National Autism Strategy – New Development: The Ministry Mandate Letters

It’s been a couple of weeks since autism advocates were given a jolt of excitement following Justin Trudeau’s video message at the Pacific Autism Family Network LAUNCH Holiday Luncheon:

The Prime Minister seemed to commit to the development and implementation of a National Autism Strategy (NAS), and no one was expecting it.

Then on Friday, December 13th, the PM released the Ministry Mandate Letters, and the push for a NAS was given a huge nudge forward.

The letter to Patty Hajdu, the new Minister of Health, included the following passage in the priorities list:

Work collaboratively with provinces, territories, families and stakeholders toward the creation of a national autism strategy.

If that wasn’t enough, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, was given a supporting mandate:

Support the Minister of Health toward the creation of a national autism strategy

An official mandate, across two named ministries, is huge, and represents a tangible commitment that the community can really get excited about.

Remember that Carla Qualtrough was the first MP to respond publicly to Trudeau’s video message about a NAS, as she was in the room when it was first played. She was also quick to add her support:

So Patty Hajdu has been given the lead, with Carla Qualtrough tasked to support her.

There are 2 other ministries, though not directly given a mandate for a NAS, who can absolutely contribute to the conversation.

The mandate letter to the Ministry of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, led by Bardish Chagger, includes the statement:

… you will support the Government’s work to build a country where every person has equal opportunity to succeed ..

which can easily be applied to the disability community.

Their ministry mandate includes a call to:

Support the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to enhance the Youth Employment Strategy and the Canada Summer Jobs program

The Youth Employment Strategy aims to help youth overcome barriers to employment, including disability. The Canada Summer Jobs Program “is an initiative of the Youth Employment Strategy, which is the Government of Canada’s commitment to help young people between the ages of 15 and 30, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to transition successfully into the labour market.”

This has obvious implications in a NAS, as employment would be a key feature, and Minister Chagger will have an opportunity to work directly with Minister Qualtrough on this aspect of the strategy.

The Ministry of Families, Children and Social Development will likely also have a role to play, as they are the federal counterpart to the ministry that provides autism support in most provincial jurisdictions. Ahmed Hussen is the Minister responsible, and his mandate letter can be found here.

This ministry is also in charge of the National Housing Strategy, which according to MP Pam Damoff has “set aside one quarter of its funding for our most vulnerable citizens, including those living with disabilities.”

Housing strategies for autistic adults will also be a huge talking point for a NAS.

Parliamentary Secretary to Hussen on housing is Adam Vaughan, who is already well-briefed on a National Autism Strategy.

Vaughan can play a key role in the housing piece of the discussion.

Here’s a quick summary of the key Ministry players, including their Parliamentary Secretaries (PS), Conservative Shadow Ministers (SM), and NDP critics:

Health

Minister: Patty Hajdu

PS: Darren Fisher

SM: Marilyn Gladu

Critic: Don Davies

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Minister: Carla Qualtrough

PS: Irek Kusmierczyk

SM: Dan Albas

Critic: Daniel Blaikie

Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Minister: Bardish Chagger

PS: Adam van Koeverden

SM: Raquel Dancho

Critic: Lindsay Mathyssen

Families, Children and Social Development

Minister: Ahmed Hussen

PS: Adam Vaughan (Housing)

SM: Stephanie Kusie

Critic: Leah Gazan

A high-profile team to watch is the LPC duo from Diversity/Inclusion/Youth.

Chagger, 39, and van Koeverden, 37, both bring a real enthusiasm to their post.

I’m excited to see the role these two could play in their engagement with the community.

With the teams set, and an official mandate in the books, it’s time to get to work.

A National Autism Strategy has never felt so real.

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Patrick Monaghan

Patrick Monaghan

Dad to 2 kids on the spectrum. Autism Advocate.