Report of the committee
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill S-203, An Act respecting a federal framework on autism spectrum disorder, has, in obedience to the order of reference of December 8, 2021, examined the said bill and now reports the same with the following amendments:
1.Preamble, page 1:
(a) Replace line 14 with the following:
“Whereas autistic Canadians, their families and”;
(b) add the following after line 20:
“And whereas the development of that federal framework would benefit from the involvement of autistic Canadians, their families and their caregivers;”.
2.Clause 2, page 2:
(a)Add the following after line 3:
“(0.a) timely and equitable access to screening and diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder;”;
(b)replace lines 11 to 16 with the following:
“(d) national campaigns to enhance public knowledge, understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder while accounting for intersectionality, in order to foster inclusivity;
(e) sustained, accessible and culturally relevant resources, available online and elsewhere, on best available evidence-based information to support autistic persons, their families and caregivers, including information on effective treatments and ineffective or harmful treatments;”;
(c)replace line 18 with the following:
“federal funds for autistic persons and their families; and
(g) anything else that the Minister considers appropriate in relation to autism spectrum disorder.”;
(d)replace lines 27 to 29 with the following:
“(c) relevant stakeholders, including self-advocates, persons with lived experience — including caregivers and support persons — service providers, and representatives from the medical and research communities and from organizations that focus on autism spectrum disorder in Indigenous communities; and
(d) anyone else that the Minister considers appropriate.”.
Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.
Observations to the sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill S-203)
Witnesses pointed out the lack of consultations with autistic persons themselves, in Bill S-203 in particular and more generally. This could be remedied in the development process for the federal framework on autism spectrum disorder, as well as in all other ongoing initiatives.
Your committee believes that the community of autistic persons in Canada, in all its diversity, should always be party to any discussions that directly concern it.
Your committee notes that the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Assessment on Autism, commissioned for the development of a national autism strategy, will be released soon and, therefore, recommends that further study of this bill and framework development take that report into account.
Your committee heard from multiple witnesses about the importance of language, both in Bill S-203, and in a future federal framework. In particular, witnesses, including autistic self-advocates, emphasized the importance of shifting from a deficit model of autism to using strengths-based language, as well as discussing the use of “Autism Spectrum Disorder” as opposed to “autism.” Your committee therefore suggests that as this bill and the proposed framework evolve, consideration continue to be given to evolving language and vocabulary.
Your committee notes that the use of the term “autistic Canadians” in the preamble of Bill S-203, while intentioned to be inclusive of all individuals diagnosed with autism, nonetheless excludes autistic individuals residing in Canada that do not meet the definition of Canadian citizen, such as refugees, permanent residents, and others without citizenship status. Therefore, your committee calls on the government to be cognizant and reactive to this reality in the development of this framework.