Queens Park has once again been taken over by protesters. Hundreds of family members and social workers have gathered this Thursday to push back against the Ford government’s recent changes to the Ontario autism program. Those protesting claim that the changes, which were announced back in February by Social Service Minister Lisa MacLeod, will rob children with autism of the treatment they need.
The changes to the program will come into effect on April 1st. MacLeod is under scrutiny for her decision to overhaul the program. The new plan would reportedly throw away a waiting list of nearly 25,000 children and instead provide direct funding to children on the spectrum.
Families and therapists remain deeply skeptical of the changes, due in part to the lack of detail offered by MacLeod and her team.
The Social Service Minister stated to CBC on Wednesday that she had no intention of debating the protestors in person due to a concern about the tone of the activists. MacLeod claimed that concerns had been raised about her safety.
Despite the freezing weather, protesters filled the park this morning carrying signs and chanting for change:
"We've had some credible threats, so we're going to make sure that first and foremost were maintaining the safety of me and my team," MacLeod had told CBC.
Protestors got creative with their signs which lambasted Doug Ford and his government for its alleged abandonment of Ontario children with autism:
If you want to see creativity you should see the amazing hand made signs by caregivers of and people with autism on the front lawn of Queen’s Park right now. pic.twitter.com/g1gO6nmxxp
MacLeod had previously announced that the PC government raised the autism program budget by nearly $100 million. However, the Liberal government refuted her claims by stating that they had actually been the ones to front the large sum of money for the program.
Mothers and their children stood side by side in protest with signs that featured the Premier's grinning face with speech bubbles mocking Ford's previous promises to families:
Fergus mom @CaniacMum and her son Cooper here at Queen’s park #autismprotest - he is on wait list and will be eligible for funding under new system but she is worried -says system is underresourced esp schools that will need to support more kids w/autism #onpoli #onted pic.twitter.com/1v0dNNSoJ6
MacLeod’s team claimed that as a result of her stance, the Minister had received threats against her life through social media. The exact nature of the threats has not been disclosed, but police have been notified.
No matter where you stand on this issue, one thing has nevertheless become abundantly clear; something is going to have to change.