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 bill.

Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

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 independent.

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 crisis.

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 out.

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 athletes.

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 capitals.

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 autism.

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 doing.

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 country.

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 different.

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 autism.

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 tremendous strides.

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 things.

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 family.

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 road.

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 regard.

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 committee.

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 Canada.

(The committee adjourned.)