Art for the Add Our Voices campaign. (Contributed)

B.C. advocacy groups aim for new federal autism funding

South Surrey group launched national campaign Thursday

A national campaign, based out of South Surrey, launched Thursday to encourage the federal government to fund medical support for families affected by autism.

Add Our Voices, founded by Paula Williams, is an autism-awareness campaign started by parents who do not have children on the autism spectrum.

The campaign, Williams said, aims to educate Canadians about the exclusion under the Canada’s Universal Health Care system of science-based treatment for those diagnosed with autism.

Although the campaign started this week, Williams has been advocating for a change since she learned of the exclusion in 2016.

“I just happened to pick up my daughter from a play date and the mom has two children who are on (the) autism spectrum. She was just telling me about her story, and when she said that medicare isn’t covered for treatment, science-base proven treatment, I was actually blown away,” Williams told Peace Arch News Wednesday.

“I couldn’t believe it wasn’t covered, and secondly, how did I go this long in my life without knowing?”

In that year, Williams presented a resolution asking for the government to provide funding for science-based treatment to a federal Liberal convention in Victoria. Her resolution received approval, then she went to the National Federal Liberal Convention in Winnipeg and presented her resolution in front of 3,000 party members, where it passed.

She said the party asked her to join a working group to write a report on the autism resolution, placing it in Liberal policy. The report was finished this spring, she said.

Although promising steps, Williams said nothing has been set in stone.

“I’ve since met with Liberal MPs to find out what’s going on with the report and nobody can tell me for certain if the Liberal party intends to do anything with this. That’s disappointing, it’s been 2½ years since the resolution passed, there’s been plenty of time to look at this.”

Williams, who said there are families who have been lobbying the government for change for decades, was critical of both current and former federal governments.

“It’s kind of like ‘shame on all of them.’ It’s not a Liberal thing, it’s a federal government thing. It’s about priorities they keep telling me. You have to talk to these families, their kids are a priority. They go through a lot every day just to manage this medical condition and families are going bankrupt.”

The treatment that Add Our Voices would like to be covered includes applied behavioural analysis (ABA) and intensive behavioural intervention (IBI).

“It helps their child’s symptoms and is part of their children’s core healthcare needs but unfortunately, most families cannot afford to pay out of pocket,” Williams said in a news release.

Williams said her team, which is made up of about 15 parents, launched a social-media awareness campaign through Facebook and their website, www.addourvoices.ca

A petition can also be found on the website.

This campaign marks the second that Williams has founded.

She led Communities and Coal Society, which recently lost a four-year-long legal battle challenging the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s approval of a U.S. thermal coal port facility proposed for Fraser Surrey Docks.

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