Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Get Political! Autism Advocacy in Canada and the Marley Message

The British Columbia election is now history and former trial lawyer, political pro, community activist and autism advocate David O Marley was unable to upset powerful Liberal incumbent Ralph Sultan, an engineer and former bank executive, who doubled the votes of all other candidates combined in the riding of West Vancouver-Capilano.

In victory Mr Sultan singled out Marley as someone he had worried about in this election as reported on

At the outset of the campaign, Marley represented a strong contender and possible threat, said Sultan. "He (Marley) was a very experienced backroom political pro."

Marley the political pro had expected incumbent Ralph Sultan to win but emphasized the value of public political participation:

"I'd like to see more people running as independents ... the (political) parties have been hollowed out. People don't see the value of participating (in politics). MLA's are basically reduced to salespeople for their parties."

This parent of an autistic child is sensitive to Marley's message. The legal process from Auton to Deskin-Wynberg did not achieve anything directly for autistic children. But those cases were fuel for powerful autism advocacy movements in many Canadian provinces. We may not all choose to run as Independents in party dominated Canadian politics. This is one autism Dad who has not gone that route (and would probably get a serious shellacking if I did). BUT we have to participate, we have to play hard and smart in the political arena to influence those who do run and get elected.

In the Auton case the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a clear message. Beyond the overly refined legal analysis of the decision (the SCC essentially held that Canadians enjoy no independent, substantive Constitutional right to necessary medical treatment) it is clear that our Canadian Constitution, our Charter of Rights, our courts will be of little assistance in obtaining autism specific treatment, education and residential care for our autistic loved ones. The lesson from Auton was that parents have to get political to help their autistic children live as decent, full and meaningful a life as they can.

Find out what your party candidates and representatives in your ridings, federal and provincial are saying, or not saying, about autism issues and try to influence them, try to push them in the right direction. Use the media, letters to the editor, YouTube and the Internet. Use what is available to influence the political process for autistic children and adults.

Get political!

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