On March 28, 2023, by unanimous consent, Bill S-203, “An Act respecting a federal framework on autism spectrum disorder,” was adopted at Report Stage and Third Reading in the House of Commons.
The Bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Leo Housakos, with the intent to “provide for the development of a federal framework designed to support Autistic Canadians, their families, and their caregivers.”
Autism Alliance of Canada has long supported the call for a National Autism Strategy and endorsed Bill S-203 from the outset. This Bill puts in place not only the mechanism for federal leadership towards the development of a National Autism Strategy but, perhaps most importantly, distinct measures of accountability required. The framework presented in Bill S-203 is the first step to ensure the federal government delivers on its promise for a National Autism Strategy.
Autism Alliance of Canada continues to support and guide the Public Health Agency of Canada’s efforts in the development of a National Autism Strategy. The need for such a Strategy has been highlighted for decades, with access to supports for Autistic people in Canada being fragmented and inconsistent from one province to another, resulting in massive gaps and inequities, such as:
- Access to early diagnosis in children, and diagnosis across the lifespan
- Critical early supports
- Lengthy wait times for support across the lifespan, including speech language pathology, occupational therapy, behavioural supports, mental health resources
- High out-of-pocket costs for families and caregivers
- Scarce resources for research and service providers
- Very little to no support in adulthood.
The current provincial/territorial policies in place are not adequately addressing the complexity of issues faced by Autistic people living in Canada and the diverse needs of their families and caregivers. The measures set forth in Bill S-203 are a springboard for the development of a robust National Autism Strategy that will bring consistency and equitable policies to Autistic people living in Canada.
Autism Alliance of Canada has been at the forefront of calls for a National Autism Strategy, launching the Blueprint for a National Autism Strategy in 2019, following up with a Roadmap towards a National Autism Strategy in 2020, and Policy Compendia in 2020 and 2021. The organization also oversees the national Ready, Willing & Able inclusive employment initiative, with Inclusion Canada.
The 9th Annual Canadian Autism Leadership Summit (CALS2023) welcomed over 200 Autistic persons, researchers, politicians, service providers, and policy makers from across Canada and beyond, providing a crucial platform to discuss, debate and develop recommendations for policies and strategies that will benefit Autistic people in Canada and their loved ones.