|| That, given that: (a) Autism Spectrum Disorder (“autism”) is widely considered the fastest growing neurological disorder in Canada, impacting an estimated 1 in 68 children; (b) it is a lifelong diagnosis that manifests itself in a wide-range of symptoms, including difficulty communicating, social impairments, and restricted and repetitive behaviour; (c) individuals with autism and their families face unique challenges over their lifespan, often leading to families in crisis situations; and (d) Autism Spectrum Disorder is not just a health issue — it has overarching implications for Canadian society as a whole; accordingly, the House call on the government to grant the $19 million over 5 years requested by the Canadian Autism Partnership working group, Self-Advocates advisory group, and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance, in order to establish a Canadian Autism Partnership that would support families and address key issues such as information sharing and research, early detection, diagnosis and treatment.
He said: Mr. Speaker, today is a very important day. I believe today is the first time the House has spent a full day talking about the challenges faced by Canadians living with autism and their families.
I am going to start by thanking a few people. Obviously, I am going to start by thanking my son, Jaden, who, to me, is an absolute superhero. This is a 21-year-old who is non-verbal, yet the way he communicates with people on a one-to-one basis is unlike anyone I have ever seen. He has a way to connect with people, without speaking, that we have trouble with in our regular lives.
I want to thank my amazing daughter, Jenae, who turns 18 this week. She is graduating from high school this month as well. It is hard to believe.
I speak for a living and do interviews for a living, but Jenae probably gave the best answer I have ever heard to an interview question when she was 13 years old. She was asked by Steve Paikin, in an interview about her brother, if she ever wished her brother was “normal”, like every other kid. Jenae's response was that since Jaden was diagnosed with autism before she was born, she didn't exactly know what a normal brother was like, so Jaden, having autism, kind of was her normal. Steve asked her if she liked him just the way he was. She said that if Jaden did not have autism, or was cured or something, he would not be the same as Jaden was then. Jenae was very wise at 13 years old talking about how Jaden has impacted her life.
I also want to thank Jaden's mother, Debi. We have been apart for several years now, but Debi is an absolute champion for Jaden and has been a champion for Jaden throughout his life. When it came to advocating for him at a young age for early intervention, when it came to working through the school system and in the battle to try to get an aide for him, she was a pit bull for him in terms of that advocacy. We were able to get the help he needed every step of the way because of her advocacy and her championing of his interests.
I have a few more people to thank. I want to thank my staff, who put in tireless hours month after month. We work on a lot of big things: the global autism partnership; the Canadian autism partnership; global maternal health and the rights of women and girls around the world; managing the largest constituency in the country, out of 338 constituencies; and working with constituents. I thank them.
I am going to go back a little in time and thank Stephen Harper, the prime minister in 2015, who initiated the Canadian autism partnership working group, along with former finance minister Joe Oliver and our health minister at the time, who is now our current . In budget 2015, there was $2 million put in place to establish the Canadian autism partnership working group.
There were some staff members at that time who were critical in helping me understand the road to getting there. I will thank Rachel Curran, Sean Speer, and David van Hemmen, in particular, for their help in getting there.
In my global work, I get to work with some key individuals and global organizations that have come to support the Canadian autism partnership. Huge thanks go to Save the Children, Plan International Canada, World Vision Canada, and UNICEF Canada, which have really stepped up on social media to support this initiative.
Global Citizen is an organization that works to alleviate poverty and fight inequality around the world on behalf of the world's most vulnerable. Global Citizen in Canada has chosen, as its first domestic initiative, to champion the Canadian autism partnership, recognizing the challenges faced by Canadian families living with autism. A huge thanks goes to the folks at Global Citizen for the great work they have done.
We have also had some support from friends in the hockey world. I formerly worked for the Edmonton Oilers for 10 years before I was elected. We have had support on social media from Hayley Wickenheiser, Elliotte Friedman, Steve Warne, right here in Ottawa, and Kodette LaBarbera. Again, they have huge platforms and are very busy at this time, and they have taken the time to make their point on social media in support of the Canadian autism partnership. I thank them.
Most important, probably, beyond my family, is to thank the stakeholders, the working groups, and the incredible group of self-advocates, adults living with autism who can articulate, in a unique way, what it is like to have autism.
I had a really great conversation with one of them, Patricia, this weekend. We talked about the importance of the Canadian autism partnership. Every single time I talked to a self-advocate, I learn something new. In Patricia's case, it was the word “autistic“ versus “having autism”.
I have always talked about Jaden having autism, because I have always thought it was something he has, not something he is, but Patricia reinforced for me that for some in the autism community, they like to be defined as autistic. It is who they are, not something they have. It is an important differentiation, and I got an understanding I did not have before we had that conversation this past weekend.
Of course, I want to thank people who come up to me in random places who appreciate the work we are doing and who work to understand. I remember one time a few years back, Jaden and I were in New York at the Radio City Music Hall. Jaden, Jenae, and I were watching a Kelly Clarkson concert. Jaden dropped a pin on the floor and was obsessed with this pin the entire concert, so the entire concert, for me and Jaden, was spent with Jaden rummaging around for the pin, bumping the chair in front of him. We never did find the pin, but during the entire concert, that was the case, with me trying to grab him and play with him and get his attention away from it. The person in front of us, whose seat he had been bumping the whole time, turned around afterward. I thought she was going to be upset, and she said, “You are the best dad in the world”. This complete stranger had noticed what was going on, and rather than being upset about it, rather than ignoring it and just walking away, she took time to let me know that she noticed and to let me know that she understood that it was difficult. I had tears in my eyes, as one can imagine, leaving that concert. She was someone I will never meet again. I never got the person's name. She never got my name, but in that moment, it was that level of understanding that, as parents of kids with autism or family members of people with autism, we need. We need that understanding more and more in our society when different things are happening.
When Jaden was three, as we were walking out of a restaurant, he grabbed a drink of someone's beer off a table, because he was thirsty, there was a glass there, and he did not understand that he was not supposed to have it. There was the time we were at an Oilers hockey game, when Jaden was nine, and he suddenly, out of nowhere, reached over the shoulder of the five-year-old girl in front of him and grabbed the ice cream off the top of her cone, as if he had a snowball, and started eating it out of his hand, with ice cream dripping down his fingers. I said to the dad, “I'm so sorry, Jaden has autism”, and he understood. Of course, the five-year-old girl did not understand at all. We explained it, we got her a new ice cream at the intermission, and everything was good. That is life with Jaden, and it can be challenging sometimes.
When I talk about the Canadian autism partnership and the work we do on autism here in this House, a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that I am championing my son's interests. Jaden has lived in one of the best places in the world to live, Alberta, if one has a child with autism. What I am really championing is for every person living with autism in Canada to have the same opportunities Jaden has had.
When Jaden was two, we realized he had autism. It took a bit to get a diagnosis. It took a couple of months to get in and then maybe a couple of months to get treatment, but Jaden started his early intervention at about two and a half. At that time, he did not even recognize me. Folks in this House have seen Jaden interact now, and he has interacted with many of them. However, back then, his main interaction with me was that he would come into a room where I was, grab me, and drag me through the house to the pantry. He would grab my arm and push it up to the pantry door, push my arm into the pantry to the shelf where he wanted to grab the crackers he could not reach, and then pull me out and pull my arm down, like his own personal robot. He would grab the crackers he wanted, put them back in my hand, push my arm back up, back into the pantry, and then push me away. He did this as a two-and-a-half-year-old or three-year-old. I had served his purpose as his personal robot. He had his crackers. He would go back to playing with his pots and pans, lining them up, stacking them up, obsessed with them for hours, sometimes. He would take breaks to watch Barney videos or The Sound of Music, which he watched about 300 times. I liked The Sound of Music the first 100 times. I still like it now. Anyway, that was life with Jaden.
The early intervention completely changed his mind. It started with putting a spoon on the table and getting him to give us the spoon. It was to have him recognize what a thing was and, hand over hand, have him hand us the spoon. We would then celebrate it by clapping and giving him a Smartie as a reward. Over and over again, we would do this one thing, and then eventually, it was a spoon and a fork or something else. This continued and got better. We started to help him build social interactions and recognize other things over the course of that time. Some of Jenae's earliest memories, as someone three and a half years younger, were, when she was two, learning English by watching Jaden do his early intervention and sometimes doing it with him.
There is video of Jenae with a car and a big stuffed Zoe, and Jenae loves Zoe. She would say, “Jaden, give me Zoe”, and Jaden would give her Zoe. That is the way she learned language, by interacting with Jaden over the course of time. That is really important.
As Jaden got older, he went to school, and we had to deal with trying to get him a full-time aid. Jaden has a photographic memory. Jaden knows where the swimming pool is, and he loves swimming, but he does not understand traffic at all. Even at 21, he does not understand traffic. We have to work with him to navigate that. He could leave the school and know where the swimming pool was, but it would be very dangerous for him, so we had to have someone with him at all times. That took a bit of education with the school system.
Jaden now, at 21, is in a program at the Centre for Autism Services of Alberta. It is called Quest for Independence. He went to school until last year, but now he is sort of transitioning. The goal, of course, is to get him into a vocation of some sort, but that is a challenge. It is a challenge across the country getting people who have gone through the school system into a vocation of some sort and into the training they need. There is also the mitigation of some of the challenges they might have, depending on where they are on the spectrum, navigating a job interview and that kind of process, which is very abstract for people with autism.
Of course, the question we then have is what happens as Jaden gets older. Right now we have an agreement that Jaden will live with one or the other of us, and we are good with that. However, there is going to come a time, and this is the hardest question for every parent of a child with autism, or any developmental disability in this country, when we are not there anymore. My hope is that we have built a society in this country that is so supportive of people who are different, people who need some level of support, that we need not fear that and we have built an environment that goes beyond family.
Jaden has only one sibling. Jenae cannot be expected to take care of Jaden for the rest of his life. Certainly she knows that she is his only sibling and is prepared for whatever responsibility she has as his sister, and she loves him very much, but we need to build a support system around that for families.
That brings us to the Canadian autism partnership. There has been a history to get here, working with the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance, CASDA, and stakeholders from across the country. There had been a call for a national autism strategy for many years. We got to a point where we started asking the stakeholders what they actually want. What is it they are looking for? Many of the things the autism community is looking for are provincial in nature. They are provincially delivered, such as education, health care, and social services, and the provinces are responsible for them.
In 2014, we saw that there was a role to play in vocations, so in budget 2014, Jim Flaherty, at the time, put in place funding for a CommunityWorks program and a program called Ready, Willing & Able, two programs to help people with autism in the vocational world. In budget 2015, we worked with CASDA and other stakeholders to ask for the Canadian autism partnership, and as mentioned earlier, $2 million over two years was given to a working group to establish that partnership, with a clear indication, at the time, that the partnership would be funded once this expert working group had done its work, along with the other stakeholders and self-advocates.
They did incredible work. They worked for years on that. They submitted their business plan and then asked the government of the day, this past fall, for $19 million over five years, or $3.8 million a year. As I mentioned in this House yesterday, $3.8 million a year is one dime per Canadian. It is a dime per Canadian for a Canadian autism partnership.
I have to say that there was an expectation that this was a no-brainer and that it would be funded for sure. How could one not support an evidence-based business plan, put together by stakeholders from across the country, that would help hundreds of thousands of Canadians as vulnerable as those living with autism? Inexplicably, it was not in budget 2017. It was rejected.
Now we have moved forward, and we are asking that it be funded anyway, that the government find a way to find that dime per Canadian to help Canadians living with autism. We have come to this point where we have an opposition day, a full day in this House, dedicated to a single question. It is not like a budget, where there are a whole bunch of other things thrown into the mix. We are just going to debate this one idea of a Canadian autism partnership. In the end, probably a couple of weeks from now, we will vote on it. Every single member in this House will vote on this. It is an important opportunity.
John Wooden, a famous NCAA basketball coach, has one of my favourite quotes. He said, “You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” That is a fantastic quote and is applicable in some way today.
For the members, and Canadians who might be watching this, if we do something for people with autism, they will be able to repay us. That is the point. People with autism and other developmental disabilities are capable of way more than we give them credit for, but we have to invest in them, just like we invest in everyone else in our society. We have to believe in them. Sometimes it means we have to work a little harder to understand some of the challenges, like the difficulty dealing with the abstract. Why is 85% on the spectrum not employed? Let us work hard to understand that and to figure out how we get the opportunity to benefit from those skills and abilities.
If people have just met Jaden and he gives them a high five, it is really easy to underestimate him. However, if they see him working in the library, putting books away, it is astonishing how much he is capable of. He will be putting books away. He will have them all in order and will be running around the library putting the books where they belong, never making a mistake. However, as Jaden is running around the library, if he sees a book that has been put in the wrong spot, he will grab it without skipping a beat and put it in the right spot. He sees the world differently, but he will not be able to use those skills if we do not pay attention to them, if we do not hard wire our society to look for that. The Canadian autism partnership is all about that.
The Canadian autism partnership recognizes jurisdiction and brings experts together from across the country to deal with families with autism. Then it advises governments in the jurisdictions. It might take a look at something like early intervention or diagnosis. Right now In Quebec, families are facing a two-year wait for diagnosis and then a two-year wait for treatment. Their kids are two years old. They know they have autism, yet they cannot get them diagnosed until they are four and they cannot get the evidence-based treatment they need until they are six. Families are mortgaging their houses to get this evidence-based treatment.
The Canadian autism partnership would work with the Government of Quebec and show it what evidence shows will work. It would be a trusted adviser with the Government of Quebec, or any other government. Multiple governments across the country are having difficulty in various areas. Education, housing, transition to employment, all of those things are challenging. The Canadian autism partnership would bring the best information from across the country and around the world and ensure it would be distributed in a way that policy could be executed right now so we would not have to wait for this.
As I wrap up, I will use one more quote. JFK said, “things don’t happen, they are made to happen”. That is where we are right now.
For folks in the autism community who might be watching this right now, or anyone else who has heard what I have said and understands its importance, we need to act. I believed, and I think stakeholders believed this as well, that budget 2017 would contain the funding for the the Canadian autism partnership. It seemed like a no-brainer at the time. However, it did not.
Quite honestly, when I stood and asked my question in the House of Commons yesterday, I believed that maybe at this point, knowing the motion was coming, the minister might stand and say that the government had thought about it, that it had made a mistake, and that had decided it would to do it. That did not happen.
I firmly believe that if Canadians speak up and make their voices heard, through the global citizen action, directly to their members of Parliament, when the vote comes on this in a couple of weeks, members of the House will vote the right way. People from all parties get elected because they want to make a difference in the lives of people. This is a clear motion, a clear opportunity to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
I want to thank members of Parliament for hearing me out on this. I look forward to the debate today. If people watching have any questions, or want to take part, my Facebook and Twitter handle are “MikeLakeMP”. Pinned to the top is the global citizen action. I ask them to take action and help our elected officials make the right decision.
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member for for his eloquent and much appreciated speech.
I am pleased to be in the House today to speak to an important issue that affects people from all walks of life: autism spectrum disorder. This disorder has a significant and life-long impact on those diagnosed with it, as well as on their families.
In 2007 that the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released its report entitled, “Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis”. This important study brought the challenges facing families clearly into view. It stimulated dialogue, and continues to be an important source of motivation and inspiration for those working to better support children, youth, and adults with autism.
We all know that autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a complex disorder that manifests differently from person to person. Unfortunately, we do not fully understand what causes it.
Canada has a world-class ASD research community, as well as dedicated health care and social service providers, who are working with ASD organizations and families to make a difference in the lives of those with this condition.
Whether working to improve diagnosis and treatment, support in schools, or transition into employment, Canada's ASD stakeholders are passionate and committed to creating inclusive communities for people with ASD. I thank them for their ongoing efforts.
We must recognize that we must support not only the people with ASD, but also their families. The complex challenges facing those living with ASD have seen these families call on the government for help. Raising a child is not easy, and we know that raising a child with autism poses even more challenges.
While these are areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, the work we are doing federally complements and supports provincial and territorial efforts. Today, I would like to talk about the Government of Canada's response in helping individuals with ASD and their families.
We know that ASD often means health, social, and financial challenges. It is estimated that the lifetime cost for an ASD-diagnosed individual ranges from $1.12 million to $4.7 million. Data on ASD in Canada is limited, but estimates indicate that approximately one in 94 children under the age of 14 has been diagnosed with ASD. It is also estimated that boys are five times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls.
It is critical to bring knowledge, awareness, analysis, and action to this issue so that we can provide the right level of support to those in need.
Last November, the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance, CASDA, presented the minister with its Canadian autism partnership business plan. This plan outlined key areas that need to be developed and addressed. These include research, early detection and treatment, and family support. The government is investing in these key areas, as outlined in the Canadian autism partnership business plan.
The federal government's investments in research, data and vocational training are supporting those affected by this disorder. For example, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Canada has invested more than $39 million over the last five years to support autism research.
Canadian scientists are at the forefront of this research, and these funds are helping our researchers develop new tools and treatments for those living with ASD.
For example, in the area of genomics, Canadian researchers are building our knowledge and deepening our understanding of ASD, which could eventually lead to earlier diagnosis. We know that early diagnosis for ASD is very important. It helps ensure children and families get the help they need as soon as possible.
These researchers are also studying the connection between mental health and ASD, evaluating novel treatment strategies, and looking for ways to improve access to healthcare for those with ASD.
Furthermore, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is providing funding for a research chair in autism spectrum disorders, currently held by Dr. Jonathan Weiss at York University, which focuses on the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in people with ASD.
Since the launch of this initiative in January 2013, Dr. Weiss and his team have published a number of articles to disseminate information to physicians and parents to help address mental health problems in youth suffering from ASD. We believe that this valuable work will lead to improved treatment, care, and policies for children and youth with ASD.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in collaboration with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, also committed an investment of $39 million over 10 years from 2009 to 2019. This funding will support the Kids Brain Health trans-Canadian network.
The network focuses on improving diagnosis, treatment, and support for families raising children with brain-based disabilities, such as autism.
Beyond the research, it is imperative that we gather accurate data about ASD in Canada. To achieve this objective, the Public Health Agency of Canada is working with the provinces and territories to establish the national ASD surveillance system.
Once established, this system will enable us to gather reliable information on the number of Canadians living with ASD and the number of new cases every year. This information will help organizations, health care professionals, and families to address the health and social impacts of ASD.
Beyond the numbers, the national ASD surveillance system will provide us with qualitative data on the ASD population in Canada. It will enable us to compare trends within Canada and internationally so that we can work in identifying potential risk factors. Public reporting on ASD prevalence in Canada from the surveillance system is planned to begin in 2018.
The Government of Canada is also supporting a number of initiatives to improve the quality of life of individuals living with autism.
For example, we have made improvements to the child disability benefit and the Canada child benefit to support the families of children with disabilities, including ASD.
Under the leadership of the , we are developing federal accessibility legislation. This legislation would aim to eliminate systemic barriers in our society. It would provide equal opportunities to all Canadians. We want our nation to be supportive, fair, and inclusive. The government is proud to demonstrate real leadership in supporting a fair and inclusive nation accessible to all Canadians.
Employment and Social Development Canada held public consultations to seek the public's input on various aspects of the legislation, including the overall goal and approach and whom it should cover. These consultations ended in February of this year. All input received will be considered during the development of this legislation.
In partnership with the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Canadian ASD Alliance, the government is also supporting the ready, willing, and able initiative which the member mentioned in his speech earlier. Through this program, we would see greater numbers of people with ASD joining the workforce. Our workforce would become more diverse and inclusive and we would see job vacancies filled across the country. Once fully implemented, this initiative would support up to 1,200 new jobs for persons with developmental disabilities, including ASD.
In addition, we are supporting the Sinneave Family Foundation and Autism Speaks Canada. Both of these organizations are helping to create employment opportunities for individuals with ASD by expanding vocational training programs across Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada will also be connecting with the ASD community to further explore ways we can work together on key issues.
As members can see, the Government of Canada is committed to helping to expand our evidence base on ASD, supporting Canadian researchers in studying the many facets of this disorder, and most important, working to improve the quality of life of those living with ASD and their families.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Before I start, I would like to give a shout-out to all of those in Canada of Ukrainian-Canadian descent. Today they are celebrating the wearing of the vyshyvanka. One of my dear friends has lent me theirs, and I am looking forward to celebrating with my colleagues in the House. I know that the member for probably has many Ukrainian Canadians in his riding and will not mind me mentioning that.
I am rising in full support of the motion brought by the member. As I mentioned previously, I have had the pleasure many times in my eight years here of meeting his son Jaden, who is a delight, as are many of the children in my community who suffer from autism. In fact, I have a dear friend who lives half a block from me. I get to chat with her son daily on my street as he walks his three-legged dog. He is an absolute delight. Even though he has autism, he is graduating from high school this year.
The motion tabled by the member for simply asks that autism spectrum disorder, or autism, be recognized. It is widely considered the fastest-growing neurological disorder in Canada, impacting one in 68 children. It has increased over 100% in the last decade, so we are talking about a significant situation in this country that deserves intensified support. It is a life-long condition that includes difficulty communicating, as the member shared about his son, some social impairments, and restricted and repetitive behaviour. Individuals with autism and their families, as the member discussed, face unique challenges when they take their children or family members into the community. There can be awkward moments. It is very important that we not only support these families through funding but that we also be patient and supportive of the struggles they face.
The member also pointed out in his motion that it is not just a health issue, although the plea is to the to free up some monies. It has overarching implications for Canadian society as a whole, and the member is calling on the government to grant the $19 million over five years to establish the Canadian autism partnership that would support families and address key issues, such as information sharing, research, and early detection, diagnosis, and treatment for every family in this country.
I am very pleased to rise to support this motion. There is not a single member in this place who does not know someone who is affected by this disorder. Just on the basis of the number of organizations in the city of Edmonton, it is clear that support is greatly needed for those diagnosed with ASD so that they can live a quality life and their families can provide them with care and support and they receive the support they need. They could learn from the experience of others across this country through this proposed partnership.
I will list only a few of the entities in my city. They include the Centre for Autism Services Alberta, the Children's Autism Services of Edmonton, the Maier Centre, and Autism Edmonton. I could go on and on about the number of associations that have formed to try to serve the needs of these families.
Our nation's current approach to autism spectrum disorder is failing to support thousands of Canadians with autism and their families. In my research it has become clear, as is always the case, that particularly those in isolated or northern communities struggle to get access to any kind of health supports, let alone the specialized supports needed to address autism. I and my NDP colleagues share their disappointment and stand in support of the call for action to support the Canadian autism partnership.
The number of Canadians being diagnosed with autism continues to rise, yet across our country vital services, supports, and resources cannot meet the need. The partnership would not create just another bureaucracy, and that is something to keep in mind. The partnership was created as a solution to the current challenges being faced across the country. The chair of the Canadian Autism Disorders Alliance, who is also the executive direct of Autism Nova Scotia, stated:
||...the [CAP] business plan not only outlines the complex lifespan issues related to autism, it prioritizes five key complex issues, identifies the best starting points for action and details a collective impact model to address them....
Her article continued:
|| For far too long, our community has been disjointed, a result of the isolation, fear, anger and hopelessness that often fills the void left in the absence of necessary life-changing supports and resources....
and concluded with:
|| Jessica Pigeau, an autistic member of our Self-Advocate Advisory Committee, framed the need for this partnership more passionately and eloquently than I could ever attempt: “It is taking all of our hopes, all of our wishes, all of our pain … all of our efforts and all of our skills—and we are putting it toward a single purpose, we are moving as one.”
The partnership is a reasonable request for the government to sit down with the provinces and territories to negotiate an accord that is backed by real funding to address three critical needs.
The first is the lack of applied behaviour analysis/intensive behavioural intervention in Canada's school systems.
The second is the lack of public health care coverage for behavioural treatments. Those treatments, I am told, can cost from $50,000 to $100,000 a year.
The third is the lack of appropriate housing accommodation for adults in the autism spectrum, as the member for pointed out.
An investment by the previous government in July of 2015 supported the launch of the partnership, which included the development of a national autism spectrum disorder working group, a self-advocates advisory group, a comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy, and the development of a business plan for the implementation of this partnership.
An intensive stakeholder engagement process was delivered. It engaged with over 100 government representatives in all the provinces and territories and with relevant stakeholder groups, and included over 4,000 responses to an online survey.
A special focus has been placed on the needs of indigenous people and northern communities to identify their particular priorities and identify appropriate methods to examine meaningful responses to their service needs, both on and off reserve.
In November 2016, the partnership, CAPP, presented its final report to the current , including the proposed business plan for the partnership and a request for $19 million over five years. It included a framework for agencies in provincial, territorial, and indigenous communities to work together.
However, the minister refused the request. The refusal seems indefensible, given the need and the goal.
The partnership is not intended as a substitute for the funding needed for essential services or supports to those on the autism spectrum or even for ongoing research. It could play a critical rote in coordinating across the country—across jurisdictions, across agencies, and across communities.
We hope the Liberals' refusal to invest in this worthwhile initiative is not premised on the fact that it was initiated under the previous Conservative government. Certainly it would have been helpful if the Conservatives, while in power, had backstopped this work with the funding or political commitment necessary to improve service delivery and supports, but the request and the need have not gone away.
It could support opportunities for many autistic individuals, their families, and their caregivers in receiving more timely and effective support, thus reducing the frustration and isolation that can accompany their search for appropriate and effective intervention and care. It could also provide a national platform for multisectoral collaboration, an authoritative access point for reliable data and information, and improved collaboration in research. Also, as previously mentioned, it could provide a unique indigenous engagement strategy and an increased capacity for northern and remote communities to access services. It could help promote partnerships to enable the pooling of resources and ensure greater equity across the provinces and territories.
In closing, I would remind this place of the cuts the government has imposed across the board on health care. That has caused shortages in the delivery of these specialized, very important programs.
I support the motion. The need is clear. The proposal is sound. It deserves federal funding.
Madam Speaker, I consider myself lucky to be able to speak to the motion moved by my colleague from . He and I have often been able to chat because our offices were on the same floor during the 41st Parliament. I also met his son on several occasions. We have also shared some good laughs, like the time when his son wanted to give me hugs because he thought I looked like Barney. These are funny situations that can come up when we are with autistic people, who live in a world that we do not always understand. It can be unsettling, but we have to learn to react calmly. That is why I am particularly pleased to be talking about this issue.
I have friends and family with autistic children. It is the fastest growing neurological disorder in Canada, and affects one in 68 children. This increase may be artificially high because the disorder was under-diagnosed in the past. Nonetheless, the incidence of this neurological disorder has grown rather significantly, and this issue raises a lot of questions.
We still do not know why autism affects one child and not another. However, I would like to take a few seconds to cleary state that vaccines do not cause autism. I wanted to remind members of that because, unfortunately, the idea that vaccines cause autism is shared over the Internet fairly regularly. We need to counter such misinformation.
The partnership that was proposed and that began under the Conservative government does not seek to provide health care. It is very complex, but to summarize, the purpose of the partnership is to bring people together so that they can talk to each other, help each other, and feel less isolated. Parents who have a child with autism do not have it easy, because there is no one solution that will definitely help their child. As a result, they are often alone in trying to find solutions that work for their child.
A colleague that I worked with at the hospital once told me that he had to use pictograms with his autistic daughter who was unable to communicate. The young girl had a binder full of pictograms and communicated by pointing to the ones that best expressed her emotions and what she wanted to do and say. In order to come up with this strategy, my former colleague did his own research and found information online. He found a pictogram game, but the information he needed was not always available in French. The whole process was rather complex and it shows how parents are often on their own in trying to find ways to deal with their child's autism.
That is particularly true for parents who live in remote areas like mine and who do not necessarily have as many resources as people living in bigger cities. In my riding, there are no special schools. ASD affects one in 68 children, so it would be impractical to have a special school in a small community of 500 or 1,000 people because only one or two children out of 100 would go to that school.
Of course we do not have that. That takes resources. A partnership like the one that was proposed would have opened up a dialogue among, parents, people with autism, and the various stakeholders.
We must not forget that children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. It is a chronic disorder. Parents age, eventually they are unable to care for their children, and ultimately, they are gone. For thousands of parents, it is a race against time. They know they will pass away one day, and they are afraid because they do not know exactly what will happen to their children once they are no longer around to take care of them. It is extremely stressful.
They do their best to provide the most normal life possible for their children, but they know that their children are not normal, at least not according to society's standards. It is certainly not easy. The majority of people with autism will never get jobs. What it takes is extremely tolerant employers and extremely tolerant communities. What it takes is a community willing to get to know these people.
Take the example of a grocery store in the town closest to me, La Sarre. A young autistic man works there. There was an article about him in the town's newspaper, which not only explained what he does, but also told other employers what a dedicated worker he is. Making changes was not easy, but the owners did not regret their decision. The community also had to adapt. In the beginning, it was not always easy to understand what was happening and why the young man acted like he did.
Eventually the community came to understand him, and the young man is still working there. I see him regularly when I do my grocery shopping. That is a good example of acceptance.
However, many people with autism will never get a job or enter the job market. They will remain dependants, especially in small communities that do not necessarily have the resources to help these people thrive.
I can understand how stressful it is for parents to think that one day they will no longer be there and they do not know what will happen to their child. Parents want to do what is best for their children, but they sometimes get to the point where they are not sure what to do.
It is important to understand what parents go through and to know that one solution may work at a certain time, but not later.
When a child who is two, three, four, or five years old has a tantrum, it may be possible to calm him down. However, when a child becomes a big, strong adult, it is not always easy to deal with a tantrum because it is no longer possible to avoid the physical aggression, for example.
I am thinking of the son of my colleague from , Jaden, who has become quite strong and is now a young man. When he has a tantrum now, the situation is quite different from what it was when he was four or five years old.
This has a huge impact, and that is why parents need more support. We need to ensure that information can be shared. We are talking about a relatively low-cost program of about $19 million over five years. That is a small investment for a government to make. It would enable everyone to work together and share information. It will not solve all our problems, but it might help us tackle them more effectively.
It is incredibly petty on the part of the government to refuse to pay for a program like this, if you think about all the financial repercussions of autism on government operations and services in general.
I look forward to questions.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I will start off by thanking the member for for his work and advocacy with respect to autism. I believe this is the first time the Parliament of Canada has dedicated a full day to a discussion regarding autism in this country. This truly is a historic day.
Autism affects more than 500,000 Canadians. I want to spend my time today talking about the principles of the Canadian autism project, about helping families who are dealing with autism not just in Ontario but right across the country.
It is important that we look at the principles of the Canadian autism project. There are five listed in the report, which states that all Canadians living with autism have the right to inclusion, understanding, and acceptance; respect and dignity; full citizenship; equitable opportunities and access; and personal autonomy and decision-making.
We are very lucky to be here in Canada where acceptance of differences in Canadians is a trait that we celebrate and practise every day. It is important that government do its part to foster this acceptance. The Canadian autism project, or CAP for short, has brought major stakeholders together to share ideas and practices that will benefit the education and life-learning skills that take longer to learn for those children who have autistic spectrum disorder, simply known as ASD.
The origins of CAP go back to budget 2015 under Prime Minister Harper, which brought the CAP working group together to deliver a report to take action on ASD. The initial budget offered $2 million. Following the delivery of this report last fall, there was an ask to fund the project further. In the 2017 Liberal budget, the and the government ignored that request. CAP was asking for $19 million.
Let us look at the five principles to try to make some sense of it all for the government, and to persuade some members on the Liberal backbenches to support the motion and help Canadian families who live with ASD in their homes.
The first principle refers to Inclusion, understanding, and acceptance. As I said, half a million Canadians are living with ASD. Each one of those Canadians is an individual who has his or her own personality, interests, talents, and most important, tremendous potential. I cannot overstate the importance that each Canadian with ASD is given every opportunity for that potential. Sadly, this is not the case across the country because, depending on the province one lives in, the diagnosis, treatment, and potential for each child differs.
In Ontario, intensive behavioural intervention therapy, IBI therapy, for children over five was eliminated, leaving thousands of families struggling to get the treatment they need. There needs to be an understanding at every level of government about the needs of the children and families when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of ASD.
The second principle of CAP is one of respect and dignity. Living with ASD is not easy on the family, and especially on the child who has been diagnosed. Life is different for those who have ASD. Between 50% and 70% of those with ASD will have a mental health condition. To have ASD also means that the child may not understand what is happening to him or her or know how to compensate or handle it. Making sure there is proper treatment across Canada would help ensure that those children would have the sense of dignity that most Canadians feel.
The third principle is full citizenship. For Canadians, full citizenship means that every person should have access to all of the services available for a correct diagnosis, for treatment, and for the best possible life. The cost of caregiving for a child with ASD is up to $5.5 million. All levels of governments need to work together to provide education, health care, and potential, three things that every parent expects his or her child to have access to.
The fourth principle as noted in the CAP report is equitable opportunities and access. The principle is demonstrated with the Canadian autism partnership vision statement, which states:
|| All Canadians living with Autism have the opportunity to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives, and are able to access the necessary supports and services in a welcoming and understanding society.
Autism is the fastest growing diagnosed neurological disorder in Canada. There has been a 100% increase in positive diagnoses in 10 years. One in 68 children is now living with ASD, up from one in 190. Boys are now five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed. In Ontario, in 2016, there was a wait-list of 2,192 people for intensive behavioural intervention, and almost 14,000 for applied behavioural analysis.
What CAP is going to do is create a national platform for multi-sectoral collaboration and innovation to drive systemic change. The CAP approach creates opportunities for many autistic individuals along with their families and caregivers to benefit from the efforts of decision-makers to have better coordinated and timely support. Children with ASD could have reduced isolation and less frustration in their search for the best intervention and care.
The last principle is personal autonomy and decision-making. All children are different in their approach to how they will learn, react, and be the children that their parents knew they could be. Parents do not lose faith in their ASD child; sadly, it is governments that act like they do.
Decisions made by governments have created an excessive wait-list for individuals seeking a housing placement. Parents are forced to drop their children off at social services offices given their lack of alternative options.
Decisions by the government created the lack of support of dual diagnosis centres across Ontario. These centres provide needed support to families of children with ASD dealing with multiple diagnoses, for example, ASD with epilepsy, ASD with Tourette's syndrome, et cetera. Funding decisions in Ontario have increased the need for vocational support training to create more inclusive workforces.
Let me wrap up in the few minutes that I have left to emphasize just why the motion should pass and why the government should grant $19 million over five years as requested by the Canadian autism partnership.
As the motion states, passing the motion “would support families and address key issues such as information sharing and research, early detection, diagnosis and treatment.”
I know that $19 million is not going to resolve the crisis that is autism and treatment for our children, but this money would allow the Canadian autism partnership to go forward over a five-year time frame. The funding and five-year period would go to the start-up, operation, and costs to address the complex initiatives.
As I stated earlier, some provinces assist families with autism better than others. It is time that nationally we had a framework and a group of amazing organizations, community groups, and centres of higher education working together. If we can do this, then we can, in an exceptional manner, affect Canadian families facing ASD. With a comprehensive and united national effort, governments can ensure early identification, early intervention, employment, interventions, and service for the best quality of life at all ages, specialized medical care, access to dental and mental health care, education leading to a transition to work, post-secondary school, and most important, a successful independent lifestyle.
The House and its members can make the mission of CAP a step closer to reality. That would be to accelerate systemic change at the national level by mobilizing multiple sectors to address complex issues related to autism using a shared leadership approach to achieve a collective impact.
I ask that all members of the House undo the wrong of the 2017 budget and support the work of the working group and grant the Canadian autism partnership the $19 million it needs.
On behalf of Barrie—Innisfil families, and I have met with many of them who are dealing with the issue of autism, the five of us in my family would be more than happy to put our 10¢ each in, 50¢ from our family. As the member for said, it is only 10¢ per person. That is what this funding represents. I have 50¢ on my desk here, and I would be more than glad to put it toward this project.
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 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.
I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for , Mr. Speaker.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak today about autism spectrum disorders.
The Government of Canada recognizes that autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, has serious health, social and financial consequences for individuals and families. Indeed, we must all be prepared for the challenges presented by the increasing number of children being diagnosed with ASD if we are to help them live healthier and more productive lives.
I acknowledge the effort across the country to support those who living with ASD. Often, much of the support comes from the health care, education and social services sectors. While these domains are under the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments, federal investments in data collection, in research and innovations, and in skills training contribute to the improved services and programs.
An essential aspect in supporting these front-line efforts is obtaining a clear understanding of the magnitude and characteristic of ASD, both across regions and over time.
Many of us know there are public concerns about increases in the number of Canadian children and youth with ASD. While research supports the conclusion that ASD diagnosis are rising, we do not currently have comprehensive data for Canada. Thus, we lack the building blocks nationally that will allow us to accurately report on how many people are living with autism and how many new cases are emerging.
This is a gap that the governments are working together to address, and the work is well under way. Complete valid, timely, and representative prevalence estimates on the number of Canadians with ASD are needed to take an informed and calculated action. This is why we are building the national autism spectrum disorder surveillance system, or NASS. The NASS is led and coordinated by the Public Health Agency of Canada in partnership with provinces and territories.
This system collects anonymized annual information on children aged five to 18 who have ASD. The information is from a range of sources, including administrative records from health, education, or social services sectors. The complexity of this undertaking means that we must work in co-operation with different levels of the government and across sectors.
At its core, the NASS is a collaboration of federal, provincial and territorial governments, working together with other stakeholders, to build a comprehensive pictures of ASD in Canada.
For example, in my riding of , we will soon be opening a centre in support of autism. It will be opened by Reena, a non-profit organization that promotes dignity, individuality, independence and personal growth, and community inclusion for people with development disabilities, including autism.
The key objectives for NASS surveillance system are: to estimate how many Canadians have ASD and how many new cases are emerging over time; to describe the population of Canadians with ASD and compare a pattern within Canada and internationally; to better understanding the impact on Canadians with ASD; to increased public awareness and understanding; and to informed policy and program decision making.
As noted earlier, the development of NASS is a substantial undertaking that continues to depend on the engagement and collaboration within a wide range of partners. Consultation with provinces and territories and with ASD stakeholder communities, as well as extensive study of the provincial and territorial data sources, have been essential to progress in developing and implementing ASD surveillance.
The Public Health Agency of Canada put in place an external advisory committee to guide the work on NASS, made up from experts from across Canada. Members include provincial representatives, clinicians, policy experts, and the stakeholder groups representing the interest of those living with ASD and their families.
Based on guidance from this advisory committee, the initial focus is on tracking ASD among children and youth. The work is critical and complete and timely information on autism trends remains key to informing program delivery to support families.
In developing the NASS, we are also cognizant of the unique needs and circumstances of individual provinces and territories. As part of the program design, the Public Health Agency used a collaborative and phased approach to support provinces and territories in joining the NASS. This ensured that the national ASD surveillance objectives would be met and the information needed for jurisdictions would be addressed.
The process also accommodates varying states of jurisdiction readiness. The reality is that there is significant diversity in capabilities to participate.
Because of this, the Public Health Agency of Canada has engaged provinces and territories based on their current data system. In many cases, this has involved supporting them with a preliminary feasibility and validation project.
In terms of data collection, participating provincial and territorial partners will collect and share this information with the Public Health Agency at periodic intervals for inclusion in the NASS. While ownership of collected data resides with the provinces and territories, the federal Public Health Agency plays an important stewardship role. Experts review data quality, generate analyses, and provide interpretation in order to support public reporting on the state of ASD in Canada. In doing so, the NASS will provide the evidence to inform critical planning of programs, services, and research. That will make a difference for Canadians living with ASD, their families, and their caregivers.
The national ASD surveillance system illustrates the solid partnership among federal, provincial, and territorial governments to improve data and to use data to drive decisions and actions. Presently, seven provinces and territories are on board and work is under way to recruit additional jurisdictions. Complex surveillance systems like this one take time and resources. Their impact, however, is substantial.
A major milestone will be reached in 2018. The first public report for ASD prevalence in Canada is planned for release. Shortly thereafter, we look forward to a comprehensive implementation of NASS as we get closer to the full provincial and territorial participation, surveillance capacity and infrastructure development, and expansion of surveillance to adult population.
We must constantly remember that all collaborative efforts are targeted to ultimately help children and families affected by ASD. This clear federal leadership role is filling a gap that is foundational for all ASD stakeholders.
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak about autism spectrum disorder, and in particular, about its impact on individuals and families in our communities.
I would like to begin by commending the great work of the member for when it comes to raising awareness about the needs of individuals affected by autism spectrum disorder.
While today is specific to autism spectrum disorder, I want to raise the fact that many people in our communities face challenges in seeking treatment and proper support for caregivers of loved ones with serious disabilities. I hear from many people at the door, in my office, and in various situations about their challenges.
My daughter has had the opportunity to volunteer as part of a reverse integration project at the Beverley School in Toronto. Some of the students at Beverley School have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Beverley School teaches students from JK to grade 8, and the philosophy of the school is a team approach to supporting the educational needs of students who have developmental and/or physical disabilities.
I mention this because spaces like the Beverley School are so important to younger students with autism spectrum disorder. One student, okay, my daughter, wrote the following about the school on its blog:
|| Beverley isn't a place of work nor a place where you have to go to take tests or to have to be forced to learn something you don't want to learn. You are surrounded by supportive and helpful friends, in gym class, H and E would walk in a circle holding hands and then we would try to throw the rainbow ball into the hoop and it turns out S is quite good at basketball. We had fun and that is, in my opinion what Beverley does best, making work that could be tiresome and changing it and making [it] more fun and comprehensible, something a lot of schools are missing and that Beverley excels at.
I have highlighted the Beverley School, because it is one example of the bright lights for children with disabilities and their families. Today I would like to focus on that aspect of today's motion. How can we support people with autism spectrum disorder and their families or caregivers?
I talked with a family in my community that includes two children with the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The boys have been students at Beverley School. The challenges highlighted by their story are similar to what I have heard from many similarly situated families, not just with autism spectrum disorder but also with severe disabilities. The challenges are financial, and there is a need for caregiving assistance.
I would like to describe the concerns raised in the parents' own words:
|| Since [both boys] are physically able and indeed physically precocious boys, we are stretched to the absolute limit of our endurance to look after them. While we are fortunate enough to be able to afford in-home private support, this, in combination with our expenditures on camps and special programs, costs us about $50,000-$60,000 each year.... As we grow older, we are worn by our sons' disabilities. We worry about their future and our future.... [The boys] cannot be looked after in a home setting as they grow older without professional and motivated caregivers present for 16 hours each day (assuming that they are not in school). There are no publicly provided solutions for a problem like this. We are faced with group home care, which is largely unavailable, or a quite startling financial burden.... [The] publicly supported responses to this sort of disability long ago turned away from institutionalization. We cannot say that we disagree with this. The resulting vacuum, however, has left us in a completely untenable situation.
The reason I wanted to read that part of that family's testimony is that we need to give voice to some of the people who are directly impacted by the issues we are debating today. It is important for us to take into account their perspectives on the needs we must meet.
Today is about autism spectrum disorder, but the general question of supporting individuals with disabilities and their families or caregivers should also be part of this discussion. The issues raised by the person I quoted earlier are similar to many other disabilities as well.
Last week, I saw the play The Boy in the Moon at the Crow’s Theatre in my community. The play is based on Ian Brown’s book about raising his son, Walker, who has a rare genetic disorder. It pointed to some of the same challenges: parent or caregiver fatigue, financial concerns, wanting proper opportunities for a child, and concerns about a child's future as the parents or caregivers age.
I would like us to consider this universality when we consider such issues as family or caregiver supports where a child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I would like us to also consider how we can create a framework that includes all individuals with more severe disabilities and their families.
Today I am advocating for such an inclusive framework, a way to ensure that individuals with severe disabilities who will not be able to live independently, and their families, have proper supports.
I had the opportunity recently to hear from Sister Sue Mosteller, of the Sisters of St. Joseph, as part of a consultation on a national poverty reduction strategy. She provided a moving presentation on supporting people with disabilities and their families. She told the story of a family she was working with. Two sons had chromosome disorders. They required constant supervision, and the parents were exhausted. She flagged the need for parent respite and supporting these families.
A common theme that also arises is a concern about long-term care for individuals who will never be able to live independently. What will happen as parents age and cannot look after their adult children? On this point, I would like to tell members what I heard from someone in my community who wrote to me. He wrote:
|| Unlike children who grow up and become active members of the work force, a severely disabled person, like our son will never be able to do this. This results in increasing costs for our care of him, not decreasing costs like most families. Combine this with the fact that as he turns 18-21, much of the infrastructure we have relied on, disappears or changes.
|| Years ago, the system chose to migrate children of this ilk to the home from institutions. I have no doubt that this change has resulted in a better quality of life for the children and families. Frankly, I can't imagine it having been any other way, but the system has not provided enough support to those of us at home. My wife can't work as she has to care for our son, I am still taxed at 50%, even though our mandatory expenses can become debilitating.
|| ...the system is awash with good intentions and poor outcomes.
The question today is how we move beyond good intentions to get to good outcomes. I have heard from many people today about the funding that has gone to science to find means of early detection, diagnosis, and treatment. We have heard about how the government is supporting initiatives to better understand multiple factors that can influence autism spectrum disorder, as well as about the projects that are being undertaken to understand autism's development over the course of a person's life.
All of this is important, and I am happy to see these steps being taken to support this research. However, today I would like us to also consider the issue of how to deal with the vacuum that has been pointed out by people in my community. What support are we providing to individuals with severe disabilities, specifically those people who will not be able to live independently, and what supports are we providing for their families? As we have moved away from institutionalization, which I applaud, how will we make sure that across our country, the future for these individuals is secure and that the families are supported?
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move beyond good intentions to good outcomes.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
I am honoured to speak to this motion today moved by my friend and colleague, the member for .
I remember so clearly when I was elected as a trustee to the Waterloo County board of education in 1978. When the superintendent mentioned the word “autism”, I have to be honest that I did not even know what the word “autism” meant. I remember, though, how our officials grappled to address the needs of the children and their families who were suffering with autism. Since that time, it is obvious we have come a long way in addressing this issue, but we still have a very long way to go.
The impacts of autism are wide ranging for individuals and families affected by the condition. Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, can present lifelong challenges. For researchers, ASD is particularly complex, as it affects each individual differently. A great deal of valuable research has already been done to uncover the causes of ASD, as well as research into the most effective treatments and long-term implications of this disorder. However, further research is required in order to gain a more solid understanding of this very complex situation.
That is why today's motion is so important. Let me read the appeal that is in the motion. It states:
||...the House call on the government to grant the $19 million over 5 years requested by the Canadian Autism Partnership working group, Self-Advocates advisory group, and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance, in order to establish a Canadian Autism Partnership that would support families and address key issues such as information sharing and research, early detection, diagnosis and treatment.
Over the past few weeks, I have been contacted a number of times by a constituent in my riding with autism. Allow me to share a few of his words with the House. He said:
|| I am Autistic--on an extreme of the spectrum called Asperger syndrome. I have been incredibly blessed by the fact that I am high functioning Aspergers and have a great support group of family and friends, so I do not face the same challenges that most with Autism and Asperger syndrome face. While I face few of the challenges that many with Autism and Asperger syndrome do I have do have some idea of the challenges and therefore this is a big issue for me. I have been aware for a few weeks after the statements in the House of Commons by [the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin], that in the last budget the Liberal Government has not supplied funding to the Canadian Autism Partnership this bothers me tremendously. I don't like to see any loss of funding to groups that work on Autism planing, strategies and awareness. I have taken a lot of time to decide whether or not to say anything about this because it is a very important issue for me but also a very private one. This is not a question I suppose and I don't know what to do to bring this issue to the Federal governments attention. So this is just me expressing my frustration with the situation to make you aware of my concerns.
Economic action plan 2015, established by our former Conservative government, proposed to provide $2 million in 2015-16 to create a working group, led by the minister of health, to consult with stakeholders, including the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance, on the development of a Canadian autism partnership. Of the $2 million in funding, $1.5 million would be used to support stakeholder participation in the working group. The working group would be tasked with the development of a plan for the Canadian autism partnership that would address key issues, such as information sharing and research, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and supporting families.
This is exactly what my constituent and thousands of Canadians are asking for. In fact, this young man, now a university student, states:
|| I was diagnosed as Aspergers on the Autism spectrum when I was nine years old....One of the biggest challenges I face is that my reading comprehension is very week, I read a level behind my year in grades one and two because of this. Now that I am in university this presents a major challenge because of all of the reading required for my classes....My short-term memory is not very strong but my long-term memory is very strong. As a combination of all of the above school work takes me twice as long as a normal person to complete, this means during school I do not sleep much at all. Some corrections can be made by using text-to-voice software to dictate all of my work, as well as using software to read my work back to me. This is very helpful when it comes to editing essays, and the software can also be used to read my readings to me, which reduces my work time somewhat. Challenges still exist in taking notes...as well as studying. There is really no way to correct the note taking problems, but studying can be addressed by studying aurally in a group. Many of the ways I can use to overcome or correct my challenges came from professionals and I would really hate for others younger than me not to have access to such services because of budgetary reasons.
The Canadian autism partnership is designed to rapidly drive policy improvement at all levels of government for Canadian families living with autism. Whatever the challenge related to autism, for example, early intervention, education, housing, or vocation, the CAP will bring together the top experts in the country to provide solid evidence-based advice to decision-makers.
As important as what the CAP is, is what it is not. It is not just another autism organization. Rather, it is a true partnership intended to represent the entire Canadian autism community speaking together with one voice on the many things on which the Canadian autism community largely agrees.
The following is taken directly from the Canadian autism partnership project's report “Better Together: The case for a Canadian Autism Partnership”:
|| With input received from 4,963 Canadians representing all ten provinces and three territories, it is clear that there is strong, positive support for the CAP model as presented in this business plan. In particular, stakeholders valued the opportunities that CAP would provide for collaboration and knowledge exchange. They saw the potential for achieving efficiencies in programming and service delivery and the benefits of a knowledge repository. Families and self-advocates were enthusiastic about the potential for being able to influence the research agenda, and recognized that although the proposed CAP may not necessarily address their immediate issues, its focus on addressing complex issues and systemic barriers was an essential part of moving towards improved outcomes for families and individuals and enhancing capacity in communities.
|| The development of a Canadian Autism Partnership provides a unique opportunity to harness the collective investment, innovation, knowledge and capacity of a nation to get behind one of the most pressing issues of our time by enabling governments, researchers and service leaders to work together to address those barriers that prevent Canadians with Autism from participating in the full experience of our Canadian society.
Individuals with autism and their families want what everyone else wants: to fulfill their aspirations and flourish with the support of their family, friends, and society as a whole. All too often, however, they and their families face a strong stigma and lack of understanding of the challenges they face and the support they need in order to reach their full potential. Families can feel that they are on their own. They might not know which way to turn or where to seek the best advice. However, through their personal advocacy efforts, individuals affected by autism and their families have shown us how resilient they are. People affected by this condition can and do succeed with the right support, as evidenced by the young man from my riding whom I quoted earlier.
It is important that these individuals and their families know that the federal government is working with its partners and other stakeholders to support the autism community by enhancing the evidence base and increasing awareness. This is why the Liberal government must approve this funding.
Many times over the past 11 years I have served here in Parliament and again today, my friend and colleague from has shared his very personal journey with the House. He has demonstrated how a family deals effectively with the enormous challenges faced by those dealing with autism. It has been a real honour for me and my colleagues on this side of the House especially, but for all members, to have met Jaden, to see the fantastic enjoyment that he gets from life, and to experience the joy that he gives to us as members.
I am amazed at the perseverance and tenacity that is needed by every family and community that deals with autism on a daily basis. It is clear that we need to do all that we can to raise awareness and work toward effective support solutions.
I hope that on this important non-partisan issue all members will support the motion put forward by my colleague from .
Mr. Speaker, it truly is a privilege to stand and join the debate today on this very important motion.
First of all, I want to acknowledge the member for in terms of the passionate support that he has brought to this issue. He has also, in a very public way, shared the joys and the challenges of being a parent of a child with autism. He has done so much, and we need to recognize him here in the House.
I am going to talk in terms of what autism is, share a bit of personal experience, and then talk about the importance of what this motion is and what it will do in terms of the Canadian autism partnership program.
As many have said, autism spectrum disorder is widely considered one of the fastest-growing neurological disorders in Canada, affecting an estimated one in 68 children, so over 500,000 children are affected in Canada.
It is a lifelong diagnosis that manifests itself in a wide range of symptoms, including difficulty in communicating, social impairment, and restrictive and repetitive behaviours. Individuals with autism and their families face unique challenges over their lifespan that can often lead to crisis situations, so it is not just a health issue that we are dealing with; it is something that has overarching implications. As well, it is a spectrum disorder, meaning that the range of symptoms that people have and how it manifests itself in each person are variable and different.
I want to put those numbers into perspective.
In Canada in 2017, close to 400,000 children will be born. When about 3,800 of them are welcomed into the world, the initial reaction of the doctors and the people who look at this newborn infant will be, “You have a healthy baby boy.” Things will often go along quite well for a number of months, sometimes years, but sometimes small things or large things start to cause the parents some concern.
I had the privilege of working as a nurse in a small rural community for many years. Often I would see newborn babies, and part of my role was doing developmental assessments and monitoring developmental milestones for year one, year two, before they entered kindergarten. I will give maybe two examples on the spectrum.
One was a baby that came into the office for an 18-month immunization check. The mom started to express some significant concerns in terms of the verbal ability of her child and the tension within her child. She knew something was not quite right. Things were not going on in the way that her older daughter had progressed in terms of milestones. With a parent's instincts, she knew something was wrong. She ended up getting further assessments and received a diagnosis of autism. That early diagnosis really made a difference in terms of the ability to intervene and to mitigate some of the symptoms that the child was experiencing.
Another mother had a child who was about 10 years old, and she once said to me, “God gave me patience and then God gave me Mark.” She did not know that anything was wrong, other than that he had some challenges that she should could not quite put her finger on. He spoke well and was obviously very bright, but there were issues in terms of social interaction and a few other areas of his life, and he had been a particularly challenging child for her as a parent. When that was further investigated, he was diagnosed, and again it was autism spectrum disorder. He had a little help in his school, and it made all the difference in the world to have that diagnosis, to have that support, to learn how to accommodate some of his needs, and he obviously went on to, in his case, a very successful future.
As critic for indigenous affairs, I think it is important for me to also comment on that aspect as an issue. A lot of research has been done, and in the indigenous community it is believed that there is a significant underdiagnosis of children experiencing these problems and that there are significant issues in receiving support and interventions.
The government talks about Jordan's principle and the importance of having equitable services. This motion represents an opportunity, because the Canadian autism partnership group has recognized that it needs to work with indigenous communities to really provide support and ensure that diagnosis and appropriate supports are available. That is within some of the goals that have been mentioned.
I want to do a special shout-out to the Chris Rose Therapy Centre for Autism in my riding. I first visited that facility probably about 20 years ago. It was for children who were having too much difficulty to be in the regular school system. I was absolutely amazed by the commitment, passion, and support that the team was giving to help the many children who went to their facility. The Chris Rose Therapy Centre has a school program, an extended program, and a summer program, and they have support for adults with autism. Those kinds of facilities are across the country, but sometimes it is hard for a facility that is providing care to have the latest research and the most up-to-date interventions, and again I think the Canadian autism partnership is something that will move us forward in this area.
CAP is designed to rapidly drive policy improvements at all levels of government for Canadian families living with autism. Whatever the challenge is, whether it is early intervention, education, housing, or vocation, it will bring the top experts in the country together to provide solid evidence-based advice to decision-makers.
I am not really quite sure what the Liberals are talking about when they are resisting this motion. I think it is important to recognize that it builds on a lot of work that the federal government has undertaken for a number of years now. In 2007 a Senate report called “Pay Now or Pay Later” recognized that there were some issues. There has been a lot of hard work done by a lot of organizations to get us to where we are now.
The Canadian autism partnership has great guiding principles. One of the Liberals said it would not help with a particular situation. I would encourage her to read the report, because in actual fact it is specifically designed to help in all aspects of life with autism across the spectrum and throughout the entire lifespan.
It also says that CAP must be relentless in terms of its reliance on solid evidence and dedication to converting that evidence into policy that improves life for Canadians and those living with autism.
Again, I would encourage especially the Liberals to read what the guiding principles are and what the plan is when they look at that $19-million request. I know $19 million is a significant amount of money, but in terms of a federal government's budget and in terms of what can be accomplished, I cannot think of a better way to spend $19 million over five years.
Voting yes for this particular initiative is going to make a profound difference to the 7,000 babies, their families, and the communities that I just talked about, as well as to the centres such as the one in my riding that I mentioned. They will benefit from the ongoing research and advice and support that they will get. I think when people stand to vote in this House, it really is a modest funding request. It will have a profound influence, and I urge all members to support this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure how my talking about Asperger's syndrom and autism is not relevant to what we are debating today. We are talking about that very subject, and making reference to it. I cannot believe how the member opposite would not have recognized just how important this issue is. Before possibly answering what members might be posing to me at the end of my speech, it is important I share with them both my personal experience and the understanding I have of the issue. It is a wonderful motion that is creating a debate for a full day in the House.
I have heard a lot of wonderful things being said in support of the need for the government to do something on autism. The and the Government of Canada have been very progressive in pushing this issue forward. I could cite some specific examples if that helps members across the way. However, before I do that, it is important we recognize that the Government of Canada is engaging still with many other different groups to identify other potential opportunities for partnerships. It is also engaging with other departments to determine investments that can best help those with autism and their families. I think all of us would agree that the primary objective here should be how we help those families and those who are directly affected by autism.
We understand that the ministry is engaged on this issue. Opposition members have already made their decision, and that decision is supported by the New Democrats, and that is good for them. We know the fine work the Canadian Autism Partnership Project has done in the past. We recognize that. I have visited the website, as I am sure most members have. The organization has done a phenomenal job in consultations, reaching out, and trying to come back to the government with some proposals. In fact, the had the opportunity to review the issue that was presented and a decision was made in regard to it. The member across the way is asking us to rethink that decision.
However, it is important we all recognize this. Because the member opposite brings forward a motion, asking for an allocation of $19 million, does not mean the government has not taken this issue seriously. We take this issue just as seriously as the former government did.
The has been meeting with provincial jurisdictions. In fact, we have even achieved health care accords. I would suspect that a good part of the discussions that take place among the bureaucrats at both the provincial and national levels deal with issues like autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. All of these issues are very important for us to deal with. We are not just talking about $19 million. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars when we start to talk about dealing with issues such as autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other disabling and challenging issues our children and young adults have to face.
The has a broader responsibility to ensure we are, as much as possible, providing the necessary leadership to deal with these issues in a very tangible way. That is why the parliamentary secretary earlier talked about a couple of things, and I would like to highlight a few of those.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research invested $39 million over the past five years. That is a significant amount of money going toward health research. Also, in budget 2017, support for parents with disabled children was expanded to up to $2,769 per child in addition to the up to $2,300 as part of the revamped Canada child benefit program. There are also $5 billion that the government plans to invest in mental health for youth, which will, in fact, have an impact on young people diagnosed with ASD.
There are additional whole-of-government efforts that have taken place that support autism, including supports to families through improvements made to the child disability benefit in the Canada child benefit. Under the leadership of the , federal accessibility legislation is currently being developed. Employment and Social Development Canada is investing $15 million in the ready, willing, and able initiative, RWA, currently being delivered through a partnership between the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance.
They give the impression that the government is not moving forward on this issue, but that is just not the case. The has captured the essence of the issue and the bureaucracy within the Department of Health is taking the initiatives that are necessary and can actually make a difference.
I cannot say enough about the Canada autism partnership and what it has been able to accomplish to date. I applaud each and every person involved in that. The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance is a fantastic group that bridges every region of our country, I suspect, through the care and compassion it has demonstrated not only over the last couple of years but for decades of dealing with this very issue. I know that because it was a topic of many discussions in my former life as a member of the Manitoba legislative assembly and the health care critic in the province.
I posed a question to the member opposite regarding the need for co-operation, and I did it because of my understanding of how health care services are delivered. If I factor in my personal experience, as I am sure members across the way are aware, it is not just the departments of health in the different provinces having to come to the table on this very important issue. Members can check with the department of family services in the Province of Manitoba, for example, and I suspect they will find other sources of money and supports that are accessed in several departments in the different provinces. They will find that in some areas there are more progressive municipal governments that look at ways to provide support. That is not to mention the many non-profit organizations that deal with this particular issue in a very real and tangible way. Autism spectrum disorder is well established and well understood and, yes, there is room for us to move forward.
I expect the Government of Canada to do what it is doing today: investing real dollars, where it can, that are going to make a difference for those who have autism and, in particular, the families affected as a direct result of it. Where it can provide that direct delivery, I encourage and promote it. I would love to see more research done on it.
I really believe the single greatest thing that the can do on this particular issue is to ensure that she is working with the different stakeholders in trying to assist, and that there is some commonality between the different provinces, to take a look at our best practices in one province and maybe see how they could be incorporated into another province. Some members of this House have already drawn the conclusion that there is only one way to do that best, and that is through the Canadian autism partnership.
I have confidence in the Department of Health and this particular who has demonstrated a caring, compassionate heart when it comes to delivering on what Canadians believe is so important to them and part of our identity, and that is health care services. We have a minister who has been more proactive than the previous four or five health ministers under the Conservative administration, and that can be very easily demonstrated. I have more confidence in her ability to ensure this aspect of health care, the autism spectrum, is in fact being addressed.
When I see the type of budgetary initiatives that the government has in place or continues to support, and the type of other ministerial involvement, such as the one I made reference to in terms of sports and disability, I see that as encouragement. At the end of the day, I do not believe for a moment that there is a member inside this chamber who does not recognize the importance of the issue. I believe we all recognize that.
I choose to believe that at the end of the day, if we recognize that the —and I repeat what I said earlier—is still engaged with many different groups to identify other potential opportunities for partnerships and with other departments to determine where investments can best help those with autism and their families, that is something I believe is of critical importance.
If we are to move forward, I want this government to move forward in the right direction, so at the end of the day, we will ultimately see the best results we can see, with the finite amount of money that government has.
I disagree with members who say that it is 10¢ a day for this, or it is only $19 million. I can assure you that every one of the constituents I represent would argue that a million dollars is a lot of money. We could take that approach and say that this is a very good cause, which it is.
Do not quote me on it, but I suspect the Province of Manitoba spent somewhere between $6.5 billion and $7 billion on health care last year or the year before. Every dime of that, I would argue, is very important. We understand the importance of health care. We understand the importance of being there for our children and our families. This is a government that understands that, and if we look at the budgetary issues that we have presented to this chamber, we find there are numerous actions that have been taken in order to support our families.
I suspect that, as we continue to move forward, we will see more tangible actions that support the intent of what we are talking about today, and that is to try to deal with this disorder.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I want to let you know that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
On March 24, 2016, I was in the House of Commons along with pretty much everyone else. I was listening closely to my colleague from . It was during statements by members, when we have a minute to talk about a matter of personal interest, and my colleague's words were, by far, the most moving I have ever heard in the House of Commons or the National Assembly, where I sat for seven years.
What was so poignant about his remarks? My colleague told us about his son, Jaden, who was in the gallery at the time. With his trademark sensitivity and a full measure of the sincerity he demonstrates whenever he is invested in something, he shared his deep love for and great pride in his son despite the fact that Jaden has autism spectrum disorder.
His words truly moved me to tears. I shared his statement on Twitter and Facebook. Thousands more anglophones and francophones were also touched by what the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin said.
Here we are 14 months later speaking to this issue. We are being asked to vote on a motion to address a situation that we should not be in in the first place. Why did the current government have to slow the momentum built by the previous government to help research efforts and persons with autism spectrum disorder?
My comments will be two-pronged. Before getting to the financial and political aspects of the issue, let us first talk about autism. Everyone in Canada knows someone who knows someone who is dealing with autism. ASD was around 20 years ago, but we did not know much about it and had not yet given it a name. Today, it affects 1 in 65 children in Canada. That is half a million children who are affected by autism spectrum disorder. Multiply that number by 2, 3, 5, or 10 to get the number of people directly affected because every father, mother, grandfather, grandmother in this situation is affected. This serves as a reminder to those of us who are fortunate enough to be parents, like me and most people here I presume, that we are extremely lucky to have healthy children.
We need to deal with this situation in a positive and constructive way because the distinctive thing about autism is that no two cases are alike. Each case requires dozens or even hundreds of different measures. People with ASD will be dealing with this disorder their entire lives. ASD begins to manifest itself around the age of two. As my colleague from mentioned, in Quebec it takes two years to get an appointment and two more to get treatment. By then, the child is six years old, and it might be getting a bit late for treatment. It is never too late to do the right thing, but science has shown that the younger children are when they begin treatment, the better the results.
This is not about partisanship, political games, or seeking gains of any sort. We need to unite to help people in this situation. That is where we are in this debate.
A few years ago, spurred by the member for , and with the support of the former prime minister and member for Calgary Heritage, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, as well as the then finance minister, the Honourable Joe Oliver, the previous government allocated monies to enable all Canadian autism organizations to work together and help each other out.
We know that health is a provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government has a role to play. That role is to help with research, and to identify and discover best practices. The role of the federal government is to help all the groups trying to find solutions to ASD to work together, and exchange data and information in order to improve the lives of all Canadians affected by this disorder. I would like to point out that half a million Canadian children are affected. That is a lot of people.
That is why our government created the working group to go forward with this. To everyone's surprise, the current government turned down the group's modest request for funding.
When the budget was tabled, everyone expected the government to carry on with what the previous government started. After all, any government that sees something good happening has a duty to make sure it keeps happening even if it was started by people of a different political stripe. It is important to recognize everyone's work. However, to everyone's surprise, and as the finance critic, I know what I am talking about here, the current government said no to what is really a modest funding request.
The government cut $19 million over five years. That is $3.8 million per year or, as the member for put it, 10¢ per Canadian. That is not a lot. It is exactly 0.0001% of the budget. The budget is over $330 billion, and the government is cutting the $3.8 million that would have gone straight to helping those who help people with autism.
This is an unfortunate, sad, and utterly unacceptable decision. The way I see it, every expenditure is suspect and should be scrutinized. One is either a Conservative or one is not. To Conservatives, money well spent is worth every penny. Let me put that another way.
When it is useful, it is not expensive because it is used. They are important for people. This is the real issue with respect to today's debate. Why did the government decide to cancel the good support that the former government gave to families, to fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, who tried to work hard to support their children and grandchildren who have autism spectrum disorder?
The question today is crystal clear. Why did the government decide to cancel the necessary support? This is the main question. We are very sad to see that since the beginning of the debate, no one on the government side can answer this easy question.
We know that this government sometimes has a hard time giving straightforward answers. We saw this again last week, when the could not tell us how many times he met with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. I have seen this regularly myself, too. I asked the 24 times when Canada would return to a balanced budget, but never got an answer.
Let us be honest here. This is a humanitarian issue. This is in no way a partisan issue. We need to give our very best in order to help the most vulnerable among us. The federal government has a vital role to play across Canada. Yes, health is a provincial responsibility, but it is incumbent upon the Canadian federal government to unite the efforts of Canadians and all organizations from coast to coast to coast to allow Canadian parents to access the same services and come up with best practices to support people with autism spectrum disorder. The current government has stifled the efforts of the previous government.
With all my heart, I am appealing to the common sense of my colleagues opposite and to their sense of responsibility. I hope they will allow their government to help Canadians in need.