DAWN Ontario: DisAbled Women's Network Ontario

Martel Applauds Autism Rights Ruling

June 28, 2006



QUEEN'S PARK - NDP Critic Shelley Martel says a recent ruling by Madame Justice DeGuire is a win for families of autistic children, who have long argued that the McGuinty government is violating their children's basic rights.

Last week, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that children with autism - whose provincially funded therapy is denied after age 6 - are now free to proceed with their argument that the McGuinty government is discriminating against them on the basis of age.

"The McGuinty Liberals promised to fund IBI therapy for all autistic children," said Martel. "They broke that promise, and are dragging families of autistic children through a long legal battle instead. This tribunal ruling provides strong support for the families in their ongoing struggle to fight the government and get the services their children so desperately need."

Ontario's Human Rights Code currently prohibits those under 18 from claiming age discrimination. But last week the Human Rights Tribunal ruled that provision violates their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The McGuinty government has been using the age provision to duck its responsibility to children who need consistent IBI therapy in order to thrive," said Martel. The Nickel Belt MPP said that while the quasi-judicial Tribunal does not have the power to make laws, "this ruling sends a powerful message to Dalton McGuinty to stop putting up roadblocks and start keeping his promise."

The ruling follows an April 2005 Superior Court judgment that said the McGuinty government was violating the Charter of Rights of Ontario's autistic children on the basis of both age and disability. Justice Kiteley also ruled that the minister of education had violated the Education Act by refusing to provide the programs and services necessary for autistic children to learn in Ontario's school system.

In the meantime, "the wait list for autistic children in Ontario who are eligible and waiting for IBI has grown by leaps and bounds and is now higher than it has ever been," said Martel. "It's time for the McGuinty government to drop the appeals, stop dragging these families through the legal system, and start funding therapy for all autistic children, regardless of their age."


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