More than 60 parents of children with autism rallied outside cabinet minister and Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod’s office Saturday afternoon.
The rally comes following what the group said has been 10 months of families languishing under the current provincial government’s leadership.
Parents said they’re demanding a reset of the province’s much-maligned autism program and though MacLeod is no longer Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, they remain frustrated by what they believe is a gaping hole in the delivery of autism services.
“You have done terrible by us,” Kate Logue; Ottawa mother of two children on the autism spectrum angry with the former minister’s treatment of families. “You have put forth a program that does not meet the needs of our children. You lied, that’s the big thing actually. She lied a lot; they froze the waitlist for 10 months.”
“Not only is it a bad program; it’s been implemented terribly,” said Logue. “But it’s not too late to pause and reset. We need a reset; we need a needs-based program for our kids.”
The group said it met with new minister Todd Smith this week and remain hopeful the government will change course.
“We’re hoping that means we’re moving toward a different kind of tone and wanting to listen to the parents and families and hopefully that’s a good sign,” said Logue. “Whereas we’ve been here every week since February and Ms. MacLeod has yet to say two words to us,” said Logue.
Logue led a group of Ottawa families and those from Toronto, including Tyler Watt; a student nurse participating in the protest because of what he said is outrage at the autism program.
“I can’t really stand around and watch this government push forward with this disgraceful, inhumane program,” said Watt. “These children flourish on routine. They flourish on specific, unique therapy that is molded toward their needs. With that investment into their education, into speech therapy that is what is going to allow them to flourish in life.”
“I have been doing this for 12 years and we have loads of children that have been sitting on these wait lists, not getting help and all the new children coming in going to the back of that waitlist; losing all of their opportunities as well,” said Suzanne Jacobson. “My 12-year-old grandson has not received a cent or a service from the government; nothing, it’s all been privately-funded by us.” said Jacobson; who founded Quick Start Early Intervention for Autism; a charity for families dealing with autism.
MPP MacLeod was shuffled out of the autism file to become Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. More recently she has been under fire for approaching Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk at a concert near Barrie, ON, and publicly berating him; allegedly using profanities.