10th Summit Brings Together Canada’s Leading Autism Advocates and Experts, United in Their Call for a National Autism Strategy

(Ottawa, ON)—As the anticipation mounts for the long-awaited announcement of a National Autism Strategy by the Government of Canada, the 10th Annual Canadian Autism Leadership Summit (CALS2024) has brought together hundreds of participants from every corner of the country.

“The evolution of the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit over the past decade is nothing short of remarkable. Year after year, we witness an unparalleled level of dedication and engagement among participants, showcasing our collective readiness to help action Canada’s first National Autism Strategy. It is imperative for the federal government to work with the community, swiftly and transparently, to ensure tangible outcomes.”

Headshot of Rebekah Kintzinger

Rebekah Kintzinger
Co-Chair of Autism Alliance of Canada’s Board of Directors

Held at the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa and broadcasted globally via livestream, this was the largest Summit to date. Attendees included Autistic people, families, researchers, politicians, service providers, and policy makers from across Canada. 

Key highlights featuring the themes—Inform, Implement, Innovate—included an international autism policy discussion featuring insights from experts from Canada, the U.S.A., the United Kingdom, India, Kenya, Peru, and Australia; panels aimed to bridge gaps between national and local autism policy in Canada; presentations on breaking barriers for Autistic people with intersectional identities; as well as innovative workshops and discussions on critical issues facing the Autistic community, such as mental health, wait times to obtaining diagnosis, housing, aging, post-secondary belonging, access to supports, inclusion in research, and more. 

The Summit also featured the Third Annual Jim and Ginette Munson Autism Leadership Award ceremony, honoring Siyu (Suzanna) Chen. A passionate advocate for disability equality and youth leadership, Chen’s activism spans diverse initiatives. From performing in fundraising concerts to exhibiting photographs at neurodivergent creativity conferences, writing articles about disabled students for her university, to representing disability-inclusive Sustainable Development Goal campaigns at United Nations events, Chen’s advocacy embodies a commitment to positive change for the disability community at large.

Since 2007, the Alliance has communicated the priorities of its members and leveraged collective expertise to engage with the government as the primary driver for a National Autism Strategy. These efforts include developing a Blueprint for a National Autism Strategy in 2019 and a Roadmap towards a National Autism Strategy in 2020, as well as creating a policy compendium tool in 2020 and 2021 focused on four central pillars (Social Inclusion, Economic Inclusion, Evidence-Informed Supports and Governance and Research). In 2023, members and leaders of the Alliance were invited to testify at a Senate committee hearing to support Bill S-203, a “Federal Framework on Autism.”

“We have, we are, and we will continue to seek opportunities to collaborate with the government to make a tangible difference in the lives of Autistic people in Canada. There is no shortage of expertise, commitment, or dedication in our network to drive real change for Autistic people in Canada. When the government is prepared to take action, we stand ready to join forces with them.”

Headshot of Dr. Jonathan Lai

Dr. Jonathan Lai
Executive Director, Autism Alliance of Canada

This Summit was made possible thanks to the contributions of the Sinneave Family Foundation, the Joyce Family Foundation, Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, the Azrieli Foundation, Canucks Autism Network, Geneva Centre for Autism, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration in Autism (CIRCA), Ontario Brain Institute, and many more. 

“The work of Autism Alliance of Canada is crucial for ensuring that Autistic Canadians, their families and supporters have an effective, united voice for advocating for change with the federal government.”

Summit participant