EXCLUSIVE: Heartbroken families of children with autism team up for legal fight against Quebec

Click to play video: 'Families of autistic children fight Quebec government' Families of autistic children fight Quebec government
WATCH: Charlotte Kuhn, a 7-year-old Montrealer living with autism, was rejected from receiving services because of her age, leading her father to protest. As Global’s Anne Leclair reports in this exclusive update, more heartbroken families are teaming up with human rights experts to prepare a legal fight against the Quebec government – Feb 14, 2018

At least eight families are teaming up with the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) to launch legal action against the Quebec government over the lack of services for their children with autism. One lawyer is blaming the cuts directly on the government’s recent decision to pay millions of dollars directly to doctors.

“It’s $500 million to the doctors without any increase in productivity or accessibility,” medical malpractice lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard said. “To be able to pay that money, they have to find it somewhere and they find it by cutting the services.”

Ménard attempted to launch a class action lawsuit on behalf of families last year but learned that it’s nearly impossible. Quebec’s Health Act makes it mandatory for the government to provide a continuity of care when resources are available.

“It’s purely a political issue,” Ménard told Global News. “It’s very difficult to fight it legally and the government knows that.”

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Human rights advocates at CRARR are determined to hold the Quebec government accountable. The executive director has started meeting with families to plan a course of action.

“We wonder whether these are essentially human rights violations that can open the door to a class action lawsuit,” Fo Niemi said. “We are going to organize these parents to take action.”

Niemi calls it a major health-care crisis. He hopes to ultimately take the case to the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child to expose Quebec’s track record with autism.

“It’s a bureaucratic nightmare and it just shows a lack of humanity and compassion in the way that the government and particularly the health ministry is treating these children,” Niemi said.

READ MORE: Laval family spreads hope and autism awareness, one T-shirt at a time

Meanwhile, seven-year-old Charlotte Kuhn’s father continues to protest outside the health and social services minister’s office in downtown Montreal, hoping other parents will join in the fight.

“Unfortunately, I think that’s what it takes is direct action, a family going out and begging and embarrassing this government,” the mother of a 15-year-old with autism, Katharine Cukier, said. Her teen son Benjamin was hospitalized twice last year after losing services through his subsidized educator.

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“We need a parliamentary committee as soon as possible on this issue to make sure that this population’s rights are being met.”

READ MORE: Father planning protest outside health minister’s office to beg for speech therapy for daughter with autism

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