Canadian Autism Day Act
An Act respecting a Canadian Autism Day
Don Davies NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
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World Autism Awareness Day Act
Private Members' Business
October 23rd, 2012 / 6:35 p.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say at the outset, on behalf of the NDP, that we have agreed that the debate tonight will hopefully be cut short, that this will be approved on a voice vote. Therefore, there is no controversy, in case people start spinning this up. There were discussions held on this, and we certainly agreed with that.
We would welcome the opportunity to make a few remarks about the bill. First, I would like to thank the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, as well as the senator who came before the health committee and spoke about the bill. We had a good discussion. We were very clear at the health committee, when we dealt with it a week ago, that we in the NDP very much support a day in recognition of autism and the impact it has on Canadian families.
As the member alluded to, if there is any slight criticism it is that this really is a bill about an awareness day. We would hope to see much more meaningful action take place, as many members in the community have called for, families who are living with autism. There are some very severe needs that need to be addressed. For us, this is an issue about certainly giving recognition but needing to do more than that. That is our point.
I would point out that a number of our members have also had bills on autism. The member for Vancouver Kingsway, put forward Bill C-351. That has been a very important bill that he put forward. There is also the member for Sudbury, who has had two bills calling for action to better support those living with autism. That is the kind of meaningful action we need to see.
We in the NDP are somewhat concerned that for a number of years the government has not taken the kind of leadership that is required on this issue. We do see many organizations calling for a national strategy. In fact, there were promises made to have a national strategy on autism. That is something that is very important to do. I know the member for Kitchener—Conestoga probably supports that. I hope he will encourage his government to now go further and build on the day of awareness we have.
The only other point I would like to make is that much has been said overall in this debate, in the first hours of debate, but there is new information that is coming out. One of the issues is an issue of gender, which on the surface appears to be an issue about age. This has to do with where early intervention is provided.
The fact is that there are some estimates that the average age of diagnosis for a girl on the autism spectrum is 12, whereas for boys it is between the ages of 5 and 7. What happens is that, because early intervention often takes place around the age of 5 or 6, many girls are actually being cut out of that early intervention.
This was something that was brought to my attention by a family in Nova Scotia who actually have three daughters who are on the autism spectrum. It is something to factor in about what needs to be done, to understand the kinds of supports families need to have and to understand, when we say early intervention, that it actually has to be appropriate to the ages of children when they are diagnosed. Certainly intervention is important, but it has to be appropriate and it has to meet the needs of the children at the ages they are being diagnosed.
I did want to make that point today, because I do think it is something that helps build the debate on this issue. In conclusion, I would again say that, in the NDP, we have supported this bill. We supported it at committee. We are happy to let it go on a voice vote today, which means it will be approved.
However, we would use this opportunity to say to the government members who have been supporting this bill, and indeed to all members, let us see this as a first step, let us build on this issue, let us hold the government to its commitments for a national strategy, and let us support the families in their needs, as well as people who are living with autism, because there is much more that needs to be done.
World Autism Awareness Day Act
Private Members' Business
June 19th, 2012 / 5:55 p.m.
Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day.
On December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly, through resolution 62139, designated April 2 from 2008 on as World Autism Awareness Day. My colleague for Vancouver Kingsway has already put forward Bill C-351, which also calls upon the Government of Canada to recognize April 2 each year as World Autism Awareness Day. In a sense, this bill is playing catch-up. Nevertheless, obviously the value of such a designation is in raising awareness about the condition, the challenges faced by those living with an autism spectrum disorder and the importance of improving research, diagnosis and treatment options for this disorder.
Autism is the most common neurological disorder in children and impacts many Canadian families, with as many as one in every 110 children having some form of autism spectrum disorder. It has been estimated that there are approximately 35 million people living with autism around the world.
In Canada, although there is a lack of detailed epidemiological data, there are currently around 48,000 children and 144,000 adults with some form of autism. It is known that the rate of autism has been increasing without explanation with each passing year; in fact, it is estimated that the rate of autism has increased about 600% in the last 20 years. When one looks at this data, what becomes obvious is that autism is a widespread and growing issue about which we know very little.
What we also know is that living with it is an enormous challenge. Friends of mine, Michelle and Brett, have a beautiful daughter, Tennyson, just Tenny to friends and family. Tenny is the younger sister to Ethan and Stephanie.
Michelle, Brett, Steph and Ethan's love and devotion for Tenny is infinite, unconditional, inspiring and so very patient. The image that stays with me is one that has repeated itself many times over the years. It is of Brett and Tenny passing by my house slowly, Tenny with her headphones on, absorbed and happy in her music, and Brett happy alongside, enjoying the day in the company of his beautiful blue-eyed companion Tenny.
However, I asked Michelle and Brett to share with me, so that I could share with members, what it is like to raise Tenny. This is what they would like members to know:
“Our daughter Tennyson is 11 years old and she is one of our biggest joys. However, having an autistic child presents many challenges and stresses for our family.”
“Tennyson requires constant assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, et cetera. As if this is not enough, every stage of her life requires an almost full-time effort to navigate the system for what she needs. During her preschool years we spent countless hours and dollars on IBI therapy, as the Ontario government wait-listed Tennyson for three years.”
“Today our biggest challenge is finding appropriate schooling for her now and in the future. Today Tennyson attends a remarkable TDSB school, Beverley. Finding our way to Beverley was fraught with bureaucracy—as if we have time. We need more schools like Beverley with OT, speech and language, communication tools, and excellent staff under one roof.”
“Our imminent fear is finding a comparable high school. Oh, and what about the future? Proper care, affordable care, safety, et cetera. Families like ours have little time, money and mental energy. We need help.”
I should note for the House that those last three words, “we need help”, came to me in upper case font with more than one exclamation mark attending them.
This is the unvarnished truth of the matter. The love of a family can overcome a lot. Knowing Michelle, Brett, Steph and Ethan as I do, Tenny will never want for that in all its manifestations. However, it is our love that is also required, not just for autistic kids and adults but for the moms and dads and brothers and sisters who need our support.
While it is important to bring awareness of the impact of autism on the lives of so many Canadians, we collectively, through our government, are still failing to show measurable and meaningful support for those living with autism spectrum disorder. Instead, the government chooses symbolism over real action.
There is much that we can and should do. Through the testimony of witnesses at both Senate committees and the Standing Committee on Health of the House, we as parliamentarians have been told directly what needs to be done, or at least where we need to start.
We can start first with my colleague from Sudbury's private member's bill, Bill C-219, An Act respecting the establishment of a National Strategy for Autism Spectrum Disorders. This very simple but important bill would, among other things, establish national standards for the treatment and delivery of autism-related services and create a system to monitor autism prevalence.
My colleague from Sudbury has a second private member's bill, Bill C-218, that would also qualitatively change the lives of kids and adults with ADS as well as their families. Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Canada Health Act (Autism Spectrum Disorders), would mandate the inclusion of ABA and IBI treatments under the Canada Health Act.
These bills would go a long way to redress what Kathleen Provost, an executive director with the Autism Society of Canada, called in her testimony before the Subcommittee on Neurological Disease of the Standing Committee on Health, “a two-tiered health system for Canadians living with an ASD”.
According to Ms. Provost:
There is a health system that is inconsistent because of where you are, what province you live in. There's also a health system that's not equally accessible....We seem to have a public health system versus a private health system.
Ms. Provost cited in evidence the difference in cost of diagnosis between provinces. She also talked about the extraordinary cost of treatment, a cost so high that it was financially ruinous to the majority of Canadian families.
The multidisciplinary approach necessary for the treatment of autism is not covered currently under the Canada Health Act. However, it can cost families well in excess of $50,000 per year. Those kinds of costs inhibit, first, early diagnosis and, second, effective treatment once diagnosed. That means so many kids and so many parents are forced financially to live and struggle with a condition and in circumstances that can be ameliorated and treated.
There are other solutions as well that are readily available to us to relieve the stress, both emotional and financial, for families. These have to do with income tax treatment and amendments to labour and employment standards.
At the end of the day, what is at issue and what is absent here is federal leadership on the issue of autism.
The last word on the federal role I give to Kathleen Provost, because she captured this issue so well in her testimony to the health subcommittee. She said:
We think the federal government is in a unique position as a national facilitator engaging provinces and territories. The federal government can stage and maintain a national agenda for autism....The challenge before us is to find effective ways to leverage the strength of our federal-provincial system to advance the autism agenda in Canada so we can provide universal access to treatment and services.
I will support Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day. However, it needs to be remembered that those who need our support are already aware all too intimately, and too often painfully, of the challenges of autism spectrum disorder.
In the words of Tenny's mom, Michelle, “They need help”. Therefore, I urge the government to get on with what the Canadian government is supposed to do, which is supporting Canadians who need support.
Canadian Autism Day Act
November 21st, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-351, An Act respecting a Canadian Autism Day.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill respecting a 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 of 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 these calls today. The creation of a national autism day would bring light and attention to those who fall in the autism spectrum and to those who tirelessly support a family member or friend with autism. This is a positive step we can take today. National attention and focus are important first steps to ensuring that all affected by autism have the support they need.
I ask that all members of the House support the bill.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)