Autistics for Autistics: Our Statement on the Daisy Group

October 30, 2019. Following is a Q and A about a recent media story that included us.

Who is A4A?
Autistics for Autistics (A4A) is a Canadian autistic led-and-run group. We educate and advocate for communication access and policy changes in education; housing; employment; and health care. We are non-partisan. A4A is an international affiliate of the Autistic Self- Advocacy Network and a member of the Autistic Advocates’ Coalition of Canada.

In addition to policy advocacy, we do community education, meetups, activism and events such as our Neurodiversity Flag Raisings at City Halls and the annual Disability Day of Mourning. We support a National Disability Strategy and we oppose CASDA’s National Autism Strategy. We do not receive money from any organizations or government entities and we are an all-volunteer organization. (Read more about us on our website!)

How did the Daisy Group connect with A4A?
In April 2019, a media training group called the Daisy Group emailed us to offer pro bono media training. We saw they had done pro bono for other groups and accepted the offer in good faith. Daisy’s website contains a list of clients that they have worked with in the past, which include non-profits and First Nations groups.

What service did Daisy provide?
Four of our members attended two, 2-hour sessions at Daisy that involved talking about who our group is, neurodiversity and Ontario autism policy. We thought the sessions would have practical tips about appearing on camera, etc. but they didn’t.

How did it end?
A4A ended its relationship after 2 sessions, when we began to suspect a possible partisan connection between Daisy and the Ontario PC Party. If there is one, then they were very dishonest by not disclosing it to us.

When we let Daisy go, we told them our concerns that they may have been trying to leverage a relationship with us for a larger project with a government client. Daisy’s leadership responded with angry emails accusing us of “libeling” them (referring to our email which was only sent to them) and demanding we apologize or they would seek legal counsel. We then asked the Daisy Group to leave us alone and they have.

Is A4A working for a political party?
No. We are a strongly non-partisan group. A4A’s Code of Conduct forbids anyone in leadership from working for a politician or being a voting member of any political caucus.

We meet with representatives of all 4 major parties in Canada and share our policy documents with all parties as well. We do not endorse partisan platforms nor do we take advice, direction or gifts from anyone in a partisan position.

Why did A4A meet with the Tories?
For the same reason we have met with all the other political parties. Because we are a disability advocacy organization and meeting with politicians to discuss our ideas and concerns is literally our job.

We talk to everyone in politics who will listen–because among autistics in Canada we have a devastating crisis of poverty; human rights abuses are commonplace; and the suicide rate of autistic people is 9x higher than the general population’s. We consult widely in our community and with specific policy experts in developing reports and recommendations for change that is desperately needed in Canada.

Other autism advocacy groups also meet with politicians, the only difference being that they are led by parents as opposed to our group, which is led by autistic adults. Our mandate is the same as any other self-advocacy and disability rights groups — Nothing About Us Without Us.

Who paid for the Daisy Group sessions?
We don’t know. They told us it was a pro bono project.

Did the Tories or the Daisy group direct A4A in any manner?
No. You can’t tell autistic people what to do or say and then we do it. That’s not really a thing.

Would A4A recommend the Daisy Group’s services to a friend, relative or colleague?

Why not?
Because we didn’t get the service we expected and the company seemed to lack basic transparency.