Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Not Just Children with Autism - Stephen Harper Just Doesn't Care

Autism parent advocates have advocated for many years for a national autism strategy.  NDP and Liberal MP's and Senators including Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy, Andy Scott and  Jim Munson joined them in their efforts but no meaningful strategy has resulted in Parliament.  

Under Stephen Harper autism has been rejected as a concern by our federal government. A national autism symposium was cancelled and rescheduled after it became clear that serious autism advocates were slated to attend. The Harper government rescheduled  a sham national autism symposium to make sure that "local" representatives were put forth who would be  docile and not rock the boat by calling for federal funding across Canada of evidence based autism interventions.  

Medicare for Autism was not, and will not, happen under a Harper government.  Sure Mike Lake, a Conservative MP and father of a child with autism, will be happy to appear as a token autism parent/Conservative MP  at autism events to harvest PR for the Conservative Party but neither he, nor  Prime Minister Harper, will permit any serious discussion of a meaningful national autism strategy involving federal support of funding for evidence based autism intervention for all autistic Canadian children. Effective evidence based intervention for autistic Canadian children is just not up there with census forms in the Harper list of priorities

It comes as no surprise, given Harper's lack of concern about addressing Canada's national autism crisis,  that the same "not my problem", attitude of our PM is manifested in other non-action as seen in the following horror story from the Calgary Herald. A Canadian child visiting his stepfather in Oregon, who resided there for health reasons during the winter, was detained by state health authorities for riding a bike without a helmet.  He was in fact detained by the state for 2 years and placed in a succession of foster homes while his mother fought for his return to their home in Calgary.  Eventually he was returned and a lawsuit brought by the State of Oregon against his mother for child care expenses dropped after a group of lawyers stepped in to help.  The Canadian government under Stephen Harper remained on the sidelines as described in the Calgary Herald:

"No, the state of Oregon didn't prove -- it didn't even claim -- that Noah was neglected or abused by either his mother or stepfather, who unfortunately doesn't have the status of legal guardian to Noah.

But that didn't convince them to cave in to common sense for several months. In the end, it was most likely embarrassment that prompted their about-face, dropping the lawsuit citing an estimated $7,500 in costs for caring for Noah -- the story made headlines around the world, eventually catching the attention of TV news network CNN.

On Tuesday, both Kirkman and her lawyer, Daniel Mol, express thanks for others who have helped them in their cause, most notably lawyer Tony Merchant and The National Council for the Protection of Canadians Abroad -- who earlier stepped in to fill the void of a silent Harper government and filed an application under The Hague Convention in U.S. federal court, asking for the boy's return under international law.

But after the momentary joy over their victory, the most salient emotion they show is righteous anger.

"I never expected to be sued for the cost of them essentially kidnapping my son," says Kirkman outside court."

Harper and his autism dad spokesperson Mike Lake have said that because health care is within primary provincial constitutional jurisdiction it can take no action to implement a serious national autism strategy. That position ignores decades of cooperative efforts between federal and provincial governments to address important issues using all available Canadian resource regardless of strict constitutional categories.  What is interesting in the Kirkman  case is that the protection of Canadians in foreign countries, especially Canadian children, is a matter squarely within federal constitutional jurisdiction but Prime Minister Stephen Harper did nothing to protect a Canadian child abroad. 

Autism should be a non partisan issue.  Here in NB both Conservative Premier Bernard Lord and Liberal Premier Shawn Graham took steps to make NB a leader  in autism service delivery.  Federally though it is crystal clear that no serious national autism strategy will be developed as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister.

Let's face facts.  Our Prime Minister just doesn't care.  Period.

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