Tuesday, March 03, 2009

An Open Autism Challenge To MP Mike Lake, Canada's Official Autism Dad

Mike Lake
Conservative Member of Parliament
Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont

March 3, 2009

Mike Lake
Conservative Member of Parliament
Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont

Dear Mr. Lake

I am the father of a 13 year old boy diagnosed with Autistic Disorder, assessed with profound developmental delays. I have in all candor been disappointed, very disappointed, with the positions you have taken in support of your party's refusal as Canada's governing party to take serious steps to address Canada's national autism crisis. I have read your statements in particular on treatment and funding of autism treatment for autism in Canada. I know that you do not need to be convinced of the benefits of ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) for the treatment of autism disorders. There have been several serious, credible reviews of the hundreds of studies which have examined the evidence basis in support of the effectiveness in treating autism. Apart from the ideological positions of a very small minority of professionals and autism advocates there has for some time been an overwhelming consensus endorsing ABA as an autism intervention. Yet you, as an autism father, and Member of Parliament, a member of the governing party in Canada, have taken no steps to ensure that funding mechanisms are put in place in conjunction with the federal and provincial governments to ensure provision of ABA for autistic children regardless of where their parents happen to live in Canada. I challenge you, as a fellow autism dad, one that has actually fought with some success to ensure the provision of autism services, to take steps while your party forms the government to ensure that all Canadian children with autism in need of ABA services are able to obtain them regardless of what province their parents live in.

As an autism advocate I have advocated with other parents for many years to obtain ABA interventions here in New Brunswick yet my name, although put forth, was twice rejected as a participant in the national autism symposium, along with many other serious parent autism advocates for ABA services for autistic children in Canada. You participated as a keynote speaker at that staged symposium. Although the symposium was obviously designed to cast doubt on the consensus of professional and parent support for ABA as an autism intervention the effort was undermined by the release just days prior to that event of the American Academy of Pediatrics Report, November 1, 2007, Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders which reviewed the professional literature and concluded much as the US Surgeon General, the New York State Department of Health, the MADSEC (Maine) Autism Task Force and the Association for Science in Autism Treatment that:

The effectiveness of ABA-based intervention in ASDs has been well documented through 5 decades of research by using single-subject methodology21,25,27,28 and in controlled studies of comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention programs in university and community settings.29–40 Children who receive early intensive behavioral treatment have been shown to make substantial, sustained gains in IQ, language, academic performance, and adaptive behavior as well as some measures of social behavior, and their outcomes have been significantly better than those of children in control groups.31–4

American Academy of Pediatrics, Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Your party has used you, as an autism father, to help quiet the voices of those who were seeking to amend the Canada Health Act to ensure that all autistic children would be able to receive ABA intervention in Canada. You faithfully quoted the party line that this could not be done for legal and constitutional reasons. Fine. Leave that argument aside.

You also voted on December 5, 2006, along with your party, in support of Andy Scott's private members' motion M-172, seconded by Peter Stoffer which called for the development of a National Autism Strategy on the following terms:

“(a) the development, in cooperation with provincial/territorial governments, of evidence based standards for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder; (b) the development, in cooperation with provincial governments, of innovative funding methods for the care of those with autism spectrum disorder; (c) consulting with provincial/territorial governments and other stakeholders on the requirements of implementing a national surveillance program for autism spectrum disorder; and (d) the provision of additional federal funding for health research into autism spectrum disorder.”

Your name was clearly recorded on the yea side right between MP's Kramp and Lapierre:


Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)

While some money has been spent on research, with unknown objectives, no steps have been taken in 2 1/2 years to to develop, in cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, innovative funding methods for the care of those with autism spectrum disorder. In other words no steps have been taken to actually help autistic children and adults now living in Canada. Perhaps in 30 years the additional research dollars offered to Canadian researchers might play some role in offering some help to autistic persons not yet born. But here and now, in Canada nothing has been done by your government to help living autistic Canadians.

I know that you, as a Conservative MP from an Edmonton, Alberta riding have little to worry about politically. You could spend your time advocating for the protection of Bigfoot and other mythological creatures and still win landslide re-election for years to come. But I challenge you as an autism father who has actually advocated with some success for autism services for my son and other autistic children in New Brunswick, as one autism dad to another, to actually do something on behalf of Canada's autistic children and adults. You are a member of the governing Conservative Party. You have allowed your status as an autism parent to be used to support your government's refusal to act to include autism treatment in the Canada Health Act.

I ask simply that you use your standing in the party on autism issues to ensure that Prime Minister Harper and Health Minister Aglukkaq call a meeting of provincial health ministers to discuss funding of autism treatment and services for autistic children and adults living in Canada. This much you have already promised. This much you can do.

I challenge you as one "autism dad" to another, as one that has gotten some things done here in New Brunswick, to use your position in the governing party to actually do something for autistic Canadian children and adults.


Harold L Doherty
Fredericton NB

cc. Facing Autism in New Brunswick

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Anonymous said...

Hi Harold,

My family (my son Barry II) were on W5 last year and after the show I sent Mr. Lake an email discussing the lack of a national strategy and shortly thereafter we spoke on the phone for over an hour. Mr. Lake repeated the “its provincial jurisdiction, don’t waste effort with federal lobby efforts, the province all have get enough money to provide the treatment”.

As personable as Mr. Lake is I do not think we have an ally in Ottawa. The Prime Minister is the decision maker and we all know that means there will be nothing for autism at a national level as long as Mr. Harper holds court.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the information Barry. I understand his legal argument even though I don't agree with it.

He and his party have already pledged in principle though to work with the provinces to develop funding mechanisms to ensure proper care of all autistic Canadians. The legal argument has no bearing on the political process, the cooperative process, to which Mr Lake and the Conservative party already agreed. Cooperative federalism is not a radical new concept in Canada.

2 1/2 years later and nothing has been done. I think we should all put pressure on Mr Lake and Mr Harper to honor their existing political commitment.

shakingsystem said...

Bill C-211 must be tabled and re-tabled until government is willing to accept, autism as being part of the Canada Health Act.

In addition the Ministers of Health from all the provinces and territories must convene a conference for the purpose of treatment for autism.They must work together to develop a national strategy,and ensure uniform and equitable access for all children with autism.

The provinces obtain enough funding for children's treatments. Who are they trying to fool?Services,treatments,therapies,waiting lists are not even scraping the surface. The province of Alberta is ideal ,in what other provinces might follow as a fine example. Services,therapies and resources are given immediately , right up until the age of 18.

As Harold mentioned cooperation between Provincial Health Ministers is key in creating change.

Right now, change is what's deperately needed.