Parents of Autistic Kids Win Again in Canada

Vancouver – A parents’ group has won a third round in its ongoing court battle with the B.C. government over funding for specialized treatment of children with autism.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered the province to pay for the Lovaas treatment of another 23 autistic children.

In his judgment, Mr. Justice Ian Pitfield said the government had violated the rights of the children under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying them the treatment.

The intensive program requires 40 hours a week of one-on-one therapy that costs up to $60,000 a year.

The parents say Premier Gordon Campbell broke an election promise by not fully funding the autism treatments. The province has only agreed to pay a third of the cost – about $20,000 a year per child.

In his ruling Friday, Mr. Justice Pitfield ordered the government to pay for the treatment retroactive to July 26, 2000 – the date of the parents’ first court victory in their fight for full funding.

The province had appealed that original decision to the B.C. Court of Appeal which upheld the parents’ position. The province is now taking the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

LINK: Text of judge’s decision

LINK: Families for Early Autism Treatment of B.C.


from the judgement:

[18] At the same time, I am persuaded that the Attorney General should not be permitted to re-litigate the issue of its treatment of autistic children. In a case such as this, there are numerous potential claimants. There is a single respondent. The principal issues are common in all cases. They were fully explored in Auton and, subject to revision on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, must stand. It should not be necessary to litigate the same issues time after time on the basis that the claimants are different.

[30] The nature of the constraints under which a court must operate when fixing a remedy under s. 24(1) of the Charter is not defined. One should expect that where one crafts a remedy in relation to the violation of equality rights of specific members of a group comprised of many individuals, one can reasonably anticipate that others in the group will justifiably say “me too”. That is the case presently. In so far as the care requirements of these petitioners are concerned, I see no reason why the petitioners before me should be entitled to anything less than the Court of Appeal has afforded the Auton petitioners. Nothing that I can discern from the majority reasons of the Court of Appeal identifies a characteristic that sets the Auton petitioners apart from those before me. Affording any lesser relief would further the discrimination and inequality that have been associated with the treatment of autism and autism spectrum disorder.

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