Monday, October 13, 2008

Medicare for autism now! - Tuesday's federal election - Make your vote count!

This may be the most heart-felt plea I've ever made. As you probably know, I've been involved for the past three years with the effort to get Medicare coverage for science-based, proven effective treatment of autism, a neurological disorder that has reached epidemic proportions in recent years across North America. Unlike the case south of the border, our federal government remains indifferent to the plight of these children and their families. These individuals are some of the most vulnerable among us and they desperately need and deserve our help.

What can you do? As you enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend, hopefully in the embrace of your family or close friends, think about the character of the person you want to represent you in our country's Parliament and vote accordingly.

The Medicare for autism Now! campaign has exposed much in the past few weeks. In particular, it has revealed that in our 14 "target constituencies" from coast to coast, candidates for the Conservative Party either don't want to help children with autism and their families or, worse, don't care enough to state their position. See our web-site: They are evidently indifferent to the fate of their fellow Canadians. Such people have no business being in elected office! The accompanying ads, which appeared in 16 newspapers, in seven of our "target constituencies", from Nova Scotia to BC between October 8th and 10th, give you a sense of what candidates for the different political parties believe.

Jean Lewis, our campaign's chief spokesperson, and I have just returned from a eight day tour of target constituencies in Ontario. It was most instructive. In particular, we spent three days in Parry Sound-Muskoka, political home to Canada's health minister, Tony Clement. On Wednesday evening, we attended an "all candidates' forum" in Bracebridge. Jean referred Mr. Clement to the horrific case of a nine-year-old autistic boy who died in Montreal, in April of this year, seemingly due to the negligence of his classroom teacher and aide. Jean asked the minister, "How many more autistic children will die before you act? How many more autistic children will fail to thrive, to reach their full potential before you act? How many more families with an autistic child will suffer devastating emotional and financial collapse before you act?" His response was to ignore the question, give Jean a lecture on the constitutional division of powers and go on to claim that he "had done more for autistic children and their families than any other health minister in our country's history". This man is a disgrace!

While our campaign has been, and remains, strictly non-partisan, it appears crystal clear that a majority Conservative government would most definitely not be in the interests of autistic Canadians, their families or those who care about them. Accordingly, on Tuesday, please vote strategically. Cast your ballot for the candidate who has the best chance of defeating the Conservative. Where my wife and I live, in West Vancouver, BC, that means voting for the Liberal, Ian Sutherland. This will be easy to do as he seems to be a fine individual, one who has publicly committed to doing everything he can for our cause.

I ask you also to forward this e-mail to all you know who are compassionate and generous Canadians, with the request that they both vote to bring help to autistic individuals and pass this e-mail along.

Together we can make a better Canada. Thank you.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Wesley Romey Video On Medicare For Autism Now

Below is the video of the speech given by Wesley Romey at a recent Medicare for Autism NOW! rally. This, and other Medicare for Autism NOW! videos can be found at the Medicare for Autism Youtube channel.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Medicare for Autism Now! Ontario Meet

Medicare for Autism Now!

What: Meeting – Come and find out how you can make your vote count!

When: Thursday, October 9, 2008

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Where: The Canadian Legion,

168 Muskoka Rd. S. Bracebridge, Ontario

Parents, professionals and advocates will gather to discuss our non-partisan political initiative to secure Medicare coverage for autism treatment.

The Medicare for Autism Now! national campaign is focussed on creating policy change to make science-based autism treatment (ABA/IBI) available for all Canadians diagnosed with autism, regardless of age or where they live.

You can help end the discrimination against some of the most vulnerable Canadians!

Bring your family and friends – learn how to make your vote count!

For more information on Medicare for Autism Now! See

RSVP to Andrea Nicholson at

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Medicare for Autism Now! on the Bill Good Radio Show.

Jean Lewis and David Marley will be on the Bill Good Show Thursday, Oct. 2nd at 10 am PST. They will be discussing the Medicare for Autism Now! campaign and in particular, the candidates' responses. Please tune in to the Bill Good Show on the CORUS radio network in Vancouver on CKNW 980 on your AM dial.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Surrey Ridings All-Candidates Meetings

Surrey Ridings All-Candidates Meetings
Fleetwood-Port Kells:
Wednesday, October 1st, 7:30-9:30 PM
North Wood United Church, 8855 - 156 St, Surrey

Tuesday, October 7th, 7:00-9:00 PM
Fraser Heights Secondary School, 108th Ave. and 160th St, Surrey

Newton-North Delta:
Wednesday, October 1st, 7:00-9:00 PM
North Delta Inn, 11920 - 70 Ave., Delta

Wednesday, October 8th, 4:00PM
Kwantlen University, 12666 - 72nd Ave., Surrey

See this and more events here:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Parents Lobby Swing Ridings in Autism Fight

Parents of children with autism have been fighting over a decade to have costly treatment covered by Medicare. Now they are using strategic election lobbying in swing ridings to further their cause.

Activist group Medicare for Autism Now has launched a campaign called “The Two Percent Solution” in 14 swing ridings across the country where candidates won by two per cent or less. They are backing any candidate who publicly supports legislation to amend the Canada Health Act to include autism treatment.

Among the 14 constituencies is Parry Sound-Muskoka where federal Health Minister Tony Clement won by a mere 21 votes. Because these ridings are vulnerable, says the group, their initiative has a good chance of success.

“What we want to do is get some federal leadership on the issue of autism. No party has stepped up to the plate so we’ve got this non-partisan initiative going on in the upcoming federal election,” says Louise Witt, a parent activist and Surrey, B.C., campaign coordinator with the group.

Witt’s 4-year-old son, Jack, was diagnosed with the developmental disability when he was two. That’s when Witt became active.

“I didn’t have a political bone in my body until I realized the discrimination that children with autism were faced with in this country,” she says, calling these children “the orphans of the health care system.”

The group, along with Families for Early Autism Treatment (FEAT), has been calling on Ottawa to work with the provinces to set a national standard for autism treatment and amend the Canada Health Act so that an intensive treatment called Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) can be covered by Medicare.

“It’s expensive, and politicians talk a lot about that but they certainly don’t talk about how expensive in might be to treat a child who has cancer or diabetes, for example. So I don’t understand why it is acceptable to put a price tag on treatment for children with autism.”

ABA includes one-on-one time with trained professionals and is most effective when implemented between the ages of two and five. It has been shown to have a dramatic effect on children with autism, and Witt’s son is no exception.

“He never spoke, not a single word, until he went in ABA treatment and he spoke his very first word on his very first day of therapy. I knew right then that this was a powerful kind of treatment. He now talks in sentences, he wants to socialize with children, he can tell me what his wishes are, if he’s hungry or if he’s hurt, and if I didn’t see such amazing results I wouldn’t feel as passionate about this.”

However, the treatment can cost up to $60,000 a year, and there lies the rub — the provinces say it’s too expensive.

“It’s expensive, and politicians talk a lot about that but they certainly don’t talk about how expensive in might be to treat a child who has cancer or diabetes, for example. So I don’t understand why it is acceptable to put a price tag on treatment for children with autism,” Witt says.

Currently, a patchwork of autism services are provided through social services ministries across the country, with some, like B.C. and Alberta, paying a portion of ABA costs.

But it’s not enough, say parents, some of whom have more than one child with autism and have been crippled by debt as they struggle to provide what they believe is the best treatment for their children.

There have been several lawsuits in various provinces over the years in an effort to resolve the issue. In the landmark Auten case in British Columbia, the court declared that Early Intensive Behavioural Therapy or ABA is a “medically necessary” service and must be funded by the government.

However the province appealed, and the Supreme Court of Canada overturned that judgement in 2004.

While Health Minister Clement was not available for an interview for this story, the Ministry of Health has stated that the issue must be addressed by the provinces and territories since it’s their responsibility to deliver health care.

But after children with autism become non-coping adults who must be institutionalized, it’s the Ministry of Health that foots the bill. FEAT and others say it’s inconsistent that the ministry not be responsible for funding early treatment that can help these children before they become a drain on the system.

Liberal Senator Jim Munson, who supports a national strategy for autism treatment, was part of a Senate committee that produced a report earlier this year called “Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis.” However, the report never went before Parliament for a vote.

Munson says it’s time politicians began “thinking outside the box” because families of children with autism are in crisis.

“The stress is so much on families that couples are splitting up, families are borrowing money that they can’t afford and mortgaging their homes to provide their children with treatment, and from my perspective as a Senator I find that tragic.”

Beverley Sharpe, a volunteer with Medicare for Autism Now, is keenly aware of what Munson means.

Soon after her child, Allison, was diagnosed with autism when she was almost three, Sharpe’s husband walked out. After doing extensive research, Sharpe was convinced that ABA was the only therapy that could help her daughter.

In order to meet the “huge bills” that started pouring in after she began the ABA treatment, Sharpe opened a line of credit, worked overtime, cashed in her RSPs, pawned anything of value and slept on her living room floor so that she could rent out her bedroom.

It all paid off, and Allison, now 14 and a grade 9 student, is able to look after herself and “has blossomed into a lovely member of the household.”

A litigant in the Auten case, Sharpe says two studies accepted by the court showed that it costs $1.1 million to pay for the long term care of untreated autistic individuals — 10 times the amount it costs to provide ABA treatment. A recent federal government study found that autism, which is on the rise, costs the economy about $1 billion a year.

“It’s a pretty lonely existence being an untreated autistic person and institutionalization is not a dignified existence. We do not have a society where we write people off for any disability except if you’re autistic,” says Sharpe.

But this issue is not peculiar to just Canada. According to FEAT’s website, parents in many countries are suing their local, state/provincial or federal governments to make ABA accessible to their children through public funding.

In the U.S., where most of the legal battles — and gains — have occurred, presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama have both said they support the Combating Autism Act which was unanimously passed and has almost $1 billion dollars going toward treatment and research.

In Canada, a private member’s bill tabled by NDP MP Shawn Murphy proposing amending the Health Act to ensure government funding for ABA was supported by both the Liberals and the NDP. But the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois voted it down.

However, Harold Doherty, whose son, Conor, suffers from autism, says the fact that so many MPs supported the bill bodes well for the future in advocating for the measures proposed by Murphy.

Thanks to the efforts of Doherty and other parents, New Brunswick now has funding for 20 hours per week of ABA treatment and provides training for autism support workers and teacher assistants. But without ABA being covered by Medicare, says Doherty, there’s always the risk that these hard-won gains could be lost at any time.

“We need serious commitments of funding for autism treatment across Canada and that’s what we’re not getting.”

For more information on the Two Percent Solution campaign, visit Last Updated
Sep 24, 2008

Full article:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autism group takes funding battle to the hustings - Ottawa Sun

Ottawa Sun
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Autism group takes funding battle to the hustings


Families dealing with autism have been "shafted" by governments of all political stripes and are vowing to change that this federal election.

"We've been shafted left, right and centre," said Andrew Kavchak, an active member of the autism community in Ottawa.

Kavchak, like hundreds of parents across the country, is putting his hope on a new national group called Medicare for Autism Now Society.

"I'm extremely satisfied and happy there are parents within the community no longer willing to sit back and accept their fate, who are willing and have enough energy left over after taking care of their children," Kavchak said.

Medicare for Autism Now is targeting select ridings across the country which were close during the last federal election, and asking all the candidates if they will support autism treatment being included in Canada's medicare system.

The group had some success the last time around with two ridings in B.C. and have now expanded their efforts to 14 ridings in four provinces with a national campaign.

The group will be making their case in Ottawa early next month, hoping to catch the attention of all parties fielding candidates in the federal election.

While none of the ridings are in the Ottawa area, Kavchak says it's only a matter of time.

"I'd like to see it being adopted and used from coast to coast until justice is done," he said.

New Democrat candidate Marlene Rivier, running in Ottawa West-Nepean, agrees autistic children have been treated unfairly, and she for one is prepared to commit to funding treatment under medicare.

"I really think autistic children have been shortchanged. Commitments have been made to them and then those governments have failed to follow through on them. We need to extend treatment to those families, and continue examining evidence to ensure they are producing the outcomes we want for these children during the critical years. The fact they are being denied the help they need is really quite tragic," she said.


Ottawa South MP David McGuinty, running for re-election for the Liberals, says he's been working behind the scenes for the past four years on this very issue.

Yesterday, he pledged that whether sitting on the government side or in opposition, he'll push forward on including autism treatment under medicare.

"We need to find out how we might proceed and whether the Canada Health Act might be amended to include treatment for autism spectrum. My brother (Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty) has been seized with this for years. It's a tough thing, a lot of demands. I've been working hard on this and it's something we have to move forward on," he said.

Louise Witt, a parent activist and Surrey campaign co-ordinator with the Medicare for Autism Now Society, said she has made this her life's work.

"My son is privileged enough that we can afford the treatment. But it disgusts me that other children don't get that just because their parents can't afford it," she said.

The non-partisan group doesn't endorse candidates.

"We get answers from candidates and post them on the Internet. The closer we get to our election date, we'll take out ad space in all of the local newspapers, advise our constituents and supporters, and make their own informed decision. We're a single-issue organization."

Witt and her group want to ensure the politicians keep their word after the election.

"We've been lied to many times. Our real work begins after the election. We expect politicians to have integrity. We'll tell them, 'If you go back on your word, we will out you in a very public manner'. "

Monday, September 15, 2008

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Saturday, October 4th, 2008 - 2:00 pm

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally

Saturday, October 4th, 2008 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Eaglequest Golf Club 7778 – 152nd St. Surrey, BC, V3S 3M4

Who should attend? You – and every fair-minded Canadian you know!

In Canada, children with autism and their families suffer from political indifference. It will take the sustained energy and dedication of EVERY CANADIAN who desires a just society to correct this injustice. For our children’s sake, and the sake of future generations, we urge you to attend this rally. Please bring friends, family, kids, anyone and everyone you know who is appalled by the gross injustice done to our children every day by the governments of Canada and its provinces.

Why should I attend?

• Despite a decade of lobbying, collaborating and litigating – autism treatment is still excluded from our universal health care system. Canadian families from BC to Newfoundland and everywhere in between are still bankrupting themselves in order to provide treatment for their autistic children.

• The current and limited funding provided through the Ministry for Children and Families could evaporate tomorrow with the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen. No legislation exists within this ministry to protect or enshrine our children’s medically necessary treatment.

• In 30 years of advocacy, the only two initiatives which have achieved ANY success for our children and families has been litigation, and more recently, focused political action. Both were brought by the members of FEAT of BC – a 100% volunteer organization.

• Autism is an epidemic of staggering proportions, it now afflicts one in every 150 children in North America, one in every 94 boys.

• Autism is an election issue in the US…Both Senators Obama and McCain have publicly identified progressive autism policy which can be viewed on their websites….Obama-“Every nation has a special responsibility to look after those who can’t look after themselves…” McCain-“Their lives should matter to the people elected to office…they matter to me.” In 2006, both Obama and McCain supported the “Combating Autism Bill” which allocated $945 million to autism research and treatment. The US federal government recognizes their responsibility to intervene by acting to avoid a major health and social crisis.

• Today, all over Canada, parents of children with autism and growing numbers of other fair-minded, but outraged Canadian voters expect our federal government to show leadership and act. This is not a right or left issue – it’s a right or wrong issue!

• We intend to let those who govern and those who wish to govern know that they will be held accountable, regardless of party affiliation, at the ballot box on Oct. 14th.

Come and find out how you can make your vote actually count on October 14th! It is now time for our federal government to recognize their responsibility to act!

Featured speakers will include:

Dr. Sabrina Freeman - Parent, founder and Executive Director, FEAT of BC
Jean Lewis - Parent, Director of FEAT of BC and The Medicare for Autism Now Society
Beverley Sharpe - Parent and FEAT of BC member
Dr. Glen Davies - Clinical Director, ABLE Developmental Clinic
Louise Witt - Parent, Director of FEAT of BC and The Autism Society of BC
Dubravka Skrijelj - Parent, FEAT of BC member
Dr. Melvin deLevie - Pediatrician, Vancouver
David Marley - Political advisor to FEAT of BC and Director – The Medicare for Autism Now Society
David Chan - Parent, Director - Autism Society of BC and FEAT of BC member
Dione Costanzo - Parent, FEAT of BC member

Bring the kids! There will be a room for them to hang out, play, and get their face painted. Parent supervised – please bring a small snack for your child!

For more information or to find out how you can help, go to:

Medicare for Autism NOW! Rally Poster
Medicare for Autism NOW! Info Poster

Annual Capone's Live Jazz Club Fundraiser & Silent Auction was a huge SUCCESS!

It would be an understatement to say our “Medicare for Autism Now!”
fundraiser at Capone’s last Saturday was a success. Not only did we
exceed our monetary target for the evening, it would be safe to say
that over half the attendees did not have a child with autism.
Fair-minded Canadians are starting to see that autism affects us all
and the treatment for children with autism should be as available as
any other medical treatment. Let’s hope the Federal policy changers
are starting to notice too!
We had such a hard working team and such a successful drive we did
not have enough room to display all of our generously donated silent
auction gifts, so we have decided to raffle the remainder off at our
“Medicare for autism now!” rally on October 4th at Eaglequest Golf
Club. This way the generous donations will still go to the intended
The election is at hand and this may be the last time we have all the
FEAT and ASBC volunteers working together to effect policy change in
this manner. We have to make the politicians see that this is not a
Provincial issue that they can ignore. It is a National election issue
that could influence their ability to win or hold power. Please
remember that prior to 1999 a select few, who were sworn to secrecy,
did receive limited funding. It was snatched away. Unless Autism
treatment funding is enshrined in the HealthCare Act you could lose
the paltry amount of money you receive at any time.
It is incumbent on EVERY parent or relative of a child with autism,
who is not receiving adequate funding, to ATTEND this rally. This is a
minimum requirement. You will not be asked to volunteer. You will only
be asked to give up two hours of your time to stand with your peers,
listen to the speeches and support each other. . Medicare for Autism NOW!” Rally!
Eaglequest Golf Club
7778 – 152nd Street, Surrey BC
Saturday October 4th, 2008

Do it for the kids!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Presidential Candidates Debate on Autism

Presidential Candidates Debate on Autism

This week the USAAA Weekly News included a special article of the presidential candidates' stances on autism.

John McCain has worked with issues on Autism Spectrum Disorders during his time in the Senate, such as when he cosponsored the Combating Autism Act of 2006. "John McCain is very concerned about the rising incidence of autism among America's children and has continually supported research into its causes and treatment," his campaign said. "He believes that federal research efforts should support broad approaches to understanding the factors that may play a role in the incidence of autism, including factors in our environment, for both prevention and treatment purposes."

As president, McCain would work to advance federal research into autism, promote early screening, and identify better treatment options. Click here to read his plan on combating autism in America.

Barack Obama has set forth a plan specifically on Autism Spectrum Disorders. "Some conditions like autism don't appear until age two, so infant screening is not enough," he said. "And to meet the needs of the growing numbers of Americans with autism, we need a comprehensive approach that includes not just screening, but early intervention, research, and education services."

As president, Obama would appoint a federal ASD Coordinator to oversee all federal ASD efforts, fully fund the Combating Autism Act and other federal autism research initiatives, support special needs education for children with ASD, and support universal screening. Click here to read his full plan, and click here to see his updated plan to empower Americans with disabilities.

To view this article on the USAAA site go here:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Medicare for Autism NOW visit Granville Island

On Sunday June 22, members of the Medicare for Autism Now! Campaign spent a sunny afternoon on Granville Island outside of Kidsmarket distributing information, talking to families and fund raising for the national campaign to get ABA therapy covered under medicare.

Signatures were gathered on a petition which will be forwarded to Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray at her office in the House of Commons in Ottawa. It is Ms Murray’s duty to present this petition on behalf of Canadians who want to see science-based autism treatment included in Medicare and the creation of academic chairs in each province to teach IBI/ABA treatment and create a base of Canadian professionals in this field.

Many of the people who signed this petition live in the federal riding of Vancouver, Quadra.

“We are getting out in the community to update families on our campaign and spread the word to all fair minded Canadians.”, says Jean Lewis , Director of FEAT of BC. “We want to connect with them and raise awareness with all Canadians of the crisis affecting thousands of children in this country – lack of access to autism treatment.”

The Medicare for Autism Now! national campaign launched in March. The campaign raising awareness and advocating for policy change to make science-based ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) treatment available for all Canadians diagnosed with autism. Supporters are preparing to participate in constituencies across the country in the next federal election. Their goal is to support any candidate that publicly supports legislation to amend the Canada Health Act to include autism treatment. They will be especially supportive of candidates in those ridings that were won in the last election by a minor margin.

Vancouver Quadra is one of those ridings.

This initiative was started by FEAT of BC (Families for Early Autism Treatment), a not-for-profit, non-partisan volunteer organization of parents and professionals who offer a variety of services for families affected by autism. These services include a New Parent Package which describes how to get a treatment team up and running, therapist training and parent advocacy training workshops. Their website is a forum for parents and professional to connect over various topics and issues from behavioural and treatment to school and government.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ottawa Press Conference, Medicare for Autism NOW! April 14th, 2008

Here are the long awaited videos from the Ottawa Press Conference on April 14, 2008

Jean Lewis

Stefan Marinoiu

David Marley

Senator Jim Munson

Dawn Black, MP

Andy Scott, MP

Shawn Murphy, MP

Stefan Marinoiu

Sunday, May 11, 2008

W-FIVE : On the Brink

This weekend CTV aired a W-Five episode that focussed on the wait lists for therapy.
It was called: "On the Brink" and had some great interviews with families.

Video Clip 1: Meet families struggling to live with the financial burden of funding their own child's Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy - which can cost as much as 80,000 dollars per year for each child.

Video Clip 2: Ontario's ombudsman reports 150 complaints about therapy wait lists, in April 2008 alone. The office says it will continue to monitor the issue and may investigate in the future.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

“Medicare for Autism Now!” Ontario Tour – April 13th to 20th

We returned from our Ontario “Medicare for Autism Now!” campaign tour just over a week ago. I apologize for not providing this update sooner, but as all parents of children with autism know, family priorities must come first.

We made the trip to Ontario primarily for three reasons:

1. To continue building a national coalition, which includes Ontario parents/activists who are prepared to participate in our “Medicare for Autism Now!” political campaign in the next federal election to have autism treatment covered under Medicare.

2. To introduce our “Medicare for Autism Now!” non-partisan political campaign and establish relationships with Ontario parents, supporters, other voters, and local media in Parry Sound-Muskoka and other key target Ontario ridings.

3. To gain national “earned media” for our campaign.

I am pleased to report that we succeeded in meeting all three of our objectives! Following is a more detailed description of the week’s events.

David Marley, our political strategist and I arrived in Ottawa late in the evening of Apr. 13th.

Monday, Apr. 14th began with an interview with Canada AM which went extremely well. We were then joined by Stefan Marinoiu. As many of you know, Stefan lives in Toronto with his wife Bernadette and their three children, Lia who is 17, Simon who is 15 and severely autistic and Paul who just turned 6. Simon has never had the benefit of any intervention quite simply because the system failed him and his family. Last February, out of desparation, Stefan walked from Toronto to Ottawa (450 kms.) to raise awareness about the autism crisis in Canada. After 11 days of walking, he met with health minister Tony Clement for about 15 minutes, only to be told…. “this is a provincial issue”…no questions or concern for Simon, or Stefan, just more political indifference.

Thanks to the kind donations of many of you, Stefan got to fly to Ottawa this time! Stefan spent the rest of the week campaigning with us, so now, our Travels with Stefan:

Stefan, along with David, Senator Jim Munson, Senator Norman Atkins, MP Andy Scott, MP Shawn Murphy, MP Dawn Black and myself all spoke at our “Medicare for Autism Now!” press conference which was held in the Charles Lynch press room on Parliament Hill at 11:00 on Apr. 14th. The support for our campaign on Parliament Hill is growing as is the media attention. Our initiative is being taken seriously. When we had a press conference last May, one camera attended; there were 7 on Apr. 14th. including W5.

Jean Lewis at Ottawa Press Conference

Stefan Marinoiu at Ottawa Press Conference

David, Senator Norman Atkins, Jean, Stefan and Senator Jim Munson at lunch hosted by Senator Atkins.

On Monday evening we drove up to the town of Huntsville which is in our federal health minister Tony Clement’s riding of Parry Sound- Muskoka We spent the next three days campaigning and “main-streeting” in Huntsville, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Parry Sound and Orillia. We met with all the editors of the local newspapers and their advertising managers. We did an extensive interview with the Bracebridge Examiner and the Parry Sound North Star.

Jean and Stefan at Bracebridge Legion

Huntsville Forester Newspaper Office

Tony Clement’s Huntsville Constituency Office

David and Stefan outside the Gravenhurst Banner office.

We distributed brochures and other hand-outs to hospitals, clinics, libraries, recreation centers, senior centers, community colleges, legions, coffee shops, and even paid a visit to Minister Clement’s constituency offices in Parry Sound and Huntsville.

Tony Clement’s Parry Sound Constituency Office

We really worked the room! It was a very interesting experience to say the least and we learned some very valuable lessons: Not one person, and I mean, not one person asked, “What is autism?” sadly, it seems like everyone we spoke to knows someone who has it. And everyone we spoke to without exception agreed autism treatment should be covered and supported our initiative to secure it. It is also abundantly clear that support generally for Mr. Clement is extremely weak. The support from the people who live in Parry Sound-Muskoka was no surprise to us. Why? Because Canadians are fair-minded people who expect our government to do the morally right and economically sensible thing by our children.

Throughout our Travels with Stefan, he shared stories of other fair-minded Canadians he met during his trek from Toronto to Ottawa. He told us of people who were “strangers” stopping their cars to ask if he needed help, gave him money, paid for meals, alerted restaurant owners to provide him with anything he wanted. These “strangers” paid for his hotel accommodation, in one case, opened their own home to him to provide food and shelter. A church congregation gave him all of their Sunday collection and bought him new boots and gloves. All of these “strangers” or fair-minded Canadians heard Stefan’s story, which is sadly the same story of countless other Canadian families dealing with autism, and responded with overwhelming support and encouragement to “keep on going – your cause is just!”

On Wednesday, the 16th while in Parry Sound, I did a phone-in talk show interview from the editor’s office in the Parry Sound North Star with the Ottawa radio station CFRA which aired from 1:20 to 1:40 p.m. I managed to do this after “calming the hystrionics and bad words” which filled the air after David locked the rental car keys in the trunk along with most of our materials….thank goodness for locksmiths! About our rental car – it was a black Charger with tinted windows and a spoiler….we looked like we came out of “Smokey and the Bandit.” Just before the “key incident” we happened to park the car beside a vacant store which had a poem about walking posted in the window….Based on Stefan’s walking experience, the wording seemed very poignant so I took a photo for you all to see.

Stefan and David outside the Bobby Orr Museum and Ice Arena

David and our “Smokey and the Bandit” rental car

On Thursday, the 17th. we drove to Toronto via Orillia and Barrie where we stopped in at the Orillia Packet and Times and the Barrie Examiner.

Stefan and David outside the Barrie Examiner office

We were joined that evening by Harold Doherty who is a dad and very effective advocate from Fredericton, New Brunswick. Check out Harold’s blog: “Facing Autism in New Brunswick” at We met Harold last May when we were in Halifax. He is going to co-ordinate our political initiative in the Maritimes. Harold flew from Fredericton to join us in Toronto to meet with media and speak at our “Medicare for Autism Now!” rally in Oakville. That evening David, Harold and I had dinner with Stefan and his family. Bernadette provided a lovely meal and warm hospitality. Meeting with Stefan and his family and particularly meeting Simon, who is 15 and has never had intervention was a shocking reminder to me personally of why we must have autism treatment universally accessible under Medicare! Our son is one year younger then Stefan’s son. He has benefited from 11 years of intervention solely because we had the means to provide it….that’s all! That this situation still exists in Canada where we have had Medicare for almost 40 years and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms for 25 years is no longer acceptable! The evening provided a sharp reminder that our expectations are reasonable because all our children, regardless of where they live, or how much money their families have are indeed worthy of treatment!

On Friday, the 18th we met with the producers of W5. They are producing a program about our political initiative which is scheduled to air on May 10th. After an extensive interview with Sandi Rinaldo we had lunch and further discussion with some CTV NEWS producers. They are extremely interested in our initiative and have expressed interest in covering it during the election campaign... national “earned media” – just what we need!

David in conversation with W5 cameraman

Friday afternoon, we met with Bob Rae who is the Liberal party’s policy co-chair. We had a very frank and useful conversation with Bob who listened closely, asked lots of good questions and demonstrated a pretty good understanding of the issue and the “road-blocks” More on this in due course. Friday evening, we met with Deborah Coyne who lives in Toronto, is a mom, a constitutional lawyer, will be seeking elected office in the next federal election and is a supporter. Check out Deborah’s blog:

David and Deborah Coyne

We also met with Gordon Shreeve who is a seasoned campaign organizer. Gordon does not have a child with autism but he is committed to helping us organize some of the Ontario target ridings. He is a wonderful addition to our team!

On Saturday, the 19th we had our “Medicare for Autism Now!” rally in Oakville. About 40 people attended mainly from Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga and Toronto. Jennifer O’Brien was the local organizer and did a fabulous job!

Jennifer O’Brien

The speakers included: Stefan, Harold, Deborah Coyne, Barry Hudson who is a dad of a 4 year old from Mississauga, David and I. Norrah Whitney who is the director of FEAT Ontario also said a few words. Our message was well received! The turn-out was reminiscent of where we were one year ago in BC, but the people who attended were motivated and ready to go! W5 attended and filmed the whole two hours plus interviewed a number of people. One of the W5 producer’s wife who owns a pre-school and the W5 production manager also attended.

Norrah Whitney FEAT Ontario

Harold Doherty

Stefan Marinoiu and David Marley

Barry Hudson

David Marley

Map of Ontario target ridings highlighted in yellow.

Our day concluded with one more meeting. We met with another very talented political organizer, and former leader of the BC Green Party named Stuart Parker. Stuart is doing a PhD at the University of Toronto and is an associate of David Marley’s. He has committed to helping us with some of the Toronto ridings during the election. His skills and smarts will be tremendously helpful to us.

Whew - that’s it! We flew home on Sunday the 20th and have pretty much being playing catch-up!

We would like to thank all of you who so generously donated money to make this trip possible! In order to move forward with the next steps, we need to raise more money a.s.a.p. We want to do an advertising campaign in Parry Sound-Muskoka which will run all summer. We are asking the papers for quotes right now. We need your help to make it happen. We also need to raise money to cover our next trip, which will be during the election campaign. Stay tuned for information about upcoming fund-raising events! In the meantime, please feel free to donate:

Cheques are payable to:

Medicare for Autism Now
C/o Suite 425 – 1489 Marine Drive,
West Vancouver, BC
V7T 1B8

We will be adding video of the press conference, Canada AM interview, CFRA radio interview and photos of the tour and the rally to the blog shortly.

Remember to tune into CTV’s W5 on Saturday, May 10th. Check your local listings for time and channel.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Medicare for Autism Now" goes to the Health Minister's Riding

Another interesting day......Our FEAT team drove to Parry Sound yesterday which is about 1 hour from Huntsville, where Jean Lewis had an extensive interview with the editor of the North Star newspaper.
They also met with the advertising manager who looks after all or most of the Muskoka papers, to discuss an advertising campaign. The local businesses etc. were also "papered".

In Parry Sound, some FEAT campaign literature was delivered to Tony Clement's constituency office. Unfortunately (or fortunately for him, perhaps), Mr. Clement was away at the time!

Jean Lewis also had another successful radio interview at 1:15 - 1:35 on CFRA.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


April 14, 2008
TIME: 08:12:10 ET

Group wants autism covered universally under medicare

O'REGAN: Fighting for autism, a group from BC will be in Ottawa this morning to launch a nationwide campaign to elect members of Parliament who will support including autism treatment as part of medicare.

And joining us now from Ottawa to talk about the campaign is organizer Jean Lewis.

Good to talk to you.

LEWIS: Good morning.

O'REGAN: Firstly, what is the story right across the country? Health care is a provincial jurisdiction, and I'm just wondering, does it vary across the country, the amount of coverage for autism treatment?

LEWIS: Well, absolutely. The problem is, autism treatment isn't covered at all across the country. Currently, across Canada there is a patchwork of autism services that are not treatment. They're respite care, babysitting, childcare, those types of things. They are provided by the provincial social services ministry.

Right now, autism treatment -- science-based autism treatment -- is not covered. The Canada Health Act is federal legislation, not provincial legislation. So, we need children diagnosed with autism to have universal access to health care through medicare.

O'REGAN: Now, you have attempted this, as I understand, at the provincial level in British Columbia. How effective was that?

LEWIS: Well, we actually sued the provincial government, the BC provincial government, almost 10 years ago and won at the BC Supreme Court in the Auton landmark case, which eventually was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada. And one of their main arguments was -- or decisions was -- is that it really is a matter for Parliament to decide how to spend health-care dollars.

So, we have taken the Supreme Court of Canada at their word and we've gotten political in a nonpartisan way. So, our campaign is to elect MPs, regardless of what their party affiliation is, who, if elected, will support legislation which will amend the Canada Health Act to include medicare coverage for the treatment of autism.

O'REGAN: What kind of response have you gotten amongst members of Parliament?

LEWIS: Well, it's very interesting. We started this campaign in the last federal election just in British Columbia in five ridings where in the previous election the margin of victory was less than 2 percent. And I have to say, in the five ridings that we initiated this campaign in it would be fair to say that we affected the vote in at least two of them.

We have now extended it. We are here in Ontario, meeting with parents and supporters and looking at some constituencies here. Also in the Maritimes.

So, we have captured attention. The MPs who were elected, who did publicly support us, have been actively assisting. Such as Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy, Andy Scott, Dawn Black. There are a number of them.

O'REGAN: So, what you're saying is if people do not support that position then you are recommending that people do not vote for them?
If this is an issue that they consider a priority?

LEWIS: Absolutely. And I think it's important to understand that this issue no longer is just pertinent to parents of children with autism.
We had a rally in Burnaby at the beginning of March where 400 people attended. And 25 percent of those people who attended were not parents of autistic children. They were other, fair-minded Canadians who are absolutely outraged that this has not been solved after this length of time.

After the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2004, Ipsos-Reid did a
poll: 89 percent of Canadians polled said that autism treatment should be in medicare. So, it tells you there is this huge disconnect between the voters and those who govern us.

O'REGAN: Thank you very much, Ms. Lewis, for your time.

LEWIS: My pleasure.

Jean Lewis, Director, BC Families for Early Autism Treatment (FEAT)

Medicare for Autism Now in Ontario

It's been an excellent day for our FEAT of BC representatives campaigning in Bracebridge, Ont. Jean Lewis has now met with one of the reporters from the Bracebridge Examiner - he will do a story which will reach all of the community newspapers in the riding.

FEAT's campaign information has been left at the Hospital,Library, Legion, the Medical Centre and even the local Conservative Party's Riding Association office.

Tomorrow they will meet with the Huntsville Forester and the Parry Sound North Star. They will also be "papering" Huntsville and Perry Sound with brochures, and will be paying a visit to Health Minister Tony Clement's constituency offices in Huntsviile and Perry Sound.

Jean Lewis will also be inerviewed by
Ron Corbett of CFRA radio in Ottawa at 1:30 Ontario time. It can be heard live over the internet.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Medicare for Autism Now! campaign returns to Ontario


April 9, 2008

For Immediate Release

Medicare for Autism Now! campaign returns to Ontario

Vancouver, BC: Jean Lewis, chief spokesperson for FEAT-BC’s Medicare for Autism Now! campaign today announced that she and others, including Stefan Marinoiu, of Toronto, will be traveling through Ontario, organizing parents and supporters as part of a national initiative to obtain Medicare coverage for autism treatment. They will be holding a news conference on Parliament Hill, in the Charles Lynch Press Theatre, at 11:00am on Monday, April 14th.

The news conference will be followed by a three day campaign swing through federal Health Minister Tony Clement’s constituency of Parry Sound-Muskoka, various media interviews in Toronto, on Friday, April 18th, and a concluding parent/supporter rally at the Iroquois Recreation Centre, in Oakville, beginning at 2:00pm on Saturday, April 19th. Making your vote count in the next federal election will be the central message to be delivered by a variety of speakers.

FEAT-BC’s Medicare for Autism Now! campaign is building a coalition of parents, active supporters and other fair-minded Canadians across our country. “The epidemic of autism and the urgent need for effective and affordable treatment is a major issue in the US federal election campaign. We aim to make sure the same thing happens in Canada because our children deserve no less”, said Mrs. Lewis.


For further information, contact: Jean Lewis at 604-290-5737 or via e-mail:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Today is "World Autism Day"

Today is "World Autism Day" and lots of organizations and individuals are participating in various ways. Senator Jim Munson is holding a press conference this morning on parliament hill calling on the federal government to recognize April 2nd as World Autism Day. He plans to introduce a Private Member's Bill in the Senate to ensure that Canada officially recognized World Autism Day.

As it happens, another Canadian from Ontario, Toronto to be precise has joined the "Medicare for Autism Now!" initiative. She is Deborah Coyne. Deborah has spent her life engaged in public policy work. A lawyer, university professor, constitutional activist, public servant, writer and the mother of two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. She has often been at the center of the great public debates of our times -she became a leading figure actively engaged in the constitutional debates that unfolded involving the Meech Lake Accord and the referendum on the Charlottetown Accord. She is currently a policy analyst with an international consulting practice. She will also be one of the speakers at our "Medicare for Autism Now!" event on Saturday, April, 19th in Oakville.

Deborah has written a paper-Autism on the National Agenda. You can access it by going to her blog:

It is long, but very worthwhile reading. She nails two key points: 1) There is no constitutional barrier to a national autism funding arrangement, the Canada Health Act can certainly be amended, and 2) the main impediment is POLITICAL WILL....

Have a read...and welcome to the "Medicare for Autism Now!" team, Ms. Coyne

Welcome to our “Medicare for Autism Now!” blog.

Welcome to our “Medicare for Autism Now!” blog. This site is dedicated to discussion and information pertaining to our political initiative to have science-based autism treatment, ABA/IBI universally accessible to every Canadian who requires it and covered under Medicare.

Our non-partisan political initiative was launched by FEAT of BC (Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC) It is a non-partisan, not-for-profit volunteer organization of parents and professionals seeking science-based treatment for all Canadians diagnosed with autism. FEAT of BC have worked for over a decade to bring universal access to the most effective type of autism treatment available- ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) to those afflicted with the condition in Canada. Currently, comprehensive and accessible Medicare is not available for autism treatment anywhere in Canada despite a government run health plan that is supposedly universal. It is unacceptable that children with physical disablilites have access to government health insurance coverage, yet children with a mental or neurological disability do not share in this important social safety net benefit. This is the case in every province in Canada.

FEAT of BC goes “coastal”

In the last federal election. FEAT of BC took part in five local BC campaigns. In at least one, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast, and perhaps a second, New Westminster-Coquitlam, it is fair to claim that we may have made the difference to the outcome. In the next election, we’re “going coastal”, expanding our reach to include constituencies in BC, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces that were each won by narrow margins. We’re going to participate in as many constituencies as our financial resources and number of volunteers (FEAT soldiers) permit. We have used and will use the internet to great effect.

The glacial pace of bureacratic time that afflicts the federal government in its approach to this urgent medical emergency is not acceptable. We are completely non-partisan, but we are going after any politician of any political party who continues to deny health care to Canadians affected by autism. Our governing motto is attributable to the late US Senator Everitt Dirksen, who once said, “When I feel the heat, I see the light.”

The “Medicare for Autism Now!” Rally was held on Sunday, Mar. 2nd at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby. Between 350-400 fair- minded Canadian voters who included parents, family members, friends, neighbours, professionals in the field, and many more all came out to listen and learn about how to make their vote and the votes of many they know count in the next federal election.

Nine speakers made presentations. Two were pre-recorded and shown via DVD. The speakers are from a variety of backgrounds – each bringing their own unique perspective but, common themes ran throughout each presentation.

• In the last 30 years, only two things have moved our issue forward – litigation and more recently, focused political action.
• Autism is a health care issue and it’s treatment needs to be enshrined under Medicare
• The current and limited funding provided through the provincial government’s social services ministries could evaporate tomorrow with the stroke of a bureacrat’s pen. No legislation exists within these ministries to protect treatment rights.
• It costs our economy more NOT to treat autism. Harvard University reported that today it costs the Canadian economy $3.5 billion per year to maintain the status quo and not fund treatment….The cost in human suffering is immeasurable.

We encourage you to take some time and watch the speeches and the media coverage. For parents of newly diagnosed children – it is an excellent history lesson…it is also a wake-up call for all of us to get involved.

We need your help – with money and time….It costs money to run a national campaign – any financial contribution would be welcome.

Please make cheques payable to:

c/o Suite 425 – 1489 Marine Drive,
West Vancouver, BC, V7T 1B8

Monday, March 17, 2008

Videos of March 2, 2008 Rally

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Crowd Gathers

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Scott Hean Introduces Rally

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Dr.Sabrina Freeman

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Dr. Melvin de Levie

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Awards

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Bev Sharpe

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Louise Witt

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Scott Hean introduces David Marley

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - David Marley

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Audience Watches Videos

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Duravka Skrijelj

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Dr. Glen Davies

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - David Chan

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Jean Lewis Part 1 of 2

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Jean Lewis Part 2 of 2

Medicare for Autism Now! Rally - Scott Hean Closing Statments

Burnaby Now Newspaper Discusses March 2 Rally

Rallying cry: At a rally calling for medical coverage for children with autism, held at the Shadbolt Centre on Sunday, 10-year-old Ben Antifaev goes through a picture book with family friend Tricia Marzek while Ben's parents listened to the speakers.

Parents gather for coverage of autism treatment
Jennifer Moreau, Burnaby Now
Published: Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Parents are calling on the federal government to provide medicare coverage for an intensive form of treatment for children with autism.

The call came from Families for Early Autism Treatment of B.C., a parent advocacy group that kicked off its campaign at Burnaby's Shadbolt Centre for the Arts March 2.

Between 350 and 400 people attended the rally to listen to nine speakers calling for more treatment for autism.

"Effective autism treatment exists, and kids are being denied access to it because the government refuses to pay for it," said Jean Lewis, rally organizer and founding director of FEAT B.C. "Canadians expect that these kids' treatment is provided for."

Her organization and its supporters want applied behavioural analysis covered by medicare, Canada's national health insurance system.

Applied behavioral analysis is intensive, one-on-one treatment where a therapist breaks down learning goals into the smallest task possible and teaches the child through positive reinforcement and repetition.

Lewis said applied behavioral analysis is backed by 50 years of science showing it's the best form of treatment for kids with autism.

FEAT B.C. will target five federal ridings in B.C., offering support to federal candidates who promise to work towards increased medicare coverage for autism treatment.

"If you won't, we will work to defeat you," Lewis said.

When asked if Simon Fraser University's new autism research chair would help, Lewis said kids with autism still need treatment while research is ongoing.

"In the meantime, we don't deny people suffering ... from existing treatment, that's what's going on here," she said.

For more information on the campaign, visit

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March 2nd Rally Media (News 1130)

Parents of autistic kids press for more therapy

Sunday, March 02 - 03:51:32 PM Claudia Kwan

BURNABY (NEWS1130) - Families struggling with autism say it's unbelievable they still can't get enough treatment for their children.

They rallied in Burnaby today to demand Medicare coverage for therapy.

Hundreds of people packed into a meeting room are united behind the same idea -- if you give autistic children lots of intensive therapy, they can grow up to be contributing members of society.

If you don't, they'll be put into institutions once their families can no longer care for them.

They were brought together by rally organizer Jean Lewis of FEAT (Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC).

She says kids with diabetes or cancer get whatever treatment they need, but funding for autism treatment is minimal at best.

"This is a healthcare condition. We want the treatment covered under Medicare, and we're going to work to elect candidates to the House of Commons who are going to publicly commit to doing so, " says Lewis.

There is ongoing controversy over how effective behavioural therapy is for autistic children

Stefan Marinoiu

This was just one of the moving videos that were presented at the Medicare for Autism Now! rally today.