The Stephen Harper government has a pathetically feeble national autism strategy. Essentially it consists of a mediocre Autism Web Page and a Postponed Autism "Stakeholders' Symposium". The "Stakeholders' Symposium" was postponed at the last minute; purportedly because the Government of Canada couldn't find a big room in which to hold the event. In reality it was cancelled because too many outspoken autism advocates, including me, were being nominated by autism organizations to attend the symposium.
Now the government, and CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction are sending out invitations to a rescheduled Autism Symposium to be held November 8th-9th, 2007, at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, Toronto Airport . Prior to sending out the invitations the government, and CIHR, solicited names from various professionals and other individuals from the various regions of Canada to attend. They did not ask the provincial autism societies for names, even though as stated by CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction Scientific Director Rémi Quirion, PhD and Assistant Director Barbara Beckett, PhD:
"Above all, the symposium is being organized as an opportunity for
knowledge exchange, networking, and community-building."
It is a funny exercise in community building when the government officials and bureaucrats pick who will attend as representatives of community organizations. The decision as to who will represent a community or organization is one that should be made by that community or organization not by other parties. Undoubtedly the delegates chosen will be people who will not rock the Harper Conservative government boat. The PR releases coming from the symposium will also undoubtedly reflect the Harper position, or non-position, on autism generally.
The "Autism Symposium" may turn out to be many things but it will not be an exercise in "community building". It will be just one more page from Stephen Harper's Book of Dirty Tricks - the Autism Edition.