How Canada is starting to tackle the autism crisis

It’s almost 10 years since my eyes were first opened to autism and its daunting human and social implications. As I walked up to Parliament Hill one morning, I ran into a man peacefully protesting in front of the Centennial Flame. He and his wife had the heavy burden of caring for an autistic child, a son who could not even make eye contact with them. The boy was isolated as a result of his symptoms, and so too were they. The emotional and financial weight was too much.

The desperation that prompted him to make a protest sign and then stand on Parliament Hill that day was a kind of desperation I had never seen before. The intensity was etched in his eyes. He was hurting.

But he was also forthcoming and candid. And he certainly made his point with at least one person he met that morning.

I decided then and there that I had to learn more about autism and how, as a parliamentarian, I could make a positive difference in the lives of the many Canadians living with it.

I eventually found allies, but it wasn’t easy to find senators and MPs who understood autism and the crisis it had become. There are so many issues parliamentarians must grapple with and this was another one. Besides, most thought it was a provincial issue. But with a little perseverance, I launched an inquiry in the Senate.

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