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WTF Wednesday: Doug Ford promotes discrimination against autistic children

Kelsey Braithwaite

Toronto city councillor Doug Ford believes that people with autism, when integrated, can ruin a community. It’s as simple as that.

He shared this opinion with the staff of an Etobicoke home for teens with autism, owned by the Griffin Centre, a non-profit mental health agency. The Etobicoke Guardian reports that Ford held a public meeting with the centre’s staff last Thursday. He informed them the home’s neighbours were upset about police calls, noise disruption, and not receiving advanced warning about the residents. Deanna Dannell, the director of Griffin Centre, sent an email to the Canadian Press, stating that the centre had spoken to Ford before the home opened and explained their housing situation.

Apparently, Ford sympathizes with the teens but believes they should not be allowed to leave the house. He is willing to buy the house and sell it, if need be, the Guardian says.

There has been some warranted backlash against his beliefs.

“It was disappointing to hear that kind of reaction from [Ford],” Dannell told the Star. “Certainly we had hoped for something different.”

John Tory, a Toronto mayoral candidate, released a statement calling Ford’s comments “from another age”.

“For years, it was thought the best way to help people with disabilities, including those with autism, was to place them in large institutions—a kind of confinement away from the community,” Tory wrote. “Today, we know what is best for us and best for them is to include them in every possible way—at school and in our community.”

Former Ontario premier Bob Rae expressed his disgust with Ford on Twitter.

“This is the opposite of leadership on mental health. Doug Ford should be ashamed of himself—hurting not helping,” the tweet said.

Of course, Ford has a response for comments like the latter two.

“Anyone who wants to criticize, I’d be more than happy to take their address and we’ll put the house right next door to them and see how they like it,” National Post quotes him saying. Great. Use these humans as a threat. He went on to call the home a nightmare in the community. But he claims to know the real problem.

Ford blames the Liberal government for closing Thistletown Regional Centre in the west end. “It was a beautiful centre, had 43 acres that allowed families to have their children with challenges there,” he told the National Post.

Children with challenges…

Although Tory benefits by pointing out a Ford’s flaws, he raises a good point. Canada has a serious problem when the people in our government do not want to respect those with mental disabilities. There is no easy way out. No one knows that better than the staff who work with autistic children.

So despite the noise and other various disruptions, these people deserve as much fresh air as the rest of us. Canadians will have taken one step forward and five steps back if we try to whisk away all human “inconveniences.”

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