Canadian Autistic Self-Advocacy Groups Oppose CASDA’s National Autism Strategy

The following statement is supported by all provincial/territorial chapters of Autistics for Autistics, as well as all provincial/territorial chapters of Autistics United Canada and in Ontario by London Autisics Standing Together. In addition, the parent-led advocacy groups Autistic Advocacy Ontario and the Ontario Disability Coalition support our statement, along with other individuals and groups within the autistic community and disability rights movement in Canada.

Canada’s national autistic self-advocacy organizations are united in opposing CASDA’s “National Autism Strategy”.

Background
We are disappointed to see that this election season, a non-autistic coalition called the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Association (CASDA) is calling on candidates to support its blueprint for a “National Autism Strategy” and that some politicians have endorsed this blueprint.

Why We Oppose the Plan
We oppose CASDA’s blueprint for several reasons:

  1. By keeping autism policy silo’d away from other disabilities, CASDA’s plan creates a false impression that autistic people’s fundamental needs are different from other disabled people. They’re not. We all need access, human rights, dignity and self-determination in housing, employment, education and health care. Many specific issues, such as communication rights and access for non-verbal people, also apply across disabilities.
  2. An Autism Strategy led by CASDA would maintain the current broken system of autism services in Canada, where providers oversee wasteful projects that reflect outdated approaches, are not based on robust data and do not meaningfully engage the community. In fact, CASDA’s multi-million dollar “strategy” is based on a “needs” survey in which autistic people made up just 4 percent of survey participants!! CASDA’s strategy meets the needs of service organizations to stay afloat; nothing more.
  3. It is time for a culture shift in federal autism policy. The Government of Canada has been giving billions in tax dollars to selected service agencies, charities and coalitions with no data to justify spending, no transparency, projects funded without appropriate bidding/tendering, and net negative results. The money, quite simply, has been going down a hole.
  4.  While provincial and local governments consult with autistic self-advocacy groups, the federal government and agencies like CASDA have not. If the government and agencies want to make informed policy they need to consult us…not just two or three individuals, but our actual self-advocacy organizations, which represent thousands of members.
  5. Autistic self-advocacy groups are advocating a new way of doing autism policy, based on progressive, inclusive practices. We call on federal policymakers to focus on access, human rights, and equity for all disabled people, including autistics and to include us in all disablity-related policymaking.

It’s Time for a National Disability Strategy
We are asking candidates to support the following:

  •     Federal government meets with disability self-advocacy groups, including autistic-led groups, to plan the National Disability Strategy with self-advocates as lead advisors and with a firm launch date;
  •     Federal government independently collects data and studies best practices in other jurisdictions (NOT “data” by providers with a financial stake);
  •     Federal government audits all autism-related service providers and gives priority to those that support human rights, equity and self-determination—not segregation.
  •     Federal and provincial governments de-silo autism services and fully integrate services for autistic people in the same portfolios that address other disabilities (such as employment and housing).

The Time is Now
Canada deserves robust accessibility legislation that includes autistic people. We are asking the government to begin to include autistic Canadians in its disability policies, across portfolios–and to do a serious audit of autism service providers and how they have gained government contracts, in order to reform that system. We are also asking the government to meet with autistic self-advocacy groups to hear our ideas and discuss our resources and policy recommendations.

Autistic Canadians are in crisis. Our suicide rate is 9 times higher than the rest of the population–and it isn’t because of “living with autism”. It is because autistic and IDD people in Canada face discrimination, stigma, unemployment, underhousing and poverty. That stigma is firmly embedded in the “autism services and charities” sector, which continues to support a service model that segregates autistic/ IDD Canadians. That sector, including CASDA, should no longer be entrusted with crafting “strategies” for politicians to rubber-stamp instead of choosing sustainable policy options.

A real strategy for autism policy involves critically examining the failures of the current service model; integrating autism as a disability within all disability policy; and consulting with our groups. We hope that a new government will be wise enough to take these steps. We are waiting to hear from you.