Businesses in Québec Should Prepare to Deal with “Assistants” to the Elderly

Further to the adoption of Bill 18, Québec individuals, including the elderly, who may wish to do so will soon be allowed to appoint one or two “assistants” to help them -a role that will be legally recognized through an amendment being made to the Civil Code of Québec.

Many feel the various protection regimes currently available for vulnerable individuals in Québec leave a gap, especially for family members wishing to help parents and the like with their everyday lives. This sort of situation often includes helping parents understand situations they may find themselves in, asking questions (from government officials or businesses, for example) and interacting with third parties with which the elderly may be required to deal with day-to-day. A good example may be calling a bank, on behalf of a parent who is a client of the institution but unwilling or unable to call him/herself.

The new role of assistants is being created to help fill that gap and avoid often-seen situations where an organization may refuse to talk to a person who is not the citizen or the client at issue him/herself, unless the caller can show he/she has legal authority. To avoid this problem, assistants will be provided with a special status under Québec law, being understood that their role will NOT be to decide or make decisions for protected individuals, but rather to assist and speak for them, whenever it may be required.

After November 1, Quebecers who regularly require help will thus be allowed to designate a loved-on (who is willing to take on this role) to assist them. After going through the formal process of appointing this person, the name of the assistant will be entered into an online database to be hosted and made available by the Québec Curateur public (pursuant to the new C.c.Q. Article 297.10). Thereafter, anyone who needs to confirm whether a person they get contacted by has been duly authorized (as somebody else’s “assistant”) will be allowed to check the database.

One should note that this possibility will be available not only for the elderly but also for other individuals who would benefit from the help of a loved one day-to-day, including those with physical or intellectual limitations, etc.

This change to Québec law will require that for businesses and organizations update their protocols to take into account the possibility that users and customers may soon be contacting them through duly appointed intermediaries. Whenever this happens, assuming the proper verifications are made, businesses and organizations will be legally prohibited from refusing to interact with a customer’s assistant. Indeed, assuming the identity of the assistant is ascertained adequately, one will then be obligated by the Civil Code of Québec to deal with the assistant as the assisted person’s representative and intermediary.

Business and organizations operating in Québec should start training their staff and update their internal protocols, rules and procedures to allow for this change as to “assistants”.