Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue 8 - Evidence - November 23, 2011
OTTAWA, Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology,
to which was referred Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness
Day, met this day at 4:18 p.m. to give clause-by-clause consideration to the
Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, we have one item on the agenda
today, and that is Bill S-206. We welcome Senator Jim Munson, the sponsor of
the bill, to our deliberations.
The procedure that we will have is we will invite Senator Munson to make
any opening comments that he would like to make and we will then open the
floor up as usual.
Senator Munson, you probably recognize your colleagues here so I will not
have us introduce ourselves in the normal fashion. With that, I would be
most happy if you would proceed with your presentation.
Hon. Jim Munson, sponsor of the bill: Thank you very much, chair,
for inviting me to return. It is a pleasure to be here again to present my
case on my bill respecting World Autism Awareness Day.
It has been almost two years since my last appearance before your
committee as sponsor of this bill, An Act Respecting World Autism Awareness
Day. Three years ago, I introduced the bill for the first time, and today
marks the third time I sit before you with this request that you approve it
so it can be sent back to the Senate and continue swiftly through the
legislative process. Here is hoping that the third time lucky, the third
time charm, may work this time.
In the world that we live in, timing and politics, namely two
prorogations and one general election, complicated what should have been a
straightforward, one-time passage of this bill. As parliamentarians, we just
have to roll with these realities. We also have to remain determined and
focused on what matters. This is what fuels progress.
Progress is what Canadians need to address: a health and social crisis
that keeps growing and growing. One in 110 children in this country has an
autism spectrum disorder, an ASD, and that rate will climb and climb.
The question is, what does this mean for those people with autism, their
families and our society? One in 10 people with autism cannot speak. Four
out of five autistic adults depend on their parents. Nine out of ten do not
have a regular job. These are startling statistics.
We are all getting older. Imagine what this fact of life means to the
parents of a child with autism. What will happen to my child if I get sick
or when I die?
We are starting to hear more from researchers about the need to integrate
people with autism into society, to give them skills so they can work and be
Two weeks ago, an autism researcher from the University of Montreal,
Laurent Mottron, shook things up a bit with his statements to the media
about the special intellectual skills of people with autism:
People have a cliché, that if he is autistic you can do nothing with
him. The fact that you have some terrible autistic life is not
representative of autism in general.
Those are the words of the professor.
Shifting the focus from what is wrong with autism to what is right is a
compelling and to some a controversial part of Mr. Mottron's message.
What I also hear is this: A dependable, generally accepted knowledge base
about autism is lacking. That is an alarming fact. The autism crisis in
Canada is far ahead of what we understand and are prepared to deal with.
Looking at history, our own history, my brief eight-year history in the
Senate and fighting for this cause, an autistic child who was two at the
time I first introduced this bill is now five. An autistic child who was 15
is now an adult, and with that come different, more troubling concerns.
Dr. Susan Bryson is the founding director of the Autism Research Unit at
Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and the Autism Research Centre at the
IWK Health Centre in Halifax. An area of special interest to her is the
well-being of adolescents and adults with autism. She says that the biggest
problem these people face is getting basic medical care. She is direct:
"There is nothing for them. They fall off a cliff."
As all honourable senators know, taking on a complex cause like autism is
like embarking on a voyage. For more than eight years I have been doing
whatever I can to support the interests of people affected by autism and so
has this committee.
I know about the stresses families endure, the sense of isolation, the
desperation for guidance and resources. I know, too, that the situation can
change and I am driven to see that it does.
The autism community is made up of extraordinary, dedicated people,
families of autistic children and adults, care providers, medical
practitioners, researchers and advocates. I am in their corner as they are
in mine and I am grateful for this.
I also appreciate the alliances of parliamentarians from all sides who
support and carry out their own individual efforts to deal with the autism
Way back when I launched an inquiry into autism and it ended up with this
committee, Senator Eggleton, former Senator Dr. Wilbert Keon and all members
embraced what I was trying to do, and we ultimately produced the
groundbreaking report, Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis.
Another ally is NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, who often lends an informed voice
to public discussion about autism, pushing for a national autism strategy
and a better social understanding of the disorder. In his words:
Because of our society's misunderstandings and lack of knowledge
about what autism is and how it affects people and families, children
with autism can often feel isolated from their friends, classmates,
neighbours, communities and of course the world around them.
Who knows where this bill would be today if Conservative MP Harold
Albrecht had not introduced it in the house last December. He really became
a champion for the bill, and he inspired other members of Parliament to
voice their support. I never expected to work with Harold and Harold never
expected to work with me. When we talked about this bill, Harold did not
understand the issue of autism at that particular time. It was Harold who,
as a member of Parliament, a government MP, introduced this measure in the
house at that time.
My friend Conservative MP Mike Lake was among those who spoke up that
day. He stood in the house and talked candidly about his son Jaden, who is
autistic. Parents know better than anyone about the day-in and day-out
challenges of raising a child with this complex disorder.
Moving ahead to this latest and I hope last attempt to pass this bill,
new alliances continue to emerge. Last month, Senator Judith Seidman's
contribution to the debate on my motion for second reading of the bill
reached right through to the heart of the matter. Before necessary
advancements can be realized, autism needs to be recognized on the national
stage. She said:
Promoting an understanding of autism in Canada will not only create a
more considerate and knowledgeable society, it will also pay tribute to
those who are touched by ASD.
With such moving support for this bill, I can only be optimistic that
parliamentarians will pass it in time for Canadians to celebrate World
Autism Awareness Day on April 2, 2012.
This day will not change the day-to-day realities of families affected by
autism. What this modest bill can do, though, is show these families that
the people of Canada respect them for doing the best they can in the name of
their children, brothers, sisters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. World
Autism Awareness Day will also spark awareness among Canadians about autism,
its symptoms, the people who are affected by it, and the need to address the
crisis it has become.
Honourable senators, I thank you for your attention and for sharing in
the effort to make this bill law.
The Chair: Senator Munson, thank you for your presentation. I will
now open the floor up to questions.
Senator Eggleton: Senator Munson, I wish to congratulate you for
this bill, which I hope we will all be able to support, and for your ongoing
efforts on behalf of people with autism and their families. I remember your
inquiry at the Senate, which led to this committee undertaking a study,
which culminated in the report which you pointed out, Pay Now or Pay
Later: Autism Families in Crisis, in March 2007. Congratulations our
persistence. As you say, it has taken three years, not because it is a
controversial item but because of the ebb and flow of Parliament. Elections
create those kinds of delays and require that the process begin again in
many cases. Hopefully this time will be the third time lucky, as you point
In the 2007 report, there were a number of recommendations, for example,
that the federal government in collaboration with the provinces and
territories establish a comprehensive national autism spectrum disorder,
ASD, strategy to include child, adolescent and adult treatments and support,
and that the federal government convene a federal-provincial- territorial
ministerial conference to examine innovative funding arrangements for the
purpose of financing autism therapy.
The Senate report also recommended collaboration with the provinces and
that the federal government, in implementing the recommendations of the
Minister of Finance expert panel on financial security for children with
severe disabilities, ensure that autism qualifies as an eligible disability.
The report also recommended that the Department of Finance and Canada
Revenue Agency study the implications of income splitting, issue a report by
June 2008 and that Health Canada invite autistic individuals to attend the
symposium I mentioned earlier and be given the opportunity to contribute as
equal partners in the exchanges with participants.
Could you tell us how far those recommendations have advanced and where
the major needs are at this time?
Senator Munson: I would like to praise the government and Finance
Minister Jim Flaherty, for what he has done when he introduced the bill
dealing with tax disability. I cannot tell you how many Canadian families
have come to me or written to me and perhaps yourselves on how much the
ability to put money away over an extended period of time has meant to help
an autistic child when the day comes that the parents are gone. That is a
good first step. I congratulate Mr. Flaherty and the government for that.
Also, inside Health Canada there are now more people working in an
investigative way to try to monitor and come up with numbers of our own.
These days we seem to be relying on the health centre in Atlanta, Georgia,
looking at their numbers and how we come to the figure of 1 in 110.
I know that the alliance that I work with, or that I help, their pleas
are regularly to see that the federal bureaucracy in Health Canada spend
more money being so that there are more people to look at the numbers.
On the national strategy, as an analogy, I was a hockey player and I
think I would have been a good player for Coach Jacques Demers because I am
the kind of guy who likes to go in the corner and I am not scared and I get
hit. I will get the puck and come out of the corner and give it to someone
else and he will get the goal. I think I have to keep going into more
corners with the government to get the puck to move this issue along and to
have someone put the puck in the net, because I do not care who scores. What
I care about is that I push harder and we continue to push harder to have a
conference or to have a meeting and to dare to think outside the hockey rink
or the box that we can sit down as a nation and as ministers of health, in
the social field or education, so that we can actually have that
conversation. I do not think we have had that conversation yet. That is
where we have to go.
I always remember what Dr. Keon told me. He reminded me that, yes, you
keep pushing for a national autism spectrum disorder strategy but do not
forget to push as well where the money is for science and research. Science
and research are so important as we have discovered in some of the work of
your chair, Dr. Ogilvie, in his past life.
Science and research produce results and the more science and research we
have the better we are. In that field, I think there has been some quiet
progress made, but we have a long way to go.
Senator Eggleton: What are the toughest challenges that families
with autistic children are facing right now? It has usually been financial
in trying to cope with — particularly if they have two working parents,
usually one of them has to leave employment because the child does need a
lot of attention. Are those still the biggest issues?
Senator Munson: As I mentioned, we talked about finance, but the
real issue for families is waking up each and every morning and thinking,
"How do I get through the next 24 hours?" The real issue is simply getting
through the next 24 hours.
I just ran into someone yesterday who talked about being in another
shopping centre with a son and it was a rough experience, with people
looking at you and saying, "My goodness, why can't that mother take care
that of child?"
We have to have attitudinal change. That is what has to happen with the
bill I have before you. This kind of thing, this kind of awareness campaign
can help change attitudes.
I am reluctant to bring it up, but we had a son who had Down Syndrome who
passed away when he was very young. We lived in a small town in northern New
Brunswick. He did not live that long, he was a year old when he passed away,
but we were living in the shadows in those days of what people in the
community would say, "Oh, they are the Munsons. There is a Down's Syndrome
boy there." We did not know what to do. We had to go to Montreal to get
tests. There was no Internet, there was nothing. We felt alone as a family.
As a husband and wife, we felt terribly alone.
I think what we see today is these families feeling terribly alone. They
want to have people embrace what they have to embrace every day. For our
family, dealing with that issue in that era, 1968, when Timothy James
Alexander Munson was born, that was the year the Special Olympics was also
born. Up until that point people were living in the shadows.
You could not take a Down's Syndrome young boy or girl or anyone who was
developmentally delayed or any kind of disabilities anywhere. People would
say, "You can't play sports, you can't do that."
Look where we are today with our Special Olympians and hundreds of
thousands of athletes around the world. I came back from Athens where we had
10,000 athletes and 40,000 people in the stands. In 1968, the games were
between Canada and the United States, two teams and maybe a hundred
I like to look at it from the perspective that the families who have
autistic children are in the place where we once were back in the 1960s, in
those shadows and terribly alone.
I think that if anything, yes, finances; yes, research; yes, more
science; yes, more care; yes, more intensive behaviour therapists. When we
get up in the morning and say, "Oh, my goodness, I don't know how I feel
today," stop and think. What about those families who need us and who need
more of us?
Senator Seidman: Thank you, senator. I think you said that you
have been at this for three years. It is a testimony to your patience.
Despite the fact that there are still issues of definition of autism, that
does not change the fact that raising awareness of autism and as such your
autism awareness bill will be important to help Canadian families and
children. There is no doubt that our government considers families and
children and their concerns of the highest import.
I am sure we all wish to thank you for your perseverance and your
efforts. We know that Mike Lake will shepherd this in the other place with
the same perseverance as you have done. That is pretty much what I would
like to say to you right now. I know it has been a long journey. It has been
a good one, I hope, ultimately.
Senator Munson: All I can say to that is, thank you.
Senator Cordy: Thank you, Senator Munson, for being back again and
again. I think it was Yogi Berra who said it is déjà vu all over again. We
are delighted to have you back again.
Thank you, as Senator Seidman said, for your persistence and your
passion. Thank you very much for being a champion for the families who have
autism in their family.
I know that, as a teacher, when I would see families with one and
sometimes two or three autistic children and the challenges that they faced
on a daily basis, when you spoke about feeling alone, that was certainly
something that came across clearly. Sometimes, as a teacher, you think,
"This was a long day," but then you think about the families who face
these challenges 24 hours a day, it is not just 5 or 6 hours a day. Thank
you very much for being a champion.
One of the things we have to look at, too, is that we always talk about
autism being a children's issue. It is not, as you said earlier. These
children are becoming adults and we had best invest now in autism by
providing early intervention, which seems to be, in the reading I have done,
what works best. We have to start providing early intervention to those with
autism, whether they are at the mild end of the spectrum or the more severe
end of the spectrum.
Since you are here dealing with Bill S-206, An Act Respecting World
Autism Awareness Day, how will a day respecting World Autism Awareness Day
benefit the families of those who have autism?
Senator Munson: What I like about working in the Senate is that
you can actually connect people on common causes on what we believe is the
common good. I think this is one issue where it is common cause, common
good, and we can connect ourselves and work at it in a collaborative way. We
can sit down and work together.
Under that umbrella, there are autism organizations across the country
that have told me that they will see this day as a great lift in their
spirits that Ottawa is paying attention, really paying attention to what we
are doing. It comes back to not being alone.
Yes, there are some services, and in some cases a lot of good services
from the provinces, but for them it will give them an opportunity, for
example, to come to Ottawa on that day and to present their case to more of
us on how we go forward from here, how we work towards what I still believe
we need and that is a national autism spectrum disorder strategy, how we all
get into the same room and work on that particular program.
In the private sector we have seen private-public partnerships, which
produce incredibly good work from philanthropists, others in Nova Scotia, in
Ontario, and out west, people who have literally been spending hundreds of
thousands of dollars. We need to get into the same room and work on a
private-public partnership. I do not think governments alone can change the
way we work in the autistic field. It is those kinds of awareness things.
Also, we can be more proactive in schools. We can fan out across the
country and talk to our provincial brothers and sisters about what this day
means and that we recognize it here and we recognize it in provincial
This measure is another step. It is nothing more than one step, but it is
a big step in the hearts and minds of those families.
It was an adult autistic gentleman who sat in this very chair when we had
our Social Affairs Committee meeting on the autism crisis who said — it was
his title — he said he was from New Brunswick, he is in his early thirties,
he has a small little computer shop, his parents are proud of him. He works
with his brother who keeps an eye on what he does and he said, "Folks, you
will either have to pay now or pay later." It was easy to see the headline
in our report. This measure will give a lot of comfort to parents.
I will relate a very brief story. Athens is a young woman from Alberta
who has developmentally delayed issues. She is a weight lifter at the
Special Olympic Games because there are those who are autistic who are
Special Olympians. Her auntie told my wife and me how concerned her sister
was because her husband passed away and then she said, "I am not well and I
will pass away," and that her daughter was going to be left alone. She has
moved mountains literally beneath the Rockies to work and live on her own
and to do what she is doing. She has done that through the community. She
has done that through the idea of how the community has changed its
attitudes towards her.
We need thousands more of those examples out there of offering support to
adults who are autistic.
Senator Cordy: Thank you for your work.
The Chair: Senator Callbeck, and may I say welcome back.
Senator Callbeck: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Senator, I want to commend you for bringing forth this legislation and
for sticking with it. As well, I thank you for all your efforts on behalf of
families with children with autism.
The statistics that you gave and the statement you made certainly are
alarming. I support this legislation wholeheartedly. I have from the
beginning, because I feel it will increase the awareness and knowledge of
I had some questions that I wanted to ask on that report, Pay Now or
Pay Later, but Senator Eggleton has already covered them so I do not
have any questions for you. However, I commend you again for what you are
Senator Munson: I appreciate that. I was thinking that in the last
few years we have to remember, too, most of us love the creature comforts of
home. Many people that I know personally have left Atlantic Canada, which
was once my home, and still the home in my heart, where they have gone west
and they have not gone west for oil. They have not gone to Manitoba,
Saskatchewan or Alberta to work. They have gone to get care because in the
province of Alberta they have a program where you can be cared for at least
up until the age of 18. That inconsistency is just not right in this
Senator Martin: Thank you, senator, for your leadership on this
and for being here. I was here two years ago; I cannot believe it has been
two years. Coach, if I am correct, do we call Senator Munson a grinder,
someone who goes into the corners?
Senator Demers: First of all, I want to know, can he fight?
Senator Munson: I can take a shot.
Senator Martin: Without what you do, the goal scorers could not
put that puck in the net. So I want to thank you for your tireless work.
The question I had was asked by Senator Cordy and, that is, what is the
significance of this day? I see it also as being a springboard for other
things that could follow. As a former educator, I taught quite a few
students with autism but every student was so different. I remember, as an
educator, just not feeling equipped to fully address the needs of these
individual students, doing my best with what support I had, but I do
remember how complex each individual was. As you say, it is a spectrum
disorder and there is quite a range, whether from Asperger's to anxiety
issues. I also recall that between provinces the programs were quite
I do see this as being something that, within the province, because of
what they have and what programs that may already be in place, that there
can be the national picture but the provinces may have slightly different
approaches because education and health care are provincial
responsibilities. This is a complex but important issue.
I do want to commend you and I wanted to put on record and say that I
think, beyond awareness, real education to deepen our understanding will be
important because it is not just "autism," it is not as simple as that.
Perhaps this is the question I could ask: How is Canada doing? When
parents from Korea come to Canada, I am told that they do not even know the
term Asperger's. They deal with autism as autism, singularly. In Canada
there seems to be greater awareness in that sense. Are we, compared to other
jurisdictions, more aware and doing better? Is that something you could
perhaps shed light on?
Senator Munson: I think we are in the middle somewhere dealing
with autism. In my office we are now working on a study to find out exactly
what is happening in Europe, Asia and so on. I tried to bring the subject up
when I was in China recently and people looked at me with a blank face and
did not understand the word "autism." They have just come to the
realization in China in terms of those who are developmentally delayed,
those who have Down's Syndrome, those who have other issues. The word "autism" is not part of the vocabulary and they are just beginning.
I understand there are some interesting programs going on in Korea that I
can share with you in a longer form later. At the end of the day, is it not
about best practices? You alluded to the fact that, when you were a teacher,
there was a young person in the corner who was very difficult to deal with
or whatever the attention span was. I think with awareness comes awareness
of the fact that we need more teachers, more trainers and more money. This
is what it is all about, is it not? At the end of the day, it is about
facilitating what your job was in the past as opposed to what we have had in
the past of having them in separate schools, separate places and darker
places that they should not be in.
It is about best practices. To give an example, they just launched a new
program in Nova Scotia. They are all excited about it. I do not know, for
example, in the province of New Brunswick, which is right next door, how
much they know about Nova Scotia's program. Life is about facilitating and
sharing, in this country. One of the greatest things we have is that we
share knowledge, compassion and each other's concerns. This is where, once
again, we have to get into this bigger and larger room to ask, what are the
really good things that are happening in Alberta? What is the good thing
happening in Nova Scotia? What is happening in the country and how do we
compare ourselves to the rest of the world? How do we bring that to Finance
Minister Flaherty and say, "Here is what we have and here is what the need
is. The tax deductions and so on are wonderful, but we must take further
steps in dealing with this."
Senator Martin: I can only speak for B.C. where I taught, but I do
have to commend the teachers and schools for creating an inclusive
environment. The students are very welcoming; the students with autism are
integrated into the classrooms. I saw a lot of enriched learning as a
result. My students with autism did teach me a lot.
Thank you for all the work you have done.
Senator Munson: Thank you. There are so many different therapies
out there that we are not sharing. There are therapies where people use
animals as a friend of an autistic child. It works wonders. We have a friend
who is a schoolteacher. She teaches music. It is amazing to watch the
sequence of events from a young man at 15 recoiling when he first sees her
with a guitar. She was playing beautiful music and he was very frightened
and did not want to hear that noise because it jarred him. In six weeks he
had the guitar in his hand, through patience and diligence. That step is the
biggest step in the person's life and it is worth it to pay more attention
and more money to allow that young man to have that kind of joy and to
continue that kind of joy in adulthood. If that is all that step is, the
simple idea of listening to music and nothing more, it is worth it.
Senator Merchant: Senator Munson, you are a champion for autism
and the families. I also want to thank you very much. As you can see, you
have great support here. You have worked hard and you have been diligent.
Congratulations. I hope that, as you said, third time is lucky. I hope you
can continue your work beyond just having a day recognized on behalf of
There are new technologies now on the market. I saw a news item last
week. I am not sure if it was Apple. Someone had taken iPads or something
into a classroom and they showed how the children reacted. They could do all
kinds of things that we would not maybe know about because we do not know
enough about autism, but these children have certain talents.
In Regina, and I have spoken to you about this, there is a little group
called Best Buddies. They are a high school group that ranges in age from
young teenagers to young adults. They have discovered that these children
are very musical. They have formed a little band and they go around, not
just in Regina but in the country and other provinces, and they perform and
get a little bit of money for their performances. They put the money aside
to then go to somewhere a little further.
They wanted to go to Athens. They approached me to see if I could help
them get to Athens. I was surprised how much it cost. They need so much
support. Maybe you can tell us; in order to take a small group of children,
let us say 10 or 15, to a place like Athens, how many people are involved?
Do they need an extra person per individual who is going? It is more
difficult; it is not just like taking a team with a couple of parents as
chaperones. These children need a lot of support.
Could you tell us what it is like? When you went to Athens, how much
support staff did you need to help these people reach their potential?
Senator Munson: We had about 70 athletes and I think the team,
with managers, trainers, coaches and therapists, was about 110 in total. It
is pretty good. Special Olympics is a wonderful organization, and they have
done things in the last 20 years so they know what they are doing when it
comes to keeping their athletes comfortable and focused on what they want to
do. The government has been good to Special Olympics — very good, actually,
in terms of base funding and then of course the whole outreach to the
private partners, Home Hardware and Coca-Cola, you name it. They are out
there spending real money to ensure they are flown there. They live in
dormitories. They are Canada's greatest ambassadors, but you have to keep
your eye on them all the time. We are not talking children again; we are
talking adults as well. That is why I would like to emphasize that private
partnering is extremely important when talking about computer technology. If
governments can create the environment or atmosphere where companies can
create these wonderful new pieces of technology, which unlock the mind of
those who cannot speak but can speak through technology, then that is a
wonderful. This is what governments are for. I think that we will make
In our own country, before this piece of technology two years ago in
Toronto, a young woman started speaking to her parents and they could not
believe it. It was quite emotional, but she was communicating. When you are
communicating and someone had said she would never talk, well, she did. She
sat down, and wrote and wrote and wrote.
We have to work hard at putting programs together where private
enterprise will be excited about participating in something along this line.
It is not just those who are autistic but there are many other
intellectually and developmentally delayed disabilities that are important
to remember here.
Senator Demers: I am sorry if I got out of line there, Mr. Chair.
I would never do that to someone who just won an award.
I went with Senator Munson and his wife last year to Whitehorse. There
are people who do things in life to have their face on a billboard. That is
just a way of exaggerating a little bit. After spending some days with
Senator Munson, I knew exactly where he and his wife were coming from. I met
his son. It came from the heart. I was so happy also when Senator Seidman
stood up to speak last year. Both parties are into this. I have never seen
so much unanimous support for this and it is the right thing to do.
I commend you on that. It takes courage; you have to fight through
I will tell a sad but true story. My niece has two kids. One suffers from
autism. There are two years' difference. Both parents had difficulty raising
the kids because one was jealous because they were paying too much attention
to the one who had difficulty. In the neighbourhood there was talk about my
niece and her husband not knowing how to raise kids. The husband had a
business five kilometres away. He got hit by a car and killed. He was riding
his bike to work during the summer. The mother ended up with the two kids by
herself, and the kid became even more difficult to handle.
This brings awareness. She was crying when I told her what was being done
here. Who is Senator Munson? She has no clue, but I said there is someone in
the Senate who is really fighting for this. I thank you on behalf of my
Sometimes we talk about Senator Boisvenu; other people have some
difficulty. Until something happens to you, you do not really know what is
going on, until you are living the situation, as we all know with Senator
Boisvenu and his two daughters. This situation I have seen with my own eyes.
Believe me, I support it and commend you. This comes from the heart. I have
never heard one person say this is not right; what is he trying to do?
Everyone is for it, as Senator Martin is as a teacher.
Thank you so much, and you have my 100 per cent support.
Senator Munson: I appreciate that. I began to work first with the
Special Olympics movement when I was appointed to the Senate. I hate the
word "disability." Take the "dis" out. They have ability to do things we
cannot do. On the first occasion I was watching figure skaters for Special
Olympics. These include autistic children and adults. I was introduced in
the dressing room at the McNabb arena. I was the only person in that cold
rink that morning. Craig Oliver's wife teaches figure skating. She wanted to
introduce me to all of them.
Here is what happened. She said, "Boys and girls and ladies and
gentlemen, this is Jim Munson and he is an Ottawa Senator." I have never
been hugged so much since my honeymoon. I stopped and then one looked over
and said, "If you are an Ottawa Senator, what is your number?" I said, "Number 12. I always wear number 12." They said,
"No, that is Mike
Fisher's number, who is number 12 for the Ottawa Senators." You have to be
careful; but I am number 12 for the Canterbury Rusty Blades.
You have to keep a sense of humour and be tenacious. I know we have the
prospect of term limits in the Senate, but I remind you that, as of December
10, a few weeks from now, I will have been here eight years. I need a bit
more time — not to complete this journey; you never complete this journey
when it comes to people who need to be paid attention to, that we must all
pay attention to. I believe if we work together, and I do not care what
government is in power, this is an affair of the heart.
The Chair: Thank you, senator. Before we move to the next phase of
discussing your bill, I would like to summarize on behalf of my colleagues
on the committee. They have all expressed their appreciation to you for the
efforts you have carried out over a very long time, and will continue to do.
You have helped us understand what hopefully many of us know a fair amount
about, but nowhere near the experience you have had and accumulated from
developing your awareness of this situation.
Perhaps we can look down the road. In some of the examples you have given
today, there is a sudden transformation of someone who suddenly starts to
speak. Clearly, there was an underlying basis for that in some way. If we
can ultimately figure out the issues that cause some of these sudden and
unexpected changes, it will help us go a long way with regard to the
accumulation of knowledge, to be able to make deliberate steps down the
Another aspect that you have highlighted for us, and reminded us of, is
that this is a spectrum disorder. It is not just one kind of situation.
Therefore, in terms of us as a society helping families in these situations,
it is not just an off-the- shelf situation. We have to become totally aware
of the needs of families who arrive at this situation.
From my own background, I can only hope that down the road we will come
to a much greater understanding of the underlying molecular and structural
basis that lead to the symptoms that we see in this aspect of life.
I want to thank you especially, not only on behalf of my colleagues on
the committee, but I will take the liberty of thanking you on behalf of our
colleagues in the Senate through this committee for your efforts in this
I want to thank Senator Seidman for her role in helping ensure we have a
really good total understanding of the situation and full and complete
support for moving this recognition forward in the Senate.
With that, Senator Munson, we will move, if my colleagues agree, to
clause-by-clause consideration. As you well know, you are perfectly welcome
to stay through that process, but I will now raise the question with the
Is it agreed that the committee now proceed to clause-by-clause
consideration of Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you. I will now proceed and raise with you the
questions in order and get your response.
Shall the title stand postponed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the preamble stand postponed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall clause 1 stand postponed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall clause 2 carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
Shall clause 1 carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
Shall the preamble carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
Shall the title carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
Shall the bill carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Does the committee wish to consider appending
observations to the report?
Hon. Senators: No.
The Chair: Thank you. As a result of that, I will put this
question to you: Is it agreed that I report this bill to the Senate?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you; with the briefest possible delay, I take
that to mean.
Again, Senator Munson, I think you clearly recognize that this is finally
a further step toward the resolution you have long sought. Congratulations.
Senator Munson: I thank you on behalf the autism community of