elected MPs, he said.
“I mean, this man was introduced as somebody who fought the Russians during World War II. Who was fighting the Russians during World War II? It was the Germans,” he said.
“I mean if Rota didn’t know about this whole issue and he was the Speaker of the House of Commons, you can imagine how widespread the ignorance is,” he said.
Still, said Matas, the uproar has rejuvenated the discussion about exposing that history, including all the records.
“This is on the radar, now, I think,” he said. “They’re paying attention to it.”
Miller said he has read the Deschênes report twice since this all happened, and encouraged all Canadians to do so.
He also said he knows there are many people demanding the release of the records, and it is something the government “could possibly examine again.”
But he said because he doesn’t know exactly what is contained in the documents, he doesn’t yet want to say if he backs their full release.
“But again, in a country like Canada that has not only a difficult history with Nazis in Canada, but also one of the most important diaspora of Jewish people, including some of the largest proportions of Holocaust survivors, impunity is absolutely not an option,” he said.
Mental Health Minister Ya’ara Saks, whose York Centre riding in Toronto has about one-fifth of its population identifying as Jewish, said Canada should look at what it can do to help provide answers and closure to Jewish Canadians.
She said opening the records is something to be looked at.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2023.
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