World Autism Awareness Day

Honourable senators, April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, a day recognized by 192 members of the United Nations. First, I invite you to join us tomorrow in the Commonwealth Room, room 238-S in Centre Block, and meet people working on behalf of autistic people, a group called the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance. By bringing these leaders together with parliamentarians, we want to raise awareness and create links between decision-makers and the people working hard every day on behalf of people with autism.

Later this week, I will move and speak on second reading of Bill S-211, an Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day. This bill has twice been given support by the Senate, in particular the warm support of Senator Keon and Senator Oliver, but has not become law yet because of two prorogations.

The bill includes in its preamble two short points. First, it states that Canada has no national strategy for autism and, second, it reminds us that Canada is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

These elements of the bill are important to the stakeholders honourable senators will meet tomorrow. These elements are fundamental to improving the lives of people with autism in this country.

Without a national strategy, efforts to address this disorder will remain ad hoc and disparate. Without recognizing the rights of people with autism, we fail to show them respect.

As I have already said in this chamber, recognizing April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day will not cure autism. It will not guarantee treatments for the children who need them and who wait a long time for them. It will not provide financial assistance to the families who band together to pay for these treatments themselves.

However, by making Bill S-211 law, we express compassion, care and respect. We say to people with autism that we will take action and we want to include them. This action shows what Canadian values are.