PARRY SOUND - Michael Biss is 71.
In his preretirement years, he was a Peel Regional Police detective and an Ontario court justice of the peace, who sat on the bench in Parry Sound for 10 years.
Now, even with the help of a walker, he can only walk short distances and he has difficulty driving, but he said, he still has his wits and, with help, takes care of his wife, who survived a stroke.
He’s also the victim of elder abuse.
Norma Buttineau, 56, of McKellar, was sentenced at the Parry Sound Courthouse in February for two counts of fraud under $5,000 to nine months probation and ordered to repay the $1,800 she’d stolen from Biss’ bank account.
On Friday afternoon Biss said, in a phone interview from his Brampton sunroom, that he’s received the restitution.
“It caused me a lot of worry and grief,” he said of the experience. “It’s something a senior should not be objected too.”
Last summer, with his grown children living out of country, he hired a local couple to help at his Lake Manitouwabing cottage. The relationship with the couple started when he hired them to do the installation of a gas barbecue and, over the course of the summer, moved on to social visits, helping with the laundry and driving Bliss and his wife back to Brampton in the fall. He said he always overpaid the couple to encourage good work.
“Time passed,” said Biss of the relationship. “We got to know her quite well. She’d sit and have a coffee and (he) would have a coffee or a beer, whatever.”
One day in October, Biss said, Buttineau noticed a cheque sitting out and offered to deposit it while in town.
Biss handed over his bank card and, he said, the next day she returned it along with the ATM receipt. Nothing seemed amiss.
It was only a few days later, after returning to Brampton, that he did some online banking and noticed he’d been bilked for $1,800, he said, through two $900 withdraws in one day.
He called the West Parry Sound OPP right away and 10 days later, when he learned police believed it was Buttineau who took the money, she was charged.
“I advised (the officer) I wanted charges laid,” said Biss. “I trusted her with everything…she breached that by stealing from from me. It’s a case of taking advantage of seniors. That’s all it is. I couldn’t go to the bank myself, because I can’t walk very well.”
Last week the federal government introduced legislation in Parliament that would give tougher sentences to those convicted of victimizing seniors.
“We have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable members of society in Parry Sound-Muskoka, and right across Canada. We must make certain that crimes against them are punished appropriately,” said Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement in a press release.
Under the proposed Criminal Code amendment, “evidence that an offence had a significant impact on the victims due to their age - and other personal circumstances such as health or financial situation - would be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes,” according to the news release.
Canada’s Criminal Code already includes measures to project vulnerable people, including minors, which allows consideration for the victims’ age during sentencing.
Biss supports the legislation.
“I think it’s a good idea because there’s two groups of people, well there are many groups in our society, who can’t defend themselves…(and) as I said to the guy I was convicting of taking too many trout from Lake Joseph….I said, ‘the trout cannot speak for themselves, I speak for the trout today’…the same goes for seniors who probably don’t have the ability, don’t have the drive or wherewithal to protect themselves…the punishment should be quite severe because the people can’t defend themselves for various reasons.”