October is Autism Awareness Month in Canada and on October 3 — the Senate’s first session of the month — senators re-ignited an appeal for a National Autism Strategy, which was a key recommendation in the Senate’s report on autism released 10 years ago. A great deal of progress has been made since the report was released, but a national strategy has not been implemented.
On October 3, Senator Jim Munson introduced an ‘inquiry’ in the Senate Chamber and was the first to speak in support of it.
An inquiry is a type of debate allowing a senator to call attention to a particular issue of interest to Canadians. This debate can continue as long as there is a senator who wishes to speak to the issue.
Throughout October, when the Senate is in session, senators will speak in support of the inquiry.
The Senate planned a major Autism Awareness Day on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, October 25, 2017. The event included a Facebook Live roundtable combing the perspectives of experts and those with lived experience..
The panelists were:
During the Autism Awareness Day at the Senate, a resource fair was also organized in partnership with the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (CASDA) and other organizations to offer visitors a complete picture of autism, from the point of view of families, researchers, therapists and people living with the brain disorder.
This groundbreaking Senate report shed light on autism and brought much-needed hope to tens of thousands of Canadians who had lived in society’s shadows, misunderstood and often mistreated simply because they were different.
The Senate report heralded the first time that issues facing Canadians living with Autism Spectrum Disorder had won a place in the national conversation. From modest beginnings, Pay Now or Pay Later was the catalyst that gave voice to an autism community whose pleas for recognition and help had long been ignored. It inspired members of that community to come together and form the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance which has achieved great things in ten short years.
This was a relatively modest but potent report for which senators on the 2007 Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology can be justifiably proud, and that families living with autism can point to as a document that began to change their lives for the better.
The committee was chaired by Senator Art Eggleton. Senator Wilbert Keon was his deputy.
Committee members spent six weeks hearing from 53 witnesses, including people with autism, parents of children with autism, advocacy groups, and health professionals.
Within weeks of the committee releasing its report, CASDA was formed and began pushing for a national autism strategy — the committee’s key recommendation.
In 2012, following an initiative led by Senator Jim Munson, the Canadian Parliament passed the World Autism Awareness Day Act recognizing April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day.
For all the progress that followed the release of the Senate report on autism, a national strategy on autism has yet to be developed.