The Guardian

Senator suggests UPEI as site for autism treatment/research centre

Shannon A. MacLeod

Imagine the world coming to Prince Edward Island, rather than Islanders going to the world for autism treatment.

Senator Jim Munson has been working in Ottawa for the last seven years to get more recognition for autism across Canada, something he said the nation needs.

“You don’t have to line up for treatment for cancer or heart disease. There are 1,600 families in Ontario waiting.”

Munson was in Charlottetown recently and, in conjunction with the Autism Society of P.E.I., updated the province on the status of Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis, a report by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology into the funding of autism treatment.

UPEI has potential, said Munson, who believes it is possible to have a research and treatment facility at the Island university.

“The distinct advantage on P.E.I. is you’re small, you work together, your neighbours are your best friends,” Munson said.

The government has set aside some money for autism but Munson doesn’t think it’s enough.

As a senator, Munson has made it his mission to get more support for children and families affected by autism.

“It’s a personal thing for my wife and I. Our son wasn’t autistic. He had Down syndrome. He would have been 41. He died very young.”

There are families who are hurting and fighting, he said.

“Children have rights. I feel I have to do my part.”

Munson had a start last year with Bill C-211. The bill called on the federal government to include autism therapy under the Canada Health Act to ensure all children with autism had accessible treatment.

The bill was passed last May and went to the third reading in Parliament and then Parliament was prorogued.

Munson said he has been making his case in Ottawa.

“You have to spend more, you have to train more. A research facility at UPEI would be wonderful.”

Canada has no national strategy to address autism but needs one, he said.

“My message is always ‘never give up’.” PHOTO: Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald ILLUS: Jeff Himelman, left, president of the Autism Society of P.E.I., Senator Jim Munson and Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy chat before a public meeting on autistic families in crisis at the Confederation Centre. Since becoming senator in 2003, Munson has been vocal in his support of a national autism strategy, even teaming up with actor Eugene Levy for news conferences on the issue in 2007.