Congratulations to New Brunswick's new Premier David Alward and all members of his team who were elected. Congratulations also to those Liberals who were elected despite the obvious backlash against the Liberal government of Shawn Graham. I offer all these congratulations sincerely even though I know that the election of this government and the likely cabinet role to be played by Jody Carr and possibly his brother Jack Carr will spell the end of the progress that has been made in helping autistic preschoolers and students in New Brunswick over the past 4 years. We live in a democracy and the people have spoken. Those elected, including the Carr brothers in their ridings, have received the endorsement of the people. For this they deserve the hearty applause of all NBers including me.
Having offered these sincere congratulations though I must also state that the Carr Family will exercise a profoundly negative influence on the future of autistic preschoolers and students in New Brunswick. Their prominence will threaten existing programs of early autism intervention, autism trained Teacher Assistants and accommodation in alternative learning environments within neighborhood schools for autistic children and other children whose severe disability challenges make the mainstream classroom a negative, and in some cases, a harmful environment. I know these things because I was actively involved, along with other well informed, determined parents of autistic children, in the struggle to establish the preschool and school programs and policies that have made New Brunswick an autism leader in early intervention and education in Canada. I know these things because throughout the years of struggle we were steadfastly opposed by the New Brunswick Association for Community Living to which both Jody and Jack Carr are intimately tied.
The NBACL has done much good in raising public awareness about disabilities generally, promoting acceptance of disabilities generally, and acceptance. The problem is that the "community" and "inclusion" principles of the Community Living organizations in Canada and in New Brunswick have hardened into resistance to accommodation of those with severe autism challenges and other individuals whose disabilities require accommodation and learning in different environments ... a separate quieter environment outside the mainstream classroom ... than that which NBACL and CACL insist upon for ALL students regardless of their specific disability and their specific challenges and needs. The fine principles of the NBACL have deteriorated into dogma and ideology and Jody Carr, his wife Krista Carr and Jack Carr have all , in the past, resisted efforts of parents seeking to help their autistic children. The Carr's have resisted evidence based approaches to early intervention and education of all children with disabilities, including autistic children, in favor of cliches. There is no room for compromise or accommodation in the Community Living based ideology which the Carrs promote. For them It is the community cliche way or the highway.
Adult autism residential care is one of the areas in which little progress has been made in New Brunswick. 5 years ago the Bernard Lord Conservative government sent an autistic youth to the Miramichi Youth corrections facility for several months while he waited a place at the Spurwink residential treatment facility in Maine. When Jody Carr vetoes efforts to create a professional, evidence based and compassionate residential care and treatment facility in New Brunswick he says that "we will not send them away" do not be fooled, do not believe him. In 2005 the Lord Conservative government sent them, autistic youths and adults, away to Maine and to outmoded psychiatric facilities, even to hospital wards and Jody Carr, a Conservative MLA at the time, said nothing .... absolutely nothing.
For New Brunswick children and adults with autism the Alward Carr years will not be pretty. There is a rough trail ahead, a very rough trail.