October is Autism Awareness Month in Canada – an important time to recognize the unique contributions of those living with autism and the ways we can support them, their families and their caregivers.
In Canada, one in 66 children are diagnosed with autism; each and every one of them deserves the opportunity to participate fully in their communities and to be treated with respect and fairness – including by their governments.
This year, Ontario’s autism community was rocked when the Ford government announced devastating changes to the autism funding formula. As part of its cuts agenda, the Conservatives released their plans to move to a privatized fee-for-service model.
Despite Premier Ford’s repeated promises of no job cuts, frontline autism service workers lost their jobs as thousands of children and their families anticipated program funding cuts and lost services.
But after months of vocal outcry by parents and their allies, including OPSEU, we pushed back against this harmful plan, and forced the Ford government to backtrack.
We know that the power of the people is strong and together we have the power to move governments – even when they hold most of the seats.
There is still much work to be done and we must continue our fight for a needs-based approach, where autism services are fully integrated into our public health care system and publicly delivered.
After all, if you need surgery, it’s covered. And if you need autism services, they should be covered too.
This October, let’s honour those living with autism by standing up for strong autism services.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer