Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Conservative government’s partnership with Autism Speaks Canada

Tomorrow is Election Day in Canada. We are one day away from deciding the future of our country. The truth is, on a personal level I do not believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been all that terrible. Further, I do not believe the other two leaders have demonstrated that they would be tremendously different. Yes. There would, of course, be tweaks to national policy here and there. Thomas Mulcair’s New Democratic Party most notably opposes free trade. This would put an end to the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has promised to end Canada’s traditional attempts to balance a budget. Admittedly, while I am not a huge fan of this promise, I am a huge fan of his honesty. I find it incredibly disingenuous of the Prime Minister to pretend as though he is the steady hand at the till when his record includes over $150 billion in debt. That is a $150 billion tax increase our next generation. That is more than any other Prime Minister in Canadian history. And this all occurred after promising never to run a deficit. That is his record. So when Justin Trudeau promises to cap the deficit at $10 billion annually and only for the first three years, I appreciate his honestly.

However, this is all secondary to me personally. Is it important?

Absolutely. But as a parent to a child with special needs, particularly a child on the autism spectrum, I cannot help but recognize the government’s attempt at a plan to address both those Canadians’ on the autism spectrum and their loved ones and/or caregivers.

The plan states;

“A re-elected Conservative Government will continue to support our three-year partnership with the Canadian Association of Community Living to help connect people with developmental disabilities with jobs.

We’ll also continue our four-year partnership with the Sinneave Family Foundation and Autism Speaks Canada to expand vocational training for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

And we’ll continue to support the Autism Spectrum Disorder Working Group’s work to develop a Canadian Autism Partnership. We’ll be ready to support the initiative in areas of federal jurisdiction once the development work is complete.”

Initially, the attempt by the Government, as led by Member of Parliament Mike Lake, should be commended. They are trying. But here is the problem; they are going about it the wrong way. This ‘plan’ (if you can really call it that) engages only two members of a wide ranging autism community; both of whom have of a total of zero representatives on the spectrum sitting on their governing bodies. However, of greater concern is the formal partnership with Autism Speaks Canada. Autism Speaks represents a massive divide within the autism community. Having a son on the spectrum, undoubtedly Mike Lake is aware of this.

In 2007, Autism Speaks merged with Cure Autism Now. Founded is 1995, this organization raised more than $39 million for research directed at curing autism. Here is the problem; notions of a cure are both divisive and dangerous. Autism Speaks has chosen to view autism as a disease rather than a disorder. This has led to an expansion of ablest attitudes and misdirected parents’ use of methods that cross lines that would not be approved by the greater scientific community. This issue came to a head for the autism community with the 2009 film ‘I am Autism’ that personified ‘the disease of autism’ as a kind of grim reaper figure.

I do not want to come off as attacking Mr. Lake. I am certain his heart is in the right place. I am certain the Prime Minister’s is, as well. But my daughter is not ill. Neither are any of the other unique individuals on the spectrum I have had the joy of meeting as a parent in the autism community or a representative to the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee. Children on the spectrum are not sick. Unfortunately, by partnering with Autism Speaks, the federal government has chosen to endorse the notion that they are.

Friends, Prime Minister Harper has been supportive of Israel and his party has made tremendous strides in the acceptance of the LGBT community; both issues of tremendous importance to me. But when you cannot accept my daughter I cannot accept you. Should the Prime Minister loose tomorrow I believe he will be forced to step down as the leader of his party. Hopefully the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada will be more accepting of Canadians with special needs. Until then, I just cannot give this party my vote.

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