Persons with Disabilities Need Good Laws, Not Good Intentions

From time to time, news reports are full of horrible stories regarding the mistreatment of people with autism. Unfortunately, news from Canada suggests the abuse seems to be more entrenched than previously thought, as the blog Facing Autism in New Brunswick lays out. From the prairie province of Alberta to the maritime province of New Brunswick, in Canada, abuse is indeed evident from sea to shining sea.

How is it that a country that is one of the affluent G-7 nations and purports to be civilized, can treat its most vulnerable citizens as if they have no rights? Well, the truth is people afflicted with autism (and disabilities more broadly) in Canada, have no constitutional or legal protection against disability based discrimination. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is clearly a “Charter of Suggestions,” based on its failure to protect equality rights of children with autism. To verify this contention, one need only see the various Auton court cases, British Columbia Supreme Court 2000, British Columbia Court of Appeal 2002, and the Supreme Court of Canada 2004.

In Canada, there are no laws in place to protect people with disabilities; politicians rely on the “goodness” of people in positions of power i.e., the unelected, permanent bureaucracy. Then, when things go wrong (which they are apt to do when people instead of systems are in charge), the politicians feign surprise and outrage!

The solution is straightforward. Canadians need to demand the following:

1) Every province must set up an
Individualized Funding mechanism so that the family and the disabled person become the consumers (and can change service providers at their discretion). This will cut down on group home abuses dramatically.
2) Canadians with all disabilities need to demand from their politicians the establishment of a
Canadians with Disabilities Act. They need only look at the structure of the Americans with Disabilities Act for guidance regarding the framework of national legal protection against disability discrimination.
Parents of disabled children need to demand an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This can be patterned after the American IDEA, which has helped parents tremendously.

This will be difficult in Canada, because the unelected bureaucracy leans heavily against equality rights for persons with disabilities. More rights for aggrieved citizens means less fiat authority for provincial governments. Until people with disabilities in Canada are considered of equal value, abuses will continue coast to coast.

My experience in fighting the
autism wars over many years, has proven the Canadian technocratic elite to be quite arrogant; they think they can micromanage the lives of the disabled better than families can. This needs to change, because appropriate laws, and the consequences of breaking those laws, will always be more protective than empty platitudes about caring, and occasional outrage when tragedy strikes.