A mom of a 10-year-old boy with autism says she appreciates that Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke to her after she camped outside his office for a week advocating for more financial support for her son but that she was not satisfied with the conversation.
Stacy Kennedy has been camped out in her van in front of Ford’s Etobicoke constituency office since early last Thursday looking to speak to Ford or Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Merrilee Fullerton about what she calls the “inefficient” Ontario Autism Program.
Kennedy’s son Sam has been on the waitlist for over four years, since July 2017.
“We have had every systemic barrier put in front of us that could exist for a family in the healthcare system and the community service system and having a child with autism. I just hit the end of my road, the brick wall so to speak and knew that I had to do something about it,” she told Global News on Thursday.
“I was an angry mom without a plan and some camping stuff, so I threw it in the van and showed up one day … pulled out the camping chair and got comfortable and here we are a week later.”
While Kennedy said that while she appreciates Ford and Fullerton taking the time to speak to her (Ford Wednesday night and Fullerton Thursday morning), especially in the middle of a pandemic, the messaging seemed rehearsed.
“A lot of talking points, similar to what you would see at a press conference which I encouraged the premier and his staff to move sway from,” she said.
“It’s a schtick. I want you to talk to from a dad and to a mom about our kids and understand the systemic barriers that we face.”
A spokesperson for the ministry confirmed to Global News that Ford and Fullerton met with Kennedy but would not go into any detail about the conversation.
“We take any feedback we receive from families seriously as we work to refine, improve, and roll out the Ontario Autism Program,” the statement read Thursday.
Kennedy called the conversation “decent” but “a conversation with a politician.”
“Thank you premier for taking the time but we need solutions.”
She did say Ford implied they would be able to have a face-to-face in the near future.
Kennedy wants the government to fix the inefficiencies in the system, highlighting they doubled the budget for the program but are not spending the money. She said it takes families five times longer to get information, for funding to be distributed.
Prior to the changes implemented by the Ford government, Kennedy said those things would take five or six weeks but are now taking five or six months.
“And that’s not an efficient way to get things done.”
“Many people with autism require extra accommodations, service and supports and society has said we’re going to go ahead and give them to you because we heard you but unfortunately policy changes happen and government changes happen and those are taken away,” Kennedy continued, adding that’s unacceptable.
“Doug Ford is part of the Progressive Conservative Party and those include Ontarians with disabilities and with autism.”
As for the support she has received since pulling up in her van last week, Kennedy said the response has been “incredible.”
Neighbours have let her use their washroom and brought her food. People from as far as Oshawa, Barrie and Markham have come to support her. Thousands of mothers have reached out to her.
Kennedy plans on going home later on in the day Thursday but said she isn’t done fighting.
“I’m going to continue talking with the ministry and hopefully the premier … and hopefully have an answer in the near future and if there’s no action, then I will be back.”