Madam Speaker, frankly, as I stand today and speak to this issue and have listened to the debate in the House, I cannot think of a more important subject matter that we could be addressing. Anecdotally, some school children who were watching from the gallery today commented about how meaningful it was in the few moments they were here listening to the debate on this issue.
I want to pick this subject matter up from a couple of points of view. Obviously, the actual statistics of the number of Canadians who are impacted by autism are about one in every 68, or if we add in other developmental disabilities, it would be a much larger number. It would be very unusual for a member in the House not to have been affected somewhere along the line with family or close friends dealing with the issue of an autistic individual within their family tree.
I am no exception to that rule. I have 30-year-old son who has developmental disabilities, and I wish to speak about his situation. I also have a granddaughter, eight years old. Jordan is my son's name and Maggie is my granddaughter's name. She is diagnosed on the spectrum. I want to say what life means for people and how meaningful this debate is for Canadians, including those who have connections in the House. How important it is, and how I implore the government to reconsider deleting this from the budget, not going forward with it in the budget.
There could be nothing more important than supporting families in some of the most difficult situations dealing with individuals with developmental disabilities in their homes and in their lives. It is not only difficult, but often most rewarding as well, as the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin can attest. We have both some of the best times that we could ever experience as a family member, and also some of the most difficult. Navigating our life through this labyrinth of what we built as supports in society is a very difficult task.
When we talk about this working group, it is essential that we have the experts guiding families who are not only dealing with it now in youth and adult phases of their children's lives and their family members' and friends' lives, but through the whole course for the long term. This initiative is one that could be picked up by the government, moved down field, and taken to the next level until we come to a day when the integration of these individuals into society is achieved.
Why the government would not prioritize this as being one of the most important issues is puzzling to me. As my colleague said, this would be a shame if this is somehow political, because this is nonpartisan. If there ever is a topic that we should be addressing in the House, it should be topics like this that could be truly nonpartisan.
Let me tell the House about Jordan, a 30-year-old guy who is developmentally disabled and recently, because of an initiative that people in our community took, is working in a social enterprise, a shredding business. What does any parent want for their child? I have four children, and what any of us wants for our children is for them to maximize their abilities and be the best person they can be in this world. Often that involves excelling at their vocation, doing their life's work, taking that forward, and excelling at it.
What does that mean to a young guy who could probably never have the vision to be able to work? It means taking paper and putting it into a shredder as being one of the most meaningful things to give him a sense of goodwill, contributing something, and having a healthy self-image.
Is that not what we want for all our children? Is that not what we want for all the children in this country, whether they are on the spectrum, off the spectrum, or out there in the world?
Today, we are talking about extending a very small amount of money. That is what this motion is calling for, a very tiny amount of money. Others have tried to put it in perspective, what this means in terms of supporting this group that is in true need. We all have examples.
My granddaughter, Maggie, who is eight years old, in Sarnia, has actually had the experience of living in Calgary with her family and experiencing what that province had to offer in her early years, and this will be of interest to members from other ridings. Her family had the opportunity to move to the United States, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and experienced the supports that were available there. Currently, she is residing in Sarnia, Ontario. This is all due to the occupation and vocation of my son-in-law who works for Imperial Oil.
What my daughter and her family have seen in that transition between those places is a varying degree of support across those three locations. I was so happy when my colleague brought up the fact that his son, Jaden, had experienced wonderful supports in Alberta. That is exactly what my daughter and my Maggie experienced in Alberta.
Then moving to the United States, she also found great support in the state of Michigan. Then coming to Ontario, it was a different ball game there. In fact, recently, a few weeks ago, my daughter called me as I was driving one day. She asked where she should go for Maggie as she gets older. She wanted some ideas, some advice as to how to get a school going, something that is relevant to help her become the best person she can be.
I tell these stories because I think it is important for all members today to feel free to get up and tell stories of individual Canadians they know who are dealing with the issue of autism within their families. It is great, rewarding, and good, but it is also very difficult.
We can do something about it in this House. Today, we have not received an indication from the government that it will be supporting this motion. I hope many of the Liberal members will take our words to heart, and will say that in relative terms this is another way to move the yardsticks. They are taking cover in the fact that they have funded all of these other programs and organizations that deal with developmental disabilities. We take our hats off to that.
I worked with Jim Flaherty on the ready, willing, and able to work campaign, helping to put together an effort to bring meaning into the lives of adults who have disabilities. Some 800,000 Canadians who have a disability of some sort are ready, willing, and able to work in this country, right now. Some are more severe than others, but there are 800,000 of them. Of that, 350,000 of them have university degrees. However, we have a society that makes them feel they are a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. This is because organizations such as this one, the Canadian autistic community, have not been able to get their feet on the ground to be able to help people navigate the situation.
Many employers came to me, when we were putting that program together as a government, when we we went out and talked about what we were doing, and said they were more than ready to consider hiring a person with disabilities in their business. They wanted to know how to do it. It was not so much a lack of willingness as Canadians, but they needed to know how to navigate.
Again, this is one of the more important issues. I implore the government to put the funding back for this group.