Dee Gordon

Honourable senators, today is no ordinary day in the Senate. We have a visitor in the chamber, and her name is Dee Gordon. It is my honour to pay tribute to her this afternoon, a courageous mother.

Dee is a remarkable woman whose strength of purpose and character are best conveyed by telling you about the gruelling journey she has completed. Imagine this: Two weeks ago, on January 15, Dee embarked on a walk from Toronto to Ottawa, a trek called Walk to Ottawa. She has done this to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders and to gather signatures on a petition for a national ASD strategy. We’re talking about January for two weeks, Toronto to Ottawa.

Described by one of her friends as a “warrior mom,” Dee has three children, one of whom, a young teenager named Jacob, has autism. For 13 years she has struggled to get the care and support he needs. It has been tough, but it certainly has not gotten her down.

Dee has explained the significance of walking to the nation’s capital during the coldest winter month we have. She put it this way:

The reason why I picked January is because Jacob’s struggle is like ploughing through the snow every single day. It’s difficult, it’s harsh, you have to plan ahead.

Walk to Ottawa has run like a well-oiled machine, with online updates and encouraging messages posted from all corners.

This is important for us, honourable senators. This is close to home for all of us because we were all in this together, and still are. You will remember our 2007 report Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families In Crisis. It has been on her Facebook page. She made this walk for Jacob, but the petition’s support is for what we had proposed seven or eight years ago.

The only thing that would make me prouder than witnessing the positive influence of the Senate’s report on the autism community is the creation, as the report said, of a national strategy.

We have a mental health strategy and we have the Mental Health Commission. Where did they come from? The idea was right here in the Senate. Why not the same for autism?

With each step Dee Gordon has taken over the last two extremely cold weeks, she has helped bring us closer to that goal. She arrived on the Hill just one hour ago with the plea she has carried with her throughout her journey and will present to the government, on behalf of all us who support the call for strategic federal action, a petition with tens of thousands of names calling for a national autism strategy.

Dee, these few minutes are about you, your very special family and the people who have supported you. I am delighted that your three children are able to join you to hear testimony about your extraordinary determination and commitment to making a difference. You are a very special mom.

This afternoon at Minto Place, honourable senators, there will be a reception. I hope some of you can make it to the Lisgar Salon of Minto Place from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

This part of the story may be over. Dee’s walk may be over, but we as senators will not rest because we know we are in this together until this country has a national autism spectrum disorder strategy.

Thank you, honourable senators.