Autism Awareness Month

Honourable senators, today is October 1, and October is Autism Awareness Month. Many of you know how important this cause is to me.

I was saddened to see a story in the media only yesterday of a father in Edmonton who was so overburdened with the care of his autistic son — so stressed — that he killed his son and then took his own life. This tragic story tells us much about the painful isolation autism creates.

Autism, as we all know, is a baffling disorder. What causes it, how to treat it and how to cure it are mysteries we still must solve.

Our own Senate report, Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis, speaks to the urgent need for funding for research and for families to afford treatment for their children. Too many families in this country are facing the tremendous challenge of this disorder on their own. I have met several of them.

There is Suzanne, the courageous grandmother who is raising funds to provide services for children even before they have a diagnosis. There is Josh, as we know, the devoted big brother who raises funds to help his little sister with autism. There are many other people I have had the honour to meet and the pleasure to work with. As this month unfolds, I ask honourable senators to remember that too many Canadians are facing autism on their own. We must show support and provide funding to help prevent terrible tragedies such as the one that took place in Edmonton.

Too many families are stressed and at the breaking point from the burden of dealing with autism without sufficient support. We can and must do better.

I ask honourable senators to remember these people and do what they can to break down the wall of autism and reach out to end their isolation and help create a better, more inclusive Canada.