Protestors rally against autism program cuts outside Ford's carbon tax announcement

As Premier Doug Ford held a press conference about the carbon tax at Challenger Motor Freight, approximately 20 people rallied outside to protest recent changes to Ontario's Autism Program. 
People rally outside Premier Doug Ford's press conference about the federal carbon tax at Challenger Motor Freight in Cambridge Wednesday morning. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

As Premier Doug Ford railed against the federal carbon tax inside Challenger Motor Freight in Cambridge Wednesday morning, a group of about 20 people rallied outside to protest recent changes to the Ontario Autism Program.

Sharon Tees, a mother of two autistic children, was among the people who gathered on the corner of Saltsman Drive and Maple Grove Road.

"We're here protesting Ford's new OAP which isn't going to give anybody anything," Tees said.

"We've been on waitlist after waitlist ... I'm a single mom, I have to work full time to support my kids but my income is then going against me, so it's not fair. It's discriminating us on so many levels," she said. 

Sharon Tees is a mother of two autistic children. She says changes to the program discriminates against her as a single mother. (Peggy Lam/CBC)
Tina Mach has a 6-year-old son with autism. She says the funding cuts are pushing her to quit her job as a nurse to become a full time home therapist for her son. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Tina Mach has a six-year-old autistic son and works full-time as a nurse. She says with these new changes, she is planning to quit her job and become a full-time therapist at home for her son. 

"I don't really want to do that because ... I really love my job. I want to be his mom, not his therapist," Mach said. 

Neetu Mehan says her 11-year-old son has benefitted from funding the program provided and she wants other children to be able to do the same. The way the Ontario Autism Program is funded will change April 1. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Neetu Mehan is a mother with an 11-year-old autistic son. She says he has been "thriving" because he was lucky enough to receive funding for therapy.

"I'm here because this is a human rights issue. These kids have every right to be learning in schools ... and most importantly, getting the therapy that they need at home," Mehan said.

Robin Purves-Smith says he attended the rally because he disagrees with the changes to the program. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Robin Purves-Smith is not a parent, but says he supports his friend's children. 

"This is my first protest actually. I'm not usually one to be out protesting, but I feel pretty strongly that this is a bad policy change and it's a policy change that targets children," he said. 

At the announcement, while answering questions from reporters, Amy Fee, the MPP for Kitchener South-Hespeler, said the recent changes to the program were made so "kids can get off the waitlist and get some help." 

MPP Amy Fee answers questions as she stands next to Premier Doug Ford during a press conference at Challenger Motor Freight in Cambridge. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

"We saw a waitlist with children who are five to six years old sitting on that waitlist, not knowing if they would ever be able to get off that waitlist before they turn 18 and get any funding if we did not do something," Fee said. 

Fee said it's why Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod "decided to act and why she put this plan in place." 

Mark Dineen stands next to his daughter Addison, who is 9 years old. His friend's daughter, Ella Visser, 6, stands next to them. (Peggy Lam/CBC )
Approximately 20 people gathered on the corner of Saltsman Drive and Maple Grove Road, outside Challenger Motor Freight to protest changes to the Ontario Autism Program. (Peggy Lam/CBC)


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