Following the National Autism Conference, hosted by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on November 15 and 16, Autism Alliance of Canada and its members are cautiously optimistic about the next steps for a National Autism Strategy (NAS).
The intent of the two-day virtual event was to bring people together to help inform the Strategy, welcoming a diverse range of attendees that included Autistic people across Canada, their families and caregivers, provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples and other stakeholders. Discussions and sessions were developed with the goal to help solidify priority areas for action for a NAS, and to identify possible short, medium and long-term objectives.
Autism Alliance and our members lent our expertise both during the planning phase and throughout the event, as working group members and presenters, bringing the unique perspectives of our members with lived experience to the forefront.
The conference featured various panel topics that explored: Safety and Security; Financial Stability; Employment; Equity, Diversity & Inclusion; Housing; Health Human Resources, and; Research, Data and Evaluation. All issues and topics aligned with priority areas of impact faced by Autistic people in Canada, that we and our members have been advocating for over the past decade.
While the challenges and opportunities discussed were not new to our community, participants welcomed the federal government’s step towards catalyzing meaningful change on these priorities through a NAS.
As we continue to wait anxiously for concrete and viable solutions for Autistic people in Canada, we urge that the issues raised at the National Autism Conference become a strongly articulated commitment in the coming weeks and months ahead.
PHAC’s commitment could be demonstrated through actionable steps that include:
- Continued and increased transparency on the developmental process and structure of the NAS.
- Further inclusion and leadership of Autistic people.
- On-going partnerships with key community organizations.
- Development of governance structures to support a NAS.
- Tangible accountability measures and timelines.
- A direct allocation of resources required to support an effective NAS that will bring lasting change.
We have issued a letter to the Minister of Health asking for a verbal and written commitment to finalize the development of this Strategy by 2023, including clarity around the processes and resources to ensure its effective implementation. This letter can be found here.
As PHAC moves forward in the development and implementation of the strategy, it is essential that members of the autism and Autistic communities receive clear information on how the government’s commitment to this strategy will pan out.
We are incredibly proud of the work we have accomplished thus far to advocate for a National Autism Strategy. We look forward to continued collaboration with the federal government to help guide the development of an effective National Autism Strategy that reflects the needs of Autistic people in Canada, and results in meaningful change.