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19 Nov 2003

Dear Ms Dawson:

Thank you for your letter of October 23, 2003, concerning the funding the Autism Society of Canada (ASC) received from Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC).

I have noted your position on this issue and HRDC officials have discussed this with the Autism Society of Canada.  HRDC officials have reviewed the files for the Autism Society of Canada and have determined that the organization is eligible to receive both organizational and project funding under the Terms and Conditions of the Social Development Partnerships Program.

The Autism Society of Canada has indicated that they will continue to address your concerns and I encourage you to communicate and work with them.

Thank you again for taking the time to write and express your views.


Jane Stewart, P.C., M.P.
Ottawa, Ontario


1 Dec 2003

Dear Minister:

I have received your 19 November, 2003, response to the 23 October, 2003, Open Letter regarding HRDC's funding for Autism Society Canada (ASC).  Your response is completely dismissive of and disrespectful to autistic people everywhere.  It equally disrespects non-autistics who believe autistics are people of worth.  Here's a sample of the many questions, consequences, and conclusions arising from your response. 

HRDC embraces dishonesty, prejudice, and injustice:
You, and the HRDC officials you mentioned, have replied with disrespect bordering on contempt for autistic people.  In the Open Letter, I quoted the Office for Disabilities Issues criteria for organizational funding of National Disabilities Organizations, as well as terms and conditions for Social Development Partnerships funding.  Then I listed verifiable evidence, amounting to proof, that these criteria, terms, and conditions are being flagrantly violated by ASC.  The categorical rejection of the entire Open Letter by yourself and HRDC is an unequivocal rejection of fairness.  Instead, you have in effect embraced dishonesty, prejudice, and injustice as your guiding principles in disposing of authentic and well-founded autistic dissent.

HRDC's wholesale dismissal of the Open Letter:
You and HRDC could not locate one single issue of concern in the entire Open Letter.  All issues were equally and summarily dismissed. This wholesale dismissal defies credibility;  it is the sweeping judgment of political and personal prejudice rather than an honest assessment of the evidence provided.

HRDC's unconditional support for ASC:
In your and HRDC's response, you've said nothing about how exactly ASC has managed to comply with the terms, conditions, and criteria I quoted in the Open Letter.  For instance, how is ASC managing their problem of choosing to have no consumers in its governance?  I need also to know how ASC is promoting our "inclusion and full participation as citizens in all aspects of Canadian society", or addressing our "social development needs and aspirations".  Since consumer control is possible in an autism society, and since ASC's routine denigration and exclusion of autistics prevents our inclusion in society and mocks our needs and aspirations, you and HRDC need precisely to explain the basis for your unconditional support for ASC.

HRDC ignores the evidence:
Most of the evidence I provided about ASC's ineligibility for its HRDC funding can be verified through public documents.  These include the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology's meetings about mental health/mental illness, transcript for the 26 January, 2003, meeting; the decisions in Auton; the motion in Ladouceur; the White Paper arising from the CARW; ASC's website and press releases; the Autisme 2003 website;  media reports about John Churchi, Chelsea Craig, and Charles-Antoine Blais;  the judgment in the Blais case;  media reports using ASC's misleading statistics;  further evidence (outside ASC's website) of ASC's cost-benefit analysis; and so on.  Issues which cannot be documented have witnesses and evident consequences, as in the CARW and the ASC board meeting which barred autistics.  Issues involving non-public documents could be verified by obtaining and reading these documents, should anyone at HRDC be interested in doing so.

HRDC's criteria versus HRDC's criteria for autistics:
Regardless, you and HRDC decided that ASC is eligible for funding.  In doing so, you're saying that your established criteria and standards can safely be ignored when consumers are autistics.  That is, the terms and conditions are applied differently to autistics so that ASC can misrepresent, endanger, and ostracize its consumers--as the evidence shows--and still gain your and HRDC's full approval and financial support. 

HRDC agrees with ASC about the place and worth of autistics:
Your decision to dismiss all evidence against ASC also argues that you, your government, and HRDC share ASC's view that autistics are a fiscal and social catastrophe, in effect a plague, and so have no place or worth in society.  This apparently leaves ASC free to damage and endanger its consumers with HRDC's backing.  I want to know if there is any action by ASC that HRDC would object to and refuse to fund, or if, when it comes to autistics, anything goes.

Who else is eligible for HRDC-funded denigration and exclusion:
Which other disabled people, or "other vulnerable or excluded populations", would you and HRDC consider disrespecting the way you are disrespecting autistics?  Who else merits this level of injustice?  People with Down syndrome?  Blind people?  Aboriginal people?  You are sending a strong message about what your government and HRDC believe autistics deserve.

HRDC consults with then parrots ASC:
Your remarkable statement that ASC "will continue to address my concerns" raises the likelihood that HRDC officials did not read the Open Letter at all and simply consulted with ASC about what to write in reply.  The possibility that your staff has misled you about the nature and gravity of the Open Letter, and about their own diligence, must in consequence be considered.  I shouldn't have to point out that the Open Letter documents the ways ASC addresses autistic concerns.  You are telling me that these injustices will continue, with your and HRDC's blessing.

HRDC cannot make the Open Letter disappear:
Your and HRDC's dismissive non-response to autistic concerns, and your decision that our struggle to achieve basic human rights is too frivolous and trivial to bother with--reactions familiar to autistics everywhere--are now on the record.  The Open Letter continues to stand as true, and the changes it demands remain credible.  The Open Letter has not been challenged as to its substance.

When human rights violations are respectable:
You should take note that my respect for all autistics and my emphasis on our many strengths, which I expressed in the Open Letter, are judged by those supporting the status quo at ASC to be negative, destructive, unreasonable, and symptomatic products of my autistic anger.  At the same time, the entirely malign views of autistics promoted by ASC, and now by yourself and HRDC, are seen as positive and constructive, respectable and praiseworthy.

HRDC, ASC, and the judgment of history:
History has never been kind to those who promote intolerance, or to those who stand idly by, protecting their interests, while human beings with differences--of gender, race, orientation, or ability--are ostracized.  I will never forget that the requested three accurate lines of print on the White Paper, to mitigate a fraction of the damage done to autistics at the CARW, were too much to ask from ASC and HRDC.  Many others won't forget.  I am asking you and HRDC to reconsider your disrespectful decision and your show of contempt for autistics in Canada and elsewhere.


Michelle Dawson
Montreal, Quebec

This letter was received and signed for by Minister Stewart's office on December 2, 2003.  The letter was also sent to the office of Deborah Tunis, Director General, HRDC Office for Disabilities Issues, where it was received and signed for on December 2, 2003.

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