Autism Reality

Autism Advocacy – FEAT BC Makes A Big Splash on the East Coast


The people from FEAT BC put a lot on the line with this tour. They invested money, sweat, credibility and time, including precious time away from their families, to make this trip across Canada and out to the East Coast to fuel a national effort to get autism covered by medicare. They did not come in to preach to the locals though. They came to talk and encourage all of us to get together and GET POLITICAL. If you are a Canadian parent seeking medical treatment for your autistic loved one NOW is the time to get involved. You can contact Jean Lewis via email at jean.lewis@telus.net. Or you can reach me at dohertylaw@rogers.com. NOW is the time not tomorrow.

If you are a member of a local or provincial autism group which receives government funding to operate they may discourage you from getting involved. Don’t let them discourage you. Act for your child and get involved. Feel free to contact Jean Lewis or me. Other contacts will also be provided soon. Contact your Member of Parliament and ask him or her to support autism coverage in Medicare. Just call them, write them or email them and let them know that is what you want. There is no need to debate them unless you want to do so but they know the need and they know effective treatment is available. Make your MP or anyone seeking to become your MP know that your vote depends on them making a commitment to include autism treatment in medicare coverage. NOW is the time to get involved, and GET POLITICAL.



Group pushes for autism funding
B.C. organization wants Ottawa to set standard for treatment

By MELANIE PATTEN The Canadian Press

A British Columbia-based group pushing to have costly treatments for autistic children covered under medicare has brought its fight to the East Coast.

Representatives from Families for Early Autism Treatment of B.C. met with dozens of parents and their autistic children in Dartmouth as part of a cross-country tour.

The non-profit organization has been calling on Ottawa to work with provincial and territorial governments to set a national standard for autism treatment.

The group also wants intensive therapy, known as applied behaviour analysis, covered for all Canadian children regardless of where they live or their family’s income.

“This is a health-care issue; this is science-based, effective treatment,” said Jean Lewis, a founding director of the group.

“It needs to be funded through health care so that it doesn’t matter if you live in British Columbia or Newfoundland, your health care is looked after in the same way as everyone else’s.”

The treatment, which can include one-on-one time with a trained professional, can cost up to $60,000 a year.

Without a national standard, coverage for autism treatment differs across the country. In Prince Edward Island, for example, coverage is assessed by income.

“That’s not the way they deal with a cancer patient, that’s not the way they deal with a cardiac problem,” said Shawn Murphy, the Liberal MP for Charlottetown. “And that’s not the way they should deal with this particular issue.”

Murphy said Ottawa has agreed to meet with the provincial and territorial governments by the end of the year to create a strategy.

Both levels of government will have to pitch in funding for treatment, support and diagnosis, said Murphy, who was recognized by the association for his public support for a national autism framework.

New Brunswick Liberal MP Andy Scott, Nova Scotia New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer, and Liberal Senator Jim Munson, were also recognized.

Jeff Reeves of Charlottetown, whose five-year-old son Owen has autism, attended the event to push Ottawa to provide more funding for autistic children.

Reeves said his son was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. He said Owen finally began treatment after sitting on a waiting list for nearly 18 months.

“Owen is very intelligent, but it’s his social interaction . . . eye contact, how to play with kids correctly,” said Reeves, 33, who is married and works in the IT industry.

“He’s made strides that we can’t believe . . . but if he would have gotten (treatment) at three, he could have been much further ahead.”

Owen’s treatment costs more than $10,000 a year, and Reeves said the province covers about 60 per cent. The family also pays for supplemental treatment out-of-pocket.

“The federal government has to do something about the funding for (the treatment),” said Reeves.

“The earlier they intervene, the better off these kids will be.

“If they leave them until they’re 18, 20 years old, they’re going to become drains on the system.”

Calgary Sun, May 27, 2007

B.C. autism group tours the nation

UPDATED: 2007-05-27 01:14:36 MST

Push for early treatment takes group to East Coast

By CP

DARTMOUTH, N.S. — A B.C.-based group pushing to have costly treatments for autistic children covered under medicare took its fight to the East Coast yesterday.

Representatives from Families for Early Autism Treatment of B.C. met with dozens of parents and their autistic children in Dartmouth, N.S., as part of a cross-country tour.

The non-profit organization has been calling on Ottawa to work with provincial and territorial governments to set a national standard for autism treatment.

The group also wants intensive therapy, known as applied behaviour analysis, covered for all Canadian children regardless of where they live or their family’s income.

“This is a health-care issue; this is science-based, effective treatment,” said Jean Lewis, a founding director of the group.

“It needs to be funded through health care so that it doesn’t matter if you live in British Columbia or Newfoundland, your health care is looked after in the same way as everyone else’s.”

The treatment, which can include one-on-one time with a trained professional, can cost up to $60,000 a year.

Without a national standard, coverage for autism treatment differs across the country.

In Prince Edward Island, for example, coverage is assessed by income.

“That’s not the way they deal with a cancer patient, that’s not the way they deal with a cardiac problem,” said Shawn Murphy, the Liberal MP for Charlottetown. “And that’s not the way they should deal with this issue.”

Murphy said Ottawa has agreed to meet with the provincial and territorial governments by the end of the year to create a strategy.

http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/National/2007/05/27/4211713-sun.html

May 27, 2007 Posted by | autism advocacy, autism disorder, Canada Health Act, FEAT BC, Jean Lewis | Leave a comment

National Autism Political Strategy, Dartmouth, May 26, 2007











Yesterday began early up at 5, off to gas up and then on the road to the Dartmouth Holiday Inn to meet the folks from FEAT-BC as part of their national autism strategy tour. Above, the charming ladies at the registration desk got everybody signed in and welcomed. My sister, Belinda Doherty, and Chris (aka Jim aka Bruce ) Armstrong arrive from the Valley. (Annapolis Valley), Shawn Murphy, Senator Jim Munson and Andy Scott exchange pleasantries, Andy and Jean Lewis from FEAT-BC, Denise Cameron Scott TRIES to grab a relaxing moment after a long journey but is bothered by a pesky blogger, Brian Rimpilaenan travelled from Fredericton for the event, and last but far from least, Peter Stoffer, who with Andy Scott in presenting a national autism strategy motion in the House of Commons cleans up on the door prize a beautiful piece of art by a BC First Nations artist.

It was a great day and the message we all shared was crystal clear. It is time for the autism community in Canada to GET POLITICAL. The courts have, as was noted in some of the speeches, washed their hands of Canada’s vulnerable autistic citizens. For autistic children in Canada section 15 has been turned into an empty and hollow promise by the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Auton and Deskin-Wyneberg. Political solutions are all that is left and political solutions, as past history in BC and Ontario has shown, will not come easy, with politicians, once elected, backtracking on and backing out of their promises. For some unknown reason judges and political leaders both feel free to disregard the compelling realities, needs and challenges of Canada’s autistic children and adults.

But politics remains the only solution and there has been progress, real progress, on the national political scene. The Scott-Stoffer motion put autism in the national political consciousness. The valian effort by Shawn Murphy was defeated on the votes but it continued that growth of political consciousness, and continued the momentum towards a true national political solution to Canada’s autism crisis.

The FEAT people intend to focus on ridings where the margin of victory in the last election was 2% or less and work on electing candidates with a commitment to autism. That looks like it will achieve some good results but it is not enough. Individual MP’s do not establish laws or otherwise govern in our party based parliamentary democracy. Parties, usually under tight Prime Ministerial direction, govern in Canada. That means the autism community must help elect parties that WILL introduce legislation to include ABA, and any other evidence based treatments for autism, in Canada’s national medicare coverage scheme. As Murphy, Munson, Stoffer and Scott all noted, that can be done in Canada’s cooperative form of federalism regardess of who has primary constitutional jurisdiction over Health care.

But our political history is clear on this subject. Medicare was an idea borne of the NDP (CCF) and was put into effect by the Liberals. More recently the Bloc Quebecois and Stephen Harper’s Neo-Con Conservatives all voted unanimously against including autism treatment in medicare. Any realistic national political strategy must acknowledge these realities. And we must be candid with the autism community and with Canadians. As a dad with an autistic son my party is the Autism Party which exists only in my mind and my heart, but guides my political actions. And it tells me that the best interests of autistic Canadians will be served by electing Liberals and NDP members of parliament so that one or either or both in a minority government situation, can actually pass legislation to include autism treatment coverage in Medicare. Let’s GET POLITICAL, let’s elect a government which will include autism treatment in Medicare so that autistic Canadians wherever they live will receive effective government funded autism treatment.

Thanks to Jim Young of FEAT-NS whose province hosted this event and the folks from FEAT-BC who have done so much for the cause of autism in Canada. Special thanks too, to the politicians with consciences, Andy Scott, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy and Jim Munson, all of whom have made serious efforts to advance the cause of autism nationally.

May 27, 2007 Posted by | Andy Scott, FEAT BC, Jean Lewis, Jim Munson, Jim Young, national autism strategy, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy, Stephen Harper | 1 Comment

National Autism Rally – Saturday May 26 – Dartmouth NS




[L to R – Andy Scott, Jim Munson, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy]

The Supreme Court has spoken folks – twice. In Auton and Deskin-Wyneberg the Supreme Court of Canada has made it crystal clear that the equality rights provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are of no help to famlies seeking government funding for treatment of their childrens’ autism. The SCC has left only one serous option to seek such remedy – the political arena. It is time to GET POLITICAL. FEAT-BC has been a Canadian leader in the fight for treatment for autistic Canadians and they will be at the Dartmouth Holiday Inn on Saturday May 26 to explain their national autism political strategy. Let’s join this effort and fight for treatment for autistic Canadians. And let’s say thank you to federal politicians who have fought for our autistic children – Andy Scott, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy and Jim Munson. I hope to see you at the Holiday Inn. If you will attend please check out the registration info below and register before May 20.

An Invitation to join Families for Early Autism
Treatment of BC

(F.E.A.T. of BC) to say THANK YOU to:

Shawn Murphy, MP

Andy Scott, MP

Peter Stoffer, MP

Senator Jim Munson

For their dedication and commitment to improving the
lives of
Canadians affected by autism…

….AND….

To hear about F.E.A.T. of BC’s exciting plans to “go
coastal” with
our national political initiative to achieve universal
health care
coverage for EVERY Canadian affected by autism.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Holiday Inn, Harbourview

101 Wyse Rd.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia,

B3A 1L9

2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

$25.00 per person – Refreshments will be served

Please make cheques payable to:

F.E.A.T. of BC, c/o Louise Witt, 2135 – 129th St., Surrey, BC, V4A 8H6

R.S.V.P. by May 20th. to Louise Witt, email: taylorwitt@shaw. ca or
call 604-538-1370.

For local enquiries: Luigi Rocca – luiroc@gmail. com 869-5444 (B) or
382-2239 (h)

May 13, 2007 Posted by | Andy Scott, autism disorder, FEAT BC, Jim Munson, national autism strategy, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy | Leave a comment

FEAT-BC Goes Coastal!!!


FEAT-BC is coming to Atlantic Canada.

FEAT and the families involved with FEAT have actively led the fight for autism treatment and services on the legal and political fronts in Canada. Atlantic Canadians with an autistic family member, autistic persons and persons with an interest in autism are encouraged to attend this event if at all possible.

This is huge folks. This is a great opportunity to thank political leaders like Shawn Murphy, Andy Scott, Peter Stoffer and Jim Munson who have cared; who have tried to help and are still trying to help persons with autism in Canada. Let’s greet the folks from BC and show them “the very best”. Lets thank Andy, Peter, Jim and Shawn. And let’s send a clear and strong message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and federal Health Minister Tony Clement that their callous disregard for the health and well being of autistic Canadians will not go unchallenged.

I have already made my reservations at the Holiday Inn Dartmouth and I hope to see everyone there!!


“Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC Goes Coastal”

Vancouver……Ottawa……Toronto……Halifax

An Invitation to join Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC

(F.E.A.T. of BC) to say THANK YOU to:

Shawn Murphy, MP

Andy Scott, MP

Peter Stoffer, MP

Senator Jim Munson

For their dedication and commitment to improving the lives of
Canadians affected by autism…

….AND….

To hear about F.E.A.T. of BC’s exciting plans to “go coastal” with
our national political initiative to achieve universal health care
coverage for EVERY Canadian affected by autism.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Holiday Inn, Harbourview

101 Wyse Rd.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia,

B3A 1L9

2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

$25.00 per person – Refreshments will be served

Please make cheques payable to:

F.E.A.T. of BC, c/o Louise Witt, 2135 – 129th St., Surrey, BC, V4A 8H6

R.S.V.P. by May 20th. to Louise Witt, email: taylorwitt@shaw. ca or
call 604-538-1370.

For local enquiries: Luigi Rocca – luiroc@gmail. com 506 869-5444 (B) or
506 382-2239 (h)

*Donations are needed and welcomed! All donations will be used to
assist in F.E.A.T.’s national political initiative to achieve our
goal – universal health care coverage for EVERY Canadian affected by
autism.

Cheques should be payable to F.E.A.T. of BC, c/o the above address.

“We owe it to these families, to society and ourselves to share not
only the burden of autism, but also the collective responsibility to
act.”

– Senator Jim Munson

“The access Canadian children with autism have to the treatment they
need sould not depend on how much money their parents have, nor in
which province they live.”

– Shawn Murphy, MP

“We have the opportunity to positively change the lives of thousands
of autistic children and their families and ensure these Canadians
will achieve their potential.”

Andy Scott, MP

“In a caring and progressive Canada, children with autism have a
right to health care.”

– Peter Stoffer, MP

May 6, 2007 Posted by | Andy Scott, autism awareness, autism disorder, Canada Health Act, FEAT BC, Halifax, Jim Munson, Peter Stoffer, Rally, Shawn Murphy | Leave a comment

Autism Advocacy – Tony Clement Loses Composure, Lashes Out

The Honorable Tony Clement Canadian Health Minister has lost his composure and lashed out at FEAT-BC because of its plans to hold him accountable for his inaction in addressing Canada’s autism crisis. Mr. Clement expressed his outrage that the FEAT organization would actually organize to bring about his electoral defeat. Mr. Clement accused the FEAT group of being extremists for wanting to amend the Canada Health Act to ensure funding for autism treatment across Canada. Apparently the Liberal and NDP MP’s who voted for that precise measure are also extremists in Mr. Clement’s narrow view. In expressing his outrage Mr. Clement also declared that he is “the hardest-working minister autism advocates have ever had“. How Tony Clement has the audacity to make such a clearly nonsense claims is beyond me. After defeating the motion which would have provided universal coverage for autism treatment in Canada Mr. Clement’s government provided ZERO dollars, $0, for autism in its recent budget. Mr. Clement works very hard at doing what he is told by Stephen Harper but there is no evidence that he has so much as lifted a finger to help the cause of autistic children and adults.

The hardest-working minister autism advocates have ever had? That claim is a stinker if ever there was one Mr. Clement.

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=c1cddc05-246f-4e9c-9455-be53df75eeb3

April 22, 2007 Posted by | autism advocacy, autism awareness, autism disorder, autism treatment, election, FEAT, FEAT BC, Stephen Harper, Tony Clement | Leave a comment

Autism Advocacy in Impending Federal Election


FEAT-BC, which has been at the forefront of autism advocacy in Canada, has heard the message from the Supreme Court of Canada. With two SCC decisions in Auton and Deskin-Wynberg denying the courts as effective avenues for seeking equality protection for autistic children in hand the time is now for political action and FEAT-BC is prepared to jump into the fray – again. The strategy recognizes the need for an effective concentration of effort and resources by targeting ridings of vulnerable politicians who have acted against the cause of autism in Canada. As the attached article from MacLean’s illustrates, FEAT-BC is very interested in one Tony Clement, the federal Health Minister who has fought against Federal government help for autistic persons in Canada , and who did not win by much in his last election.

Watch Out Tony! What goes around comes around!

Warning to low-hanging politicians

Parents of autistic kids take aim at Tony Clement

JOHN GEDDES | April 23, 2007 |

Imagine a Tory who won a seat in the last election by only a few votes. Who would such an MP least want to have to fight, alongside the usual opposition rivals, to survive in the coming campaign? How about enraged, well-organized parents who accuse Ottawa of failing to assure their children of essential medical care?

They might not know it yet, but this unsettling scenario faces certain carefully targeted Conservatives. Parents of autistic children plan to take aim at selected government MPs who squeaked in last time by two per cent of the vote or less. And the most vulnerable MP of all could be the architect of the federal autism policy that has the parents so upset — Health Minister Tony Clement, who won his Ontario riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka last time by a mere 29 votes.

Autism groups are cagey about revealing details of their plan of attack before an election is on. But one Ontario activist told Maclean’s, “Clement is like a pear ready to drop from the tree.” B.C.’s Families for Early Autism Treatment was active in a few closely fought B.C. ridings in 2006. Some of the group’s core members, including director Jean Lewis, are scheduled to attend a meeting in Halifax on May 26 to pass along tactical lessons to East Coast parents of autistic children.

But if Stephen Harper’s minority falls before then, the B.C. firebrands plan to cancel their Halifax event and make a campaign detour to Ontario of up to two weeks. “We will certainly be in Parry Sound-Muskoka,” Lewis said. The B.C. group and their allies demand federal action to extend medicare coverage to full early autism treatment, which can cost $35,000 a year for young children.

Successive federal Liberal and Tory governments have held that deciding what conditions are insured is up to the provinces. Lewis says autism activists will back individual candidates who support their position, but not parties. “When the Liberals were in power,” she said, “they were as pathetic as the Conservatives are now.”

http://tinyurl.com/2d9965

April 20, 2007 Posted by | autism advocacy, autism disorder, autism health, autism treatment, Canada Health Act, FEAT BC, Jean Lewis, Stephen Harper, Tony Clement | Leave a comment

FEAT BC Response to Betrayal of Autistic Children by Mike Lake & Conservatives

Personally I found the actions of Alberta MP Mike Lake in voting down Bill C-304 one of the more disheartening aspects of that defeat. Mr. Lake is a parent of an autistic child in Alberta where the province has the money to fund treatment for autism. He pretends to have the cause of autistic children at heart. Yet he was the front man for the Conservative Party which killed a bill which would have opened up funding for autistic children to receive evidence based effective treatement wherever they reside in Canada. Mr. Lake’s wisdom and advice? Go after your provincial governments! What Mr. Lake does not mention is that not all governments have the cash resources to provide the treatment. And he has the nerve to smear Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy for daring to bring the bill to the floor of the House of Commons? You can claim to care and advocate for autistic children in Canada Mr. Lake. Few parents of autistic children in Canada will believe your audacious claim.

The response of FEAT BC to Mr. Lake’s audacious betrayal of autistic children follows:

Ottawa’s Ongoing Refusal to Provide Autism Health Care
Why Federal Conservatives and Mike Lake MP are Wrong in Killing Bill C-304!

On February 21, 2007, MPs were asked after several hours of debate at Second Reading to vote on whether to refer Bill C-304 to the Committee Stage for detailed examination or whether to kill the Bill. Regrettably, the Conservative and Bloc Quebecois MPs ganged up to kill it, along with any hope that families with children afflicted by autism may have had that the discrimination against them in Canada’s Medicare system may come to an end within the foreseeable future. On that day Alberta MP Mike Lake issued a “Media Statement” explaining his motives for voting against Bill C-304 and many Conservative MPs have been sending it to parents of autistic children as an explanation of why they refused to allow the Bill to be examined by a House Committee and opted instead to defeat it. The Media Statement is a disingenuous, flawed and misleading text that must be refuted. The words in bold below are those of Mike Lake. The text in italics is the annotation.

As background, please consider this:
• The cause and cure of autism are not yet known.
• The medical and scientific community have known for over twenty years that the early diagnosis of autism combined with the immediate application of Intensive Behaviour Intervention (IBI) therapy treatment based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) can lead to as many as 48% of autistic children developing to such an extent that they become indistinguishable from average kids. IBI/ABA constitutes the core healthcare need of autistic children.
• The “universality” of Medicare, one of they key five principles of the Canada Health Act (CHA), does not apply to autism. Regrettably, not one province offers the treatment under Medicare. While some provinces offer nothing, or next to nothing, others offer treatment programs under social service departments that are plagued with lack of resources and expertise, as well as unconscionable waiting lists and discriminatory age cut-offs. Of all the provinces Alberta is considered to be the most helpful to parents in terms of financial assistance and access to treatment, and many parents have opted to move to Alberta solely because of their child’s autism.

MEDIA STATEMENT of MIKE LAKE, MP dated February 21, 2007

To Whom It May Concern,

Tonight, I will vote on a Private Member’s Bill titled “An Act to provide for the development of a national strategy for the treatment of autism and amend the Canada Health Act.”

I have a son with autism. I have heard from countless other parents of children with autism, virtually all of whom are wholeheartedly encouraging me and my colleagues in all parties to support this bill. There is nobody who wants to help these families more than I do. Nobody.

Mr. Lake here conveniently omitted making any reference to the reason why “countless” parents were encouraging him to support Bill C-304. Any discussion of whether and how to address a problem has to begin with some discussion of the nature of the problem. The fact is that Medicare has a huge discriminatory gap. Between the time that Bill C-304 was tabled (May 17, 2006) and defeated, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that the prevalence rate of autism has increased (again). 1 in every 150 children can be expected to be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In response to this growing public health crisis the U.S. government passed the ”Combating Autism Act” which will pour an additional $1 billion over five years into improved autism diagnosis, treatment and research. In contrast, the Canadian government adopted an ostrich approach to crisis management.

If I were to vote to support Bill C-304, some parents of children with autism would be very happy with me; my colleagues who disagree with me would support me because of my unique family experience; my constituents would applaud my compassion and sympathize with me; and there seemingly would be no downside.

The problem is this. Bill C-304 is bad legislation. It proposes an ad hoc amendment to the Canada Health Act that changes the entire meaning of the document. It would set a precedent that would eventually undermine the entire Canadian health care system when taken to its logical extension.

If there are some flaws with a proposed piece of legislation, but its underlying purpose and intent are valid and good, then why not try to fix it at the committee stage and propose amendments? Why not offer positive alternatives, instead of killing the Bill?

The clairvoyance about the death of Medicare is a shameful attempt at fear mongering that is akin to saying the doomsday clock will move a minute closer to midnight if autistic children get access to public health insurance. Bill C-304 contains two parts. The first, which Mr. Lake completely omitted making any reference to, would require the Minister of Health to meet with his provincial counterparts and develop a National Autism Strategy and require that he table the plan of action. If this part of the Bill was not a problem, then why not support it or at least propose an amendment or alternative Bill that would contain this part? Candour would necessitate that at least this first element of the Bill be recognized for what it is: something that is long overdue and that would be good if it finally happened.

Regarding the proposed amendment to the CHA, what is this “logical extension” that Mr. Lake is referring to? He provides no explanation of why such an amendment would undermine the “entire” Medicare system or justification for his hyperbole. The sky will not fall any more than the institution of marriage collapsed after the legalization of same-sex marriage.

If this Bill were to pass, autism would be the one and only disorder or disease named in the Canada Health Act. Cancer is not named. Neither is diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Why autism and not these? Why not Down Syndrome? Why not Schizophrenia?

In the interpretive section of the CHA, there are named services specified under “extended health care services”. Moreover, the regulations provide some of the operational rules for the CHA. If it had the will to fix the autism treatment problem, the federal government certainly has more than enough levers, legal and financial, to get the job done.

Mr. Lake misses the point about adding autism treatment to the CHA. Cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc. are already dealt with and covered by Medicare. If you feel sick you go to the hospital and if you are diagnosed with cancer you get treatment. Medicare covers the core healthcare needs of those Canadians who suffer from those medical problems. However, autism is not covered. Medicare discriminates against those who suffer from autism by not providing the recognized core treatment. That’s why the autism community has pursued every avenue it could to get autism treatment into Medicare, including this one.

Under the Canada Health Act, the provinces are clearly responsible for decisions on which medical treatments they will fund. If we are to maintain the integrity of the Act, only the provinces can make those decisions.

While it is true that the provinces have the right to decide which treatments to cover, they do not have the right to decide which people to cover or not cover. Everyone must be in Medicare for his or her core health needs. The functional effect of not funding autism treatment is that the provinces exclude from Medicare an entire (and growing), identifiable group of Canadians.

Mr. Lake argument here is a classic illustration of obstinate thinking. If a statutory amendment will affect other parties, the traditional Canadian procedure is to consult with those parties and attempt to develop consensus. Negotiations occasionally result in surprising and positive outcomes, as was the case with the Health Accord of September 2004, which involved billions of dollars and specified specific medical services (except autism). There is a crisis, which by any measure is an epidemic, and the federal government has had 11 consecutive years of budget surpluses. There is no reason why the federal Minister of Health could not raise this matter and the potential amendment with his provincial counterparts. If this element of the Bill is so problematic, why not have the Standing Committee on Health examine the Bill and explore alternatives such as the “Combating Autism Act” in the U.S.? Regrettably, now that Bill C-304 is dead no House committee will have a chance to explore the feasibility of this process or alternatives.

In my opinion, it is completely unacceptable for any province not to fund Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) for those who need it. If voters feel as strongly as I do about this, they must let their provincial governments know and then hold them accountable at election time.

This argument is clearly specious. It is exceedingly difficult for a minority (e.g. families struggling with autism) to “hold government accountable” for any specific policy failings, including the healthcare neglect of their children. They simply do not have enough votes to do what Mr. Lake says.

The autism community has nonetheless been letting the provincial governments know for years about the need for ABA in Medicare and the responses have always been inadequate. Time and again, in practically every province, and with every political party, the matter has either been ignored, or excuses have been proffered with crocodile tears, or, as was the case in Ontario during the last election, promises were made that were broken. For example, former Opposition Leader Dalton McGuinty stated in writing during the last election in a letter to a mother of an autistic child that the age six cut-off from treatment in Ontario was discrimination and that if he was elected he would do away with it. Once he became Premier he not only continued the practice, he continued litigating a case on the issue. When the government lost at the Superior Court he immediately announced an appeal to the Court of Appeal. When the “Auton”case from BC was heard before the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004 every province and the federal government intervened against the kids being able to access treatment in Medicare. The fact is that the provinces have been negligent and irresponsible on the autism file and federal leadership is needed. If Mr. Lake feels as strongly about this as he says, what has he done to address the crisis (apart from contributing to the death of Bill C-304)?

The sad thing is that Shawn Murphy, the Liberal Member of Parliament who is sponsoring this Bill, knows all of this. He has been in Parliament since 2000 and would never have supported this piece of legislation when he was in government.

Children with autism need treatment. Accusatory personal arguments among politicians is not going to help. The autism community is not naïve. Political parties frequently make promises and fail to fulfill them. What any MP would have done yesterday is not relevant to the February 21, 2007 vote on whether to refer Bill C-304 to the Committee stage. The autism community is grateful that Bill C-304 was tabled in the House and that its contents had to be addressed.

What he apparently doesn’t understand is that this is not an appropriate “wedge issue” to exploit for political gain. These are real people, with real challenges, who are absolutely desperate for real solutions. This Private Member’s Bill gives false hope to families who deserve so much more than to be treated as pawns in some political game.

It is highly inappropriate to call the wholesale healthcare neglect of tens of thousands of Canadian children a “wedge issue”. This trivializes and minimizes what is in fact a catastrophic issue for families who are going broke and/or falling apart trying to pay for medically necessary autism treatment on their own.

Before Mr. Lake starts to accuse anyone of spreading false hopes he should take a look at his own Party. They are the governing party now with the hands on the levers of power. They cannot blame anyone else if they used false hopes to get into power with no intention of using it as stated. The Conservatives ran in the last election (2006) on Healthcare and Childcare. Autistic kids need both. The Conservative platform certainly provided hope. Now we know it was false.

Before the election many of his Conservative colleagues attended autism rallies on Parliament Hill and spoke about the need to do something, including speaking at press conferences, including Colin Carrie, Steven Fletcher, Pierre Poilievre, Gary Goodyear, Peter Goldring, Guy Lauzon, Stockwell Day, Randy Kamp, Gord Brown, James Lunney, Mark Warawa, Scott Reid, Carol Skelton, and Marjory LeBreton.

Pierre Poilievre had an Op-Ed article of his published in “The Hill Times” in March 2005 in which he accused the then government of a “shameful low in Liberal hypocrisy” for intervening in the “Auton” case against autistic children. He further went on to say ”So what can be done? We must amend the Health Act so Medicare will include effective, scientifically validated autism treatment for children with autism;” Now that Pierre Poilievre is a Cabinet Minister and voted against this amendment with his caucus, shall we call it a “new low in Conservative hypocrisy”?

On the first anniversary of the “Auton” decision Alberta MP Peter Goldring spoke at an autism rally on Parliament Hill and issued a November 17, 2005 press release titled “Golding calls for funding for early autism treatment: federal government has national role” in which he stated “the current situation of no financial contribution from the federal government, specifically dedicated to the early treatment of autism, is unacceptable”. He further added, ”The true measure of a government is in how it treats its citizens who are most in need. At present, in terms of the needs of the many autistic children across Canada, our federal government measures very poorly. Things must change, soon”.

Similarly, B.C. MP Randy Kamp also attended the rally and issued a press release (November 21, 2005) in which he stated “Minister Dosanjh has been unsupportive of autism groups since his days as Premier of B.C. I understand their frustration with him. As the federal Health Minister, he now has an opportunity to do the right thing and I call upon him to have compassion for autistic children and move forward with a National Autism Strategy”.

On a more positive note, in 2006 Mr. Murphy’s Liberal colleague, Andy Scott introduced a Private Member’s Motion, M-172, on a national strategy for autism. To his credit, Mr. Scott designed his motion not to divide the House, but to build consensus among members of all parties. Mr. Scott’s carefully considered motion chose to focus on areas within the federal realm, and the Government (and the vast majority of members of the House) agreed with him – with a few minor amendments.

The fact is that a motion is not binding and is not law. The motion was watered down by the Conservatives who insisted on amendments to the original motion in order to make it palatable enough to support. The passage of the motion was historic but no one is expecting it to result in any government action and certainly no meaningful improvements with respect to access to treatment.

What is interesting in terms of action is that after almost a full year of sending letters to parents saying that autism is a provincial issue and has nothing to do with the federal government, the day before a previously announced FEAT BC autism rally on Parliament Hill in late November, 2006, the federal Health Minister Tony Clement held a press conference which he began by stating that the autism situation is now so serious, that doing nothing was “not an option”. He proceeded to outline five new autism initiatives that by his own description are “modest”. To many in the autism community, that is an inflated exaggeration. “Exploring the establishment of a research chair”, holding a “symposium” and creating a website will not help a single autistic child get access to treatment anytime soon. The autism community is tired of feigned consultation, showcase conferences, website window-dressing and motions with no teeth. Our kids need treatment.

When I first saw Mr. Murphy’s Private Member’s Bill I suggested to him that perhaps he might consider changing his course and introduce something that would build on what was done by Mr. Scott rather than play politics. Mr. Murphy’s actions obviously demonstrate that he is not focused on helping families dealing with autism. My sincere hope is that every other Member of Parliament will put the interest of these families ahead of their own political ambition.

Rhetoric and personal attacks aside, why won’t Mike Lake change his own course and actually do something for autism? What has Mike Lake done to promote the interests of the autism community besides standing with his autistic son next to Minister Clement during the November 2006 press conference or providing MPs in his party with this empty letter to justify the continuation of what most Canadians consider intolerable.

In a December 2004 Ipsos-Reid public opinion poll 84% of Canadians indicated that they supported the inclusion of autism treatment in Medicare. Has Mike Lake organized any information/education sessions for other MPs about autism and the needs of the autism community? Has he contacted autism groups with a view to consulting on a strategic approach to advancing the community’s interests? Has he tabled any motion or Private Members’ Bill of his own? Has he lobbied to get the treatment of autism on the agenda of the Standing House Committee on Health? Etc… If so, he has not made it public.

What we do know is that in 2004 an autism treatment petition was drafted and posted at http://www.CanadaAutism.com and that the community supplied thousands of signatures on the petition to MPs for tabling in the House. The petition calls on the government to create a graduate level teaching chair in IBI/ABA at a university in each province and to include autism treatment in Medicare. The petition was tabled 88 times by dozens of MPs. Shortly after his arrival in Ottawa Mike Lake met in his new offices with two members of the community. He was presented with several signed pages of the petition. Although tabling a petition is not synonymous with supporting a petition, Mike Lake is the only MP we are aware of who took a look at the autism petition and immediately gave it back stating that he refused to table it.

Personally, I am determined to fulfill my commitment to families dealing with autism as stated in my maiden speech in the House of Commons, “that I will do everything that I can do to promote action to the full extent that the federal government can play a role within its area of authority.”

And what has Mike Lake done to date? What specifically will Mike Lake do in the future? What action is he referring to (besides voting against Bill C-304 and criticizing the MP who tabled it)?

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this statement, the easy decision for me would be to vote in favour of this legislation. However, I was not elected to make the easy decisions. I was elected to make the right decisions, and in this case the right decision is to vote against Bill C-304.

Wrong. The easiest thing is to vote against change and to preserve the status quo. The hardest thing is to promote change and improvement in institutions where the culture is one of a herd mentality. Doing what the Party leaders tell you to do is easy. Voting against their wishes is what takes courage and is considerably harder. The right decision would have been to vote in favour of sending the Bill to the Committee Stage for a review and examination there of the problem and whether the Bill is the best means to solve it. By voting against the Bill, we will have no National Autism Strategy and certainly no treatment in Medicare anytime soon. However, since the Conservatives came to power, the federal government has on a regular basis been announcing the creation of a National Cancer Strategy, a National Heart Health Strategy, a National Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Research Strategy, etc. Why is it that certain medical conditions are more attractive to the federal Conservatives and more deserving of special status than autism? The autism community is seeking equality and equal access. Nothing more, nothing less. If disabled children cannot count on Mike Lake and the Conservative Party for equality, can you?

For more information about the discriminatory exclusion of children with autism from Medicare,
please call Families for Early Autism Treatment of British Columbia (FEAT BC) at 604-534-6956
http://featbc.org

March 8, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, Canada Health Act, Conservative Party, FEAT BC, medicare, Mike Lake | Leave a comment