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Class Action by Children with Autism to Halt Systemic Government Discrimination

Press Conference English Summary.

Autism Society Canada
Société canadienne de l'autisme

October 21, 2002

Press Conference English Summary

Class Action by Children with Autism to Halt Systemic Government Discrimination

Peter Zwack
Vice President, Autism Society Canada
Member, Quebec Class Action Committee

The class action, to enforce the Quebec Charter rights of children with autism and other pervasive development disorders (called PDDs) so that they receive a medically necessary treatment, has now received official support from the Quebec Human Rights Commission. The Commission agrees that the children with autism and other PDDs have been systemically discriminated against by the Quebec Government health institutions who have denied them universal and free access to intensive early behavioral invention, which the Quebec Health Departments has already officially designated as early as 1996 as crucial to the autistic child's future development.

The lawyer representing the families, Jean-Pierre Ménard, also reported on a recent British Colombia Court of Appeal decision in an extremely similar case that reinforces considerably the legal basis for the Quebec class action. The BC Appeal Court judges unanimously agreed that the BC government was violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the case of BC children with autism who are not providing intensive early behavioral invention for as long as it shows benefit to the child, for as soon as and as long as a general medical practitioner with a concurrent opinion from a psychologist or an other medical specialist prescribes the treatment. The Court of Appeal also decreed that the families should be able to use the courts to enforce their rights.

Also in attendance at this press conference are representatives from both the Quebec Federation for Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Lucille Bargiel, and Autism Society Canada, Peter Zwack, who are also supporting this class action.

The class action claimant, Carole Ladouceur, representing the nearly 200 families who have already registered, explained how two years of intensive early behavioral intervention has enabled her now five year old son, once severely handicapped by autism, to attend a regular class this year. It is to bet noted that thanks her personal outlay of approximately $50,000 in order to privately purchase the necessary services, the Quebec government will save nearly $2 million dollars, which is the long term costs for the education and care of people with autism who have been denied intensive early behavioral intervention.

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