About a week ago, I attended a round table discussion with former Minister of Children and Youth Michael Coteau. The one big take away from that meeting I got is that if anything, whether that be from service providers, schools, or this “progressive” conservative government, there seems to be a systemic problem with attempting to silence the voices of caregivers and advocates thus our children. One of the main concerns brought up by many parents at the Coteau round table is that the Children’s Aid Society is continuously used by service providers and schools as a weapon to control and silence dissent. To simply state that we as caregivers are used to this kind of behaviour is not only extremely truthful, but sad as hell.
The amount of advocating that’s needed to ensure that not just our kids, but ourselves as caregivers are properly accommodated by a system of supports that is very adversarial and unethical, is extremely discriminating, disheartening, and woefully wrong. Add on top of that a pandemic to which there has been no support offered to families struggling with the day to day daily living obligations, ignorance within the school system and support providers as to what’s actually taking place on the ground, and than add on top of trying to educate ignorant politicians about our struggles and our fight for our kids.
Aside of the fact that we as caregivers of autistic children have had to deal with constant abuse from Ontario PC supporters and political staffers on social media since the Ford Mafia has been elected, now we’re dealing with a Minister of Community and Social Services (Todd Smith) who has seen it fit to order his supporters to take down a community crowd-sourced billboard in which has criticized his work on the autism file.
Think about that for a second. A Minister of the Crown is advocating to silence the voices of a vulnerable community in a democracy. Now understand this, under Minister Smith, this government has also deployed a Gestapo against the disabled, using social workers as secret police, by allowing workers to search the homes of the disabled for signs of fraud (or to determine “eligibility” as they call it) without due process or a warrant. What’s next? Concentration camps? Forcing the disabled who can’t work to “get a job”? Where is this government getting their advice from? It certainly isn’t from people who understand what a constitutional democracy is.
As we head into pride month, I’m reminded of a story a good friend of mine told me about being gay in the 80’s in the Church and Wellesley area in Toronto. Every-time he went out with friends for a drink after work, he was spat on, kicked, punched (sometimes to the point of needing hospital attention). He felt less than human and was treated as such. Even at home, while living in a high-rise apartment, he would see other LGBTQ community members – his friends – every few days that would throw themselves off their balconies and commit suicide because of the way they were treated. It got so bad that he had to move out of Toronto. Once he moved out of Toronto, he became a community leader fighting for pride rights and organizing community events and became very politically active.
The disabled are currently going through the same kind of discrimination when seeking support as my friend did in the 80’s. We need people in elected office to pay attention to this, not engage in it. A friend of mine recently told me that it was way easier to come out as being LGBTQ, than to come out as autistic. The systemic discrimination against the disabled and their families/caregivers must end! We have constitutional rights in this country, and it is way over due those rights be exercised against those who wilfully discriminate. Just as the LGBTQ community organized and fought for their rights to simply exist, we must all do the same.
Whomever was responsible for taking this billboard down, just opened one hell of a can of worms.