Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Autism in the Ontario Legislature on April 3, 2006

The following Questions were raised by Shelley Martel, MPP and NDP Critic for Health and Children’s Issues, in the Ontario Legislature on April 3, 2006
Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Children and Youth Services. On Saturday, I joined families and friends of autistic children to mark the one-year anniversary of Justice Kiteley's decision. In that decision, she found that your government had violated the charter rights of autistic children on the bases of disability and age, that your Minister of Education had violated the Education Act by failing to have appropriate services in place for autistic children and that it had also failed to direct school boards to provide IBI in schools.
One year later, there are hundreds of autistic children who languish on waiting lists, waiting for treatment. There are hundreds more who can't get IBI in the classroom because your government refuses to direct school boards to provide this. In light of the $3-billion windfall that your government had this past fiscal year, how is it that even one autistic child is on a waiting list, desperate for treatment?
Hon. Mary Anne V. Chambers (Minister of Children and Youth Services): I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to address this issue. There is no question that there are wait lists for autism therapy, for IBI. I should tell you, however, that we have made significant progress. In April 2004, there were about 530 kids receiving IBI; by December 2005, there were over 700 kids receiving IBI therapy. Is there more to be done? There certainly is more to be done.
We have also stepped up the pace in terms of assessments. We are assessing kids much more quickly than we used to. Again, is there more to be done? Yes, there is more to be done. I'm very pleased that since we have been elected to govern, we have more than doubled spending on autism-related services.
I look forward to the supplementary.
Ms. Martel: Here's the reality: At the end of March 2005, there were 399 autistic children who qualified for treatment and who were on a waiting list. There were over 200 more who were still waiting for assessment to determine if they were qualified. Between those waiting for an assessment and those waiting for treatment, more children were not receiving treatment than were. In the face of that, this minister diverted $2 million to children's protection services instead of putting that money into IBI treatment. Now we have a scenario, a year later, of hundreds more children on a waiting list who qualify for treatment and can't get it, hundreds who are waiting for an assessment and hundreds more who were cut off by your government from IBI when they turned six, despite your election promise, and are still waiting to get their treatment reinstated.
Minister, your government had a $3-billion windfall. How is it that any autistic child in this province is waiting for treatment either in or out of school?
Hon. Mrs. Chambers: The member, as unfortunately often is the case, is somewhat less than accurate in her accusations. It really doesn't matter how much she pretends to be sincere about this, her sincerity pales when we compare it to what we have been doing as a government. We have more than doubled spending. In the past year, we have spent approximately $95 million on autism-related services. We are positioned to spend even more than that this year.
The reason why the wait lists are longer now is because no child is being denied services because of their age. The message that she is giving is misleading and very, very unfortunate, because --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): I need you to withdraw that.
Hon. Mrs. Chambers: I withdraw, Mr. Speaker. But you know --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Ms. Martel: Why don't you tell the truth, Minister?
The Speaker: The member for Nickel Belt needs to withdraw that comment.
Ms. Martel: I withdraw the comment.
Mr. Norman W. Sterling (Lanark-Carleton): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: As you know, I am the chairman of the public accounts committee, and I can say that the member from Nickel Belt has more knowledge on this than any MPP in this Legislature.
The Speaker: New question.

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