Catherine Fife MPP, Waterloo

Government of Ontario

STATEMENT: Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Gives Youth With Disabilities A Voice

Published on May 11, 2016

“Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today to talk about the unmet needs of special needs children, including those with autism in the province of Ontario.

Yesterday, Ontario’s Independent Advocate for Children and Youth, Irwin Elman, released a report yesterday, called We Have Something to Say.

Speaker, this is a groundbreaking report and one that every MPP needs to sit down, read, and think about. The report was two years in the making and it put the voices of youths with disabilities front and centre. 170 submissions from young people who told their stories about how they aren’t heard and the obstacles they face on a daily basis.

Mr. Elman has again demonstrated the work that he does as an independent officer of this Legislature is critically important and indispensable.

In an interview with QP Briefing, Mr. Elman spoke about the province’s therapy wait-list system, saying it’s been broken long before this spring.

“It’s a mug’s game. Maybe it’s better to get $8000 than have nothing, but don’t pretend it’s a solution to anything. Don’t pretend this is about the child and providing them with what they need. It isn’t.”

“If it was really child-focused – about getting these children what they need and these parents the help that they need – then you would be looking at the school system,” he said.

“Where is the partnership between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Child and Family Services to provide these children what they need? It’s non-existent. When I brought it up to the ministry, they said, ‘Well, the school system is the next frontier, maybe we’ll get to it.”

“What do you expect those parents to do? We should thank them for being so fierce and supporting their children.”

He’s right. We should thank those parents, dozens of whom came to my office last week and shared their stories.

One parent said to me that the Minister said she wants to hear from families. But how will she be able to listen to those kids denied IBI who do not speak?

While the government has not yet decided to listen to parents and children with autism, our provincial advocate has published a report that does give them and children with disabilities a voice.”