Autism file heats up as Social Services Minister assigned police detail

Things are heating up in the autism file here in Ontario. One day after a parent was charged with uttering threats against the Minister responsible, Lisa MacLeod is now travelling with a provincial police detail.  This morning, police advised MacLeod to leave an Ottawa event immediately following her remarks.

Minister MacLeod was speaking at the Mayor’s breakfast for International Women’s day. There were protesters at the event; parents of children with autism. When police escorted MacLeod out, one parent followed her to try to speak with her.

It's been an eventful week for Ontario's Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.  Lisa MacLeod even joked about it today at an event for International Women's Day.

“Jane Philpott is here,” she said, referring to the former Treasury Board president who resigned from Justin Trudeau’s government earlier this week over the SNC-Lavalin issue, “I'm looking forward to hearing from her.  I think she's had a more interesting week than I’ve had.”

On MacLeod's part, she was referring to charges laid against an Ottawa woman, 41-year-old Rebecca Reid, for uttering threats against her and for criminal harassment.

Outside Ottawa city hall, a small parents' group was protesting changes to autism funding. 

“Something has to be done because people are desperate,” said Carrie Legault, who has a child on the autism spectrum, adding “Today being International Women’s Day, I felt it important to tell her how she is hurting women because the majority of people looking after these kids are moms and this new program has taken away their hope.”

Inside city hall, autism mom Rhonda Allaby-Glass was feeling that same sense of desperation and when MacLeod finished her speech and quickly left, on the advice of her OPP police detail, according to MacLeod Press Secretary Derek Rowland, Allaby-Glass followed to have a word.

“When I got outside, I said “Lisa, I want to talk to you.”

Allaby-Glass's 9 year old son Quinn has autism and after months of intensive therapy is starting to talk.  She says he knows five words. 

“When parents call and they mention autism, your staff hang up the phone,” she said, referring to MacLeod’s office staff, “You want to see your daughter win a hockey game?  Well I want to see my 9-year-old son speak.  I said “5 words Lisa”, and then I called her a coward as she exited to the parking garage.”

With funding changes set to kick in April 1st, parents are desperate for answers. Hundreds protested Thursday in front of Queen's Park in Toronto and they've been a weekly fixture at the Minister's constituency office in Ottawa.

“This person's actions do not reflect or represent our community,” Kerry Monaghan said of the individual charged with uttering threats.  Monaghan is mother to two children with autism.

Parents say they don't condone the actions of the woman charged with uttering threats but say it does speak to the level of desperation.

“We are moms and dads that just want the best for our kids,” says Monaghan, “and we are trying to get Lisa MacLeod to listen to us and put a stop to these changes that have been made.”

To that end, they'll be out protesting again in front of Lisa MacLeod's constituency office next Friday.