TORONTO — A Liberal backbencher said he was sorry Tuesday after police were called on a mother of an autistic child who had threatened a solitary protest at his constituency office.
Bob Delaney’s apology – four days after police knocked on Melanie Palaypayon’s door – came only after Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke to him and called him into her office for a meeting.
There was no answer Tuesday morning at Delaney’s constituency office, but he issued a statement in the afternoon.
“I am profoundly sorry for the set of circumstances that resulted in the Peel Police visiting her home, and for the anxiety caused to her and her family,” Delaney wrote.
“Mrs. Palaypayon deserves a full apology, which I offer.”
Earlier in the day, Wynne said she asked Delaney to apologize and that he would be meeting with her to present his “strategy” for that.
“It’s very important to me that all of the MPPs in my government interact with the families who come to their offices,” Wynne said. “Interacting with people who are dealing with these challenges every single day is the way we learn and make sure that our plan is the right plan for every family in the province.”
Palaypayon is one of many parents upset about a government decision to defund Intensive Behavioural Intervention for autistic children five and older. Her son Xavier is six years old and had been on the wait list for IBI for three years, only to be removed this spring.
“He’s waiting for half of his life for this life-changing therapy, the IBI, and for all those changes that they made I felt like we’ve been thrown in the garbage,” Palaypayon said in an interview.
Palaypayon had been trying for weeks to meet with Delaney, her MPP in Mississauga-Streetvsille, but he told her in a brief phone call, “I cannot do anything for you,” she said.
She wants a face-to-face meeting to explain her family’s plight, and on Thursday told constituency office staff that if she didn’t get one she would “squat” outside and hand out flyers protesting the new autism program to everyone who visits the office.
“I know my voice was strong, I know I’m aggressive, I know I was really persistent because I think that was the only way that I could be heard,” she said.
The next morning two police officers arrived at her door saying they received a complaint from Delaney’s office.
Wynne said constituency office staff can be intimidated by protesters, but insisted people have a right to speak out against government policies.
For kids like Xavier, the government has decided to transition them to “enhanced” Applied Behavioural Analysis treatment, but the program won’t be fully rolled out until 2018.
In the meantime, 835 children who are older than four have been removed from the IBI wait list and the government is giving their parents $8,000 to pay for private treatment. Parents say that will only pay for, at most, a few months of intensive therapy.
Palaypayon recently started a part-time nursing job and said now that her family has that secondary income, perhaps she can pay for some private therapy.
“I will try to do more jobs…maybe we can sell the house in order for Xavier to have this therapy,” she said, weeping. “If (there’s) only even one per cent or 0.5 per cent that my son has a chance to help him to reach his full potential I will do everything.”
Wynne has said she is open to considering more than $8,000 in direct funding for some families.