Peace Arch News Editorial: “Help Pleas”
Mar 06 2007
Politics can seem a blood sport at times, but it doesn’t mean all the players would be wise to get dirty.
Take the most recent dispute over the Canada Health Act.
Parents of children with autism have been demanding for years that two types of treatment be funded – applied behavioral analysis and intensive behavioral intervention. They report that these treatments have proven successful in 40 per cent of autistic children, and therefore should be covered under the Canada Health Act.
A Feb. 21 vote in the House of Commons defeated a private member’s bill, C-304, that was purportedly intended to include these procedures in the act. The bill failed 155-113, with parents raking over the coals the Conservative MPs who voted against it.
Some vowed retaliation at the polls. Others angrily called individual MPs derogatory names. Some question the integrity of anyone who does not support this particular bill.
The MPs who voted against, including Russ Hiebert (South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale), said the wording of the bill would undermine the Canada Health Act, as well as the provincial governments that are supposed to govern our health system. By naming autism as the only affliction or disease in the act, the bill is “flawed.”
The parents’ argument is sympathetic. They are the ones on the frontline, trying their best to deal with their child’s disability and provide support.
And the Conservative argument, albeit legally sound, does little to help this distressful situation.
The parents, however, could also do more to advance their cause. No one should judge them for taking this issue personally. Nothing would be more personal than getting in between a parent and a child’s well being.
But by wading into the political arena and throwing muck on politicians with name calling and aspersions, they risk putting off objective members of the public who might support the cause.
Gaining this support is integral to finding a solution. Perhaps a bill will come forward that guarantees the treatment of all citizens with any serious disability, without naming specific afflictions.
Or perhaps it will be decided that provincial representatives are at the only political level that can effect change.
The parents can help find the solution, but only if their pleas fall on sympathetic ears.
F.E.A.T. of B.C’s Response To The Editorial
March 10, 2007
Peace Arch News.
Re: “Help Pleas”
Your March 6th editorial concerning the emerging political involvement of parents who have an autistic child or children indicates clearly that you simply don’t “get it”. You’re stuck in an outmoded, and unhealthy, understanding of the relationship between those who would govern and those who are to be subject to such governance.
Canadian citizens have long ceased to be vassal-like supplicants, bowing their heads and tugging at their forelocks as their betters instruct them on what they might expect to receive by way of ex gratia beneficence from the all powerful State. It is not only the right but the duty of all Canadian citizens and, in particular, parents of disabled children to demand responsive performance from their elected representatives. If one or another bloviating politician fails to meet the expectations or betrays the trust of their electors, they deserve to be summarily consigned to the ash can of history. We have a moral obligation to rid the body politic of these less than useless individuals.
You claim the federal Conservative’s position is “legally sound”. Wrong again. The Supreme Court of Canada, in its 2004 Auton decision, told parents of autistic children that they must look to parliament for a solution to their demands. The operative statement of the relevant law, however, remains that of Justice Saunders, of the BC Court of Appeal, who stated, in Auton, that autism is a “socially constructed handicap”. What a damning indictment of our politicians and their backroom or bureaucratic advisors.
You suggest that parents of autistic children who wade into the political area risk “putting off objective members of the public who might support the cause”. Again, you’re way off base. Shortly after the Supreme Court’s watershed decision in Auton, an Ipsos-Reid poll found that fully 89% of Canadians supported Medicare coverage for the treatment of autism. It is only our myopic political class, superbly manipulated in “Yes, Minister” fashion by the blinkered bureaucracy, that opposes a fair and equitable solution to this pressing public policy issue.
Over the past decade, parents of autistic children have spent countless hours in futile meetings with elected representatives and senior bureaucrats, and have spent yet more time, and money, battling with one government or another before the courts. We are now doing what the Supreme Court of Canada has told us to do: we’re getting political.
You claim that parents’ pleas must fall on sympathetic ears in order for them to succeed in their quest for justice for their children. Wake up! This is 21st Century Canada. We’re through with pleading to anyone, let alone people whose salaries we pay. Either existing MPs, regardless of partisan affiliation, respond to reasonable demands being made on behalf of our children or we will move Heaven and Earth to replace them with others who will do so. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise.
Founding Director, FEAT-BC