Ont. mother who camped outside premier's office will have son's autism file looked at:, minister
TORONTO -- An Ontario mother, who had been holding a one-woman protest for the past week to try to get help with her son's autism care, will finally have her file looked at after a call from the social services minister.
Stacy Kennedy staged a sit-in outside of the Premier Doug Ford’s office in an effort to get better access to autism funding and services for her 10-year-old son, Sam.
Kennedy told CTV National News she decided to protest with the hopes of opening a dialogue with the provincial government about how desperate families of children with autism are for help.
"We took the word of this government and Doug Ford, we took the word of most government’s that you’ll actual take care of us and I’m here to say that’s not happening and its woefully unacceptable," Kennedy said.
After seven days of sitting in the office's parking lot and sleeping in her van, Ford finally responded to Kennedy's protests, but it took a question from CTV News at a press conference to do so.
"Stacy, I will make sure that we reach out to you [and] have a good conversation," Ford said Wednesday.
Kennedy said Ford called her later Wednesday and agreed to have an in-person conversation about issues with the government’s new autism program.
"There was a lot of sound bites, a lot of staying on point," Kennedy said of the call.
Kennedy said Ford’s office will schedule a time for them to meet at a later date.
In addition, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Merrilee Fullerton, who is in charge of the autism file, called Kennedy Thursday.
Kennedy said the minister was sympathetic and agreed to look at her file. She explained that Sam has been on the waitlist for four years to receive full access to the province's autism programs.
While such barriers are frustrating, Kennedy says parents of children with autism have “no choice" but to try to navigate them.
"These are the roadblocks that have been thrown in front of us. I just want the average Canadian to understand how horrifying they are -- that I literally had to sit in my van for someone to make things move," Kennedy said.
"That’s atrocious, it's cruel, it’s callus, it's a scandal."
Angela Brandt, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, said Kennedy's concerns speak for the entire autism community.
"It’s so sad that this is the extent she had to go to in order to be heard, just to be heard," Brandt told CTV News.
Ontario's new autism program has been widely criticised and slow to roll out. Advocates estimate 40,000 families are waiting to receive access to full funding and therapy services.
Most families are currently offered one-time funding of $5,000, but experts say that isn't much help for those paying $40,000 to $80,000 a year for services.
"This $5,000 payment… it's an interim payment, it is not access to therapy, so they are still on a waitlist because they are not accessing therapy," Brandt said.
"The Ontario autism program is a treatment program. It’s not a subsidy program, so if they’re not accessing treatment, they’re on a waitlist," she added.
After speaking with the premier and the minister, Kennedy ended her sit-in on Thursday. However, she acknowledges that the fight is not over.
If the provincial government doesn't make good on its word, Kennedy said she will be back protesting in front of the premier's office.
"I don’t want to do more talking, I want to see more action, not just for my son, but for everyone," she said.