Mr. Speaker, as the previous speakers have indicated, this is an extremely important issue, and I would suggest it is a raging issue right across the country. The prevalence of autism is extremely high and seems to be rising. The cause remains unknown, but we all know that early diagnosis and intervention is so important.
Let us make it absolutely clear to everyone in this room and everyone watching these proceedings that this is a health issue. That train has left the station; no one in this House is prepared to debate that issue.
However, autism is not treated as a health issue. Many provinces treat autism in the social services envelope. It is subject to a means test; people are told they will get money if they do not have any money. It is not treated in the same way as other health issues, such as cancer and heart problems. It is totally inconsistent from one province to another province. In some provinces it is a small amount of money from the social services envelope. Other provinces have more progressive plans that provide ABA and IBI treatment. While they are not totally accepted, they are the generally accepted treatment modalities for this particular problem.
We are talking of what I classify as orphans in the health system. It cries out for a response from the federal government, but also from the provincial governments. I suggest the provincial governments would certainly be willing to talk to the federal government and come forward with a combined response.
Let me be absolutely clear that this will happen. Whether it happens with Bill C-304 or a future bill, it is going to happen.
If parliamentarians in the House of Commons are not prepared to deal with it, there is another body that will deal with it and that is the courts. Someone is going to bring it to court and the judge is going to ask, “Is it a health issue?” Yes. “Is this the accepted modality of treating the health issue?” Yes. Then that judge is going to say, “I am not prepared to discriminate between someone with this particular problem and someone with cancer”, and the judge will order the provinces to pay for it.
I would ask the members of this assembly to be bold and courageous and do the right thing. I urge them to pass this legislation before we are dragged into the courts kicking and screaming.
There will be people who will stand up, and some have already, and give all kinds of excuses. One member said earlier that it is a provincial issue. I find that somewhat hypocritical. It is a provincial issue, but the federal government has a responsibility.
Only about 40 minutes ago we passed a private member's motion. The government members all stood up and voted for it. I will read the motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Minister of Health should continue to work collaboratively with Statistics Canada, the provincial and territorial cancer registries, and key stakeholders towards the ultimate goal of creating uniform national standards and guidelines for the surveillance of all malignant and benign brain tumours, including data collection, analysis and reporting.
That is a cancer issue. I would suggest that is a provincial issue if we accept the arguments of the members across. That is only an excuse.
I would suggest that the people of Canada are watching us on this particular issue. Just last week George Bush, who represents a country that does not have a public health system, passed a bill and voted a billion dollars on this particular issue. I would hope that we would not fall behind George Bush when dealing with this particular issue.
On this very important issue I urge everyone to do the right thing and support Bill C-304.