Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario 121 autism related complaints

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Canada, is receiving a record 121 autism-related complaints by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission.

The average number of complaints the commission refers to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is around 90, and that includes all types of complaints, not just one type.

The complaints say the province is cutting funding for the treatment of
autism for children over six years of age. People say this is
discriminatory.

They are saying that this amounts to a public policy discriminating on age
and disability.

Most treatment for disease is given until the patient no longer needs it. In
this case, they say, the decision to give treatment is not decided by need –
it seems to be decided by age.

The complainers say this is wrong. The service should be provided when it is
required.

Costs for intensive behavioural intervention treatments for autistic
children can cost CAN$50,000 a year (per child).

Without this funding they will either have to stop the treatment or sell
everything they have, or get into debt to keep it going.

The Commission, when it refers the complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of
Ontario, does so when it feels there is enough evidence to show that the
human rights code has been breached.

Parents say that when their autistic children reach the age of six their
condition has improved a lot. They also say that at the age of six the
treatment has not finished, the child needs the treatment to continue.

Ontario’s government pledged one year ago that treatment for autistic
children would continue beyond the age of six. At the end of last year,
Ontario’s Premier, Dalton McGuinty, told parents the government needed more
time to turn that pledge into reality.

Experts and spokespeople say that this pressure will probably get the
government to do something fairly quickly.

Mar. 3, 2004. 01:00 AM
Autism complaints heading to tribunal
Rights commission forwards 121 cases Families call treatment discriminatory

THERESA BOYLE
QUEEN’S PARK BUREAU

Families of 58 children with autism are celebrating a landmark
decision by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to send their
complaints of discrimination to a tribunal for a hearing.

The commission announced yesterday it has found merit in the
families’ 121 complaints against numerous provincial ministries, and
is referring the cases to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for a
hearing.

“We are thrilled that we have moved over into tribunal and we will
get our chance to present our cases,” said complainant Nancy
Morrison, whose 5-year-old son Sean has autism.

The decision is particularly significant because of the record number
of complaints involved.

“Normally the commission would send (a total of) about 90 cases to
the tribunal in a year. Now, just on one issue we’ve sent 121,”
explained commission spokesperson François Larsen.

The families are alleging discrimination in accessing government
services based on disability. Children are cut off from treatment –
known as intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) – when they turn 6.
And long waiting lists prevent many from ever receiving help.

IBI has been shown to be highly effective in treating children with
autism, particularly when initiated at an early age. However,
children can still benefit after the age of 6, acknowledges the
commission.

“Without financial support from the government, some parents have had
no other option but to handle the annual $50,000 costs for treatment
on their own, or have their children go without,” says a commission
statement.

Morrison’s son has been on the waiting list for government-funded
treatment for 2 1/2 years. In the meantime, Morrison and her husband
have been paying $30,000 a year for 15 hours of private treatment per
week.

“We’re paying for our own IBI as much as we can. It’s financially
killing the family,” said Morrison.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it is, but it’s making an
amazing difference for our son.”

New Democrat MPP Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt), who has been
aggressively lobbying on behalf of the families at Queen’s Park, said
she’s thrilled with the decision.

But the fact the commission has referred so many cases to the
tribunal should push the provincial government to spare the families
from the hearing process, she said, and extend the treatment to
children aged 6 and older.

The hearing process is expected to begin within a month.

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