Bill C-327 (Historical)
Canadian Autism Day Act
An Act respecting a Canadian Autism Day
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Don Davies NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
World Autism Awareness Day Act
Private Members' Business
December 15th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to put a few thoughts on the record on the important subject of autism and the establishment of a day when we might recognize this challenge that affects so many families across the country.
We know so little about autism and need to do so much more work on it. Most important, we must provide some meaningful concrete support to some of these families that, in many instances, spend their life savings, mortgage their homes and give everything they absolutely have out of love for their children in the hope that one day those children will be able to participate in society in the way we all want our children to participate.
The New Democrats support the Senate bill to designate April 2 of each year as World Autism Awareness Day. However, every day we should be thinking about what we can to lift the burden of so many people in our ridings and across the country. Every day they wake up to the reality that they have very special children who have some very special needs and they hope they will get the help they require.
I do not think anyone here has not one day or another, while back in our ridings, had a meeting with some family that has shared the challenges of having such a special child in the family, the pain, the suffering and the grief that goes along with that because the family cannot find the services and support in the community.
Government does not seem to be able to find a way. As a provincial member of the Ontario legislature, I met with groups of families in my riding office. We tried to case manage and work our way through how we might take advantage of some of the very scarce resources that were available through the provincial government.
I guess the provincial government has tried to the best it can with the limited resources it has available to it, but it is not even close to enough. It hardly scratches the surface. That is why we will support this minimal effort to bring some focus and attention to this reality by supporting the other parties in the House in recognizing autism on April 2 of each year.
Bill S-211, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day, supports the acknowledgement of the families affected by autism spectrum disorders and the declaration that April 2 be recognized as world autism awareness day.
Many of my colleagues, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, the member for Vancouver Kingsway and the member for Sudbury, at one time or another have brought forward bills to the House that if passed and honoured by the government, would have provided, in a very serious and meaningful way, the kind of support that families need, which would go a long way to resolving some of the financial difficulties that come with trying to provide the services and support. I know this from having met with families and having listened to them. I heard their pleas.
I know these three members have brought bills before the House. In fact, the member for Vancouver Kingsway brought a similar bill to the one we discussing. Hopefully Bill C-327, a Canadian autism day, will pass in the House.
The member for Sudbury wanted to amend the Canada Health Act so autism could be brought under that umbrella. By amending the act, resources would not be limited in the way they are now. Families could tap into those resources and get the help they needed and get on with their lives.
The member for Sudbury headed up the United Way at one time in Sudbury. He oversaw a number of programs and initiatives that helped the people of that community in meaningful ways. He called for a national strategy on autism, which would have allowed us to respond to this challenge in a more concrete way.
My colleagues and I have no hesitation whatsoever in supporting the Senate bill before us today. However, we call on the government to become more involved and to do something more concrete other than simply naming a day for people to focus on autism and learn more about it.
We could be providing services to families 365 days of the year. One of our most fundamental responsibilities is to look after those in our communities who are most at risk and in need of services so they can be socially included in their communities, in their schools and in their recreational programs. We could do this if only there were the political will.
The initial bill, Bill C-211 put forward by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, called on the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that the cost of autism therapy, more commonly known as ABA or IBI, would be covered by their health care insurance plans of every province and territory. That would mean the federal government would have to sit down with the provinces and territories. It could do that now, as they renegotiate the agreement, and ensure it includes in the transfer of funds to the provinces and territories the kinds of money and resources needed to bring autism therapy under the Canada Health Act.
The provinces want to do this. Between 1990 and 2003, I spoke with officials in the Ontario ministry of health. They would love to do this, but they do not have the resources. Let us sit down and talk with them and work out a way to ensure the provinces get the money they need to make this happen.
When the bill was first introduced as Bill C-211 there was a need for the government to engage itself in discussions with the provinces so autism therapy, ABA, IBI, and other therapies, would be covered by the health care insurance plan in every province and territory. This way families, which found themselves mortgaging their homes, in some cases bankrupting themselves so they could look after their children to give them a good start in life and some opportunity in life to participate, would have the resources they needed.
We believe amendments need to be made to section 2 of the Canada Health Act. We believe ABA and IBI should be listed in the act as medically necessary services or required services for people with autism spectrum disorder.
I remember my colleague, Shelley Martel, the critic for health in Ontario, the member for Nickel Belt, also called for this. I would join with her today to say let us get on with this and get it done but, at the very least, let us support this day of autism awareness.
World Autism Awareness Day Act
Private Members' Business
October 29th, 2010 / 1:30 p.m.
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure as a member of Parliament, a Canadian citizen and a father to stand and speak and offer the full support of the New Democratic Party for Bill S-211. I also would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga for bringing this bill forward from the Senate.
It is also a pleasure to speak to a bill that has the uniform support of all members of the House and, I dare say, of all parties of the House as we all join together in trying to shed some light and increase support for Canadian citizens and in fact anyone in the world who is touched by autism spectrum disorder.
I am particularly pleased about this because one of the first bills I introduced in the House when I was elected in 2008 was Bill C-327, An Act respecting a Canadian Autism Day. At that time I said I was proud to introduce legislation that would recognize the work of those involved in every aspect of this subject and as well to recognize those who are affected by autism in any manner, whether as a person who has the disorder or as a family member or friend of someone who does.
My bill would recognize, as this one does, the challenges faced by friends and families of people with this condition and in particular parents who raise an autistic child and all the special people who work with and advocate for them. It is only right and long overdue to mark and appreciate these challenges. At that time my bill sought to make April 23 world autism day and to make that a Canadian autism day. I am pleased to say this concept is being pushed forward as well and I join with all the members of the House who have done so much work on this.
The creation of a national or international autism day brings light and attention to those who fall on the autism spectrum and to those who tirelessly support a family member or friend. It reminds us that we require so much more in terms of funding for research, support and coverage under the Canada Health Act, which is long overdue.
We have heard a lot of very excellent descriptions of the technicalities of this disorder, so I will be brief on this, but of course autism spectrum disorder refers to the vast continuum of severity and developmental impairment of unknown origin. It is estimated that one in every 165 children is born with a type of ASD. There are approximately 200,000 Canadians estimated to be living with an ASD. I say ASD because, as my colleague from the Bloc just pointed out, there are different types of autism spectrum disorder ranging from autism to Asperger syndrome to pervasive developmental disorder of unknown origin.
The most common autism spectrum disorder is found in young boys. In fact it is four times more common in boys than in girls, and autism is not related to race, ethnicity, family income, lifestyle or parenting. There is no standard type or “typical” person with an autism spectrum disorder.
This disorder is marked by some very specific signs and, of course, people fall within a wide spectrum with this disorder, from people who are profoundly affected all the way to extremely high functioning individuals. ASD is marked by difficulty with social skills. Some people with ASD show no interest in other people whatsoever. Others might be interested but not know how to talk to, play with, or relate to others. Initiating and maintaining a conversation is usually difficult for people with ASDs. It is marked by problems with communication. Speech and language skills may begin to develop, may begin late and then be lost, may develop more slowly or in fact may never develop.
Without appropriate intensive early intervention, about 40% of children with ASDs do not talk at all. People with ASDs are often unable to interpret nonverbal communication such as social distance cues or the use of gestures and facial cues that most of us take for granted. There can be repeated behaviours and restricted interests. People with ASDs may have repeated ritualistic actions such as spinning, repeated rocking, staring, finger flapping and sometimes hitting themselves.
They may also have very restricted interests, talking about or focusing obsessively on only one thing, idea or activity. Their habits may seem odd to others. Small changes in the environment or in a daily routine that most people can manage might trigger acute distress.
There is an unusual response to sensations in many cases. People with ASD may have both auditory and visual processing problems. Although sensory problems vary in autism, this can occur from mild to severe levels with over and under sensitivities of all types.
Last, it is important to note that people with ASD often have very unique abilities. Some have an accurate and detailed memory for information and facts, high visual recall and a superb ability to manipulate data for useful purposes. They may be able to concentrate for long periods of time on particular tasks and be far more attentive to details than most of us.
We have heard a lot about the scientific and technical aspect, but I want to talk about the human aspect.
Outside my door in Vancouver Kingsway, I have noticed over the past several months a grandfather who walks by every day, pulling a wagon with a young girl in it. The young girl appears to be about five or six years old. I went out the other day and I brought a little Canadian flag to give to her. When I approached her, she turned away and was absolutely unable to interact with me at all. It quickly became apparent to me that this young girl obviously had ASD. I was so touched by the fact that her grandfather, every day without fail, would take her out into the community. It made me realize how much ASD is in our communities.
My youngest daughter, Cerys Davies, suffers from a global developmental delay. It is not autism. She has many friends because we have had to become part of a community of parents who have children with differences of all types, ranging from Down's Syndrome to autism to physical and mental challenges of all types.
We must remember that we cannot just focus on autism. We have to focus on all developmental disorders that affect children, including those that are of unknown origin and even those that defy diagnosis. Hundreds of thousands of children in Canada are going to school every day without support, whether from a health care point of view or an educational point of view or social support point of view. We have to broaden this to include all of those children.
I want to also point out that world-class research is being done in my riding on autism. Dr. Anthony Bailey had the very first endowed chair in the world researching autism. He is based out of Children's Hospital, where he does world-class research, particularly genetics in the autism field. There is absolute excitement and endless possibilities for what we could do for people with autism because of this kind of research. I commend Dr. Bailey for that.
I want to quote from an email I received this morning from Lenore Clemens, who lives in my riding. She said:
Thank you, we need so many more resources, especially for those who have not received a definitive diagnosis BUT still all have the same general problem. No definitive diagnosis that fits a funding box, no supports for families or those with disabilities even with the same need for resources & therapeutic interventions. Doctors often admit even when they, themselves, can't make a definite diagnosis therapies & supports are needed but not available. Another huge issue is government, like the BC Liberals, is removing eligibility for supports from legislation...This is especially parents and schools. And a reminder to the House: tax credits don't work for the poor.
Another person wrote and said:
—what's happening in the Community Living sector in BC. They're moving developmentally disabled people out of group homes (shutting those down) into “home shares” with people they find on Craigslist. CLBC has to cut $22 million this fiscal year.
The bottom line is we need to have therapy and support for everybody with autism and all development disorders from childhood right through to adulthood.
This shows that it is not enough to declare a world autism day, as laudable and important as that is. We need to vastly increase the funding for not only research, which I give credit to the government for doing, but also to ensure we have supports for families and children at an early age. It is well known that early intervention for children with autism, as with every developmental disorder, is key to helping those children obtain the best possible results. We need to ensure there is support in schools, support from doctors and social supports in our communities to get these people the help they deserve.
Canadian Autism Day Act
February 25th, 2009 / 3:30 p.m.
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-327, An Act respecting a Canadian Autism Day.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce an act respecting national autism day. I am proud to introduce legislation that would recognize the work and struggles of those with autism.
It also would recognize the challenges faced by friends and families of people with this condition, in particular parents who raise an autistic child and all the special people who work with and advocate for them. It is right and overdue to mark and appreciate these challenges.
So much about autism remains to be discovered, and I know many in the House have called for additional funding for research, support and coverage under the Canada Health Act. I repeat that call today.
The creation of a national autism day will bring light and attention to those who fall on the autism spectrum and to those who tirelessly support a family member or friend with autism, people like Abbe and Lucas Gates, Patti Bacchus and Dawn Steele.
I ask all members to support the bill.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)