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Rules around voters with dementia spark concern
The Brandon Sun - 9/13/2021
Elections Canada allowing people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to vote brings concern to a Brandon woman, whose own father is living with the memory-altering illness.
Debbie Kynoch has had legal power of attorney for her 96-year-old father since the fall of 2016.
In October 2019, during the last federal election, Kynoch’s father, who lives in a long-term care home in Brandon, voted at the polling station set up in the residence.
Kynoch’s father has dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As a result, she said, her father is no longer able to make decisions for himself and requires assistance to complete his daily routines.
“My dad can no longer tell me the days of the week,” Kynoch said.
“He recognizes me. He knows my name. But he can’t tell me if I ask him what the worker’s name is.”
Kynoch’s father doesn’t watch TV or read the news and wouldn’t know who the candidates are in this election anyway, she said.
In Kynoch’s opinion, her dad is not aware of current events due to his condition.
“Definitely no world events (or) Canadian events; no city of Brandon events.”
Kynoch said she was not notified by the care home when her father voted in the federal and provincial elections in 2019.
In fact, she only found out her father had voted after she noticed a sticker on his shirt that said, “I voted.”
“When I asked him who he voted for, he said, ‘I dunno.’
“Who assisted him in the process?” she asked. “A staff member? I don’t know. I wasn’t made aware of it until after it happened,” she said.
“My concern is, if a staff member is taking my dad to vote, whose vote is it? Whose party are they voting for? If the resident doesn’t have knowledge of who to vote for, then it’s possible the worker would vote for their party.”
This election, Kynoch has left explicit orders at her father’s residence, not to allow him to vote.
Kynoch appreciates all Canadians have a right to vote. But when there’s a power of attorney and the person voting is unaware of the candidates due to their lack of mental acuity but is legally permitted to vote under the current Elections Canada legislation, “then there’s a problem,” she said.
“The system is flawed.”
The process of having residents of long-term care facilities vote in elections is not new, said Marie-France Kenny, regional media adviser for Elections Canada.
“It’s been happening for years so people can vote if they’re able to and if the family chooses to allow them to vote because some patients may be incapable,” Kenny said.
A family member or staff member at a long-term care home can vouch for someone at the facility as long as they live in that riding or in the riding next to it.
“They can vouch for more than one person,” Kenny said. “It’s the same thing for family members.
“If they get help to sign or to fill in their ballot, they get somebody to sign a document saying they’re going to protect the secrecy of the vote and they’re going to mark the ballot according to the wishes of the person. So we have people who vouch that they will do all that.”
“It’s part of the accessibility,” Kenny said. “If you need help to vote, we will provide you with it.”
Kenny said Elections Canada is not in a position to judge a person on their ability to vote or form an opinion.
“But families and employees and administrators can. The decision is not ours to make.”
When the Sun asked Kenny what happens if someone with the power of attorney of a resident in a long-term care home, refuses to allow that person to vote due to their inability to make decisions, based on having the legal right to make that decision through the POA, she said she didn’t know and forwarded the request to her team in Ottawa. Their response was not available at press time.