Hon. Jim Munson:
My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. This issue was brought up last week by Senator Housakos dealing with the arbitrary decisions by CRA on giving out money for tax disability and registered disability credits.
Last week, Senator Housakos asked about the inconsistency between approvals and denials of families with children on the autism spectrum. Since that time, we saw the reinstatement of a Disability Advisory Committee, which is an essential step. We gave recommendations to the minister’s office. We were asked to do that, but the autism community was ignored, yet Diabetes Canada and 11 other groups are now sitting on that advisory board. Could you explain why autism groups were ignored?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I do know that the Minister of Health has been made aware of this concern and has undertaken to speak directly to her colleague, the minister responsible for the CRA. I make that undertaking on your behalf as well.
Senator Munson: I appreciate that very much because it’s the autism community that has been hit hard by this. There are grandparents and parents who have been receiving credits to help out their grandchildren when they were gone and now they are being denied. It’s not just one or two; it’s many. It seems to me it represents a disconnect with the tax credit evaluation forms and the disability itself.
Something which is really important for CRA to understand is that autism is not a mental health disability, yet that’s where it’s listed and there are still no autism groups on that advisory committee.
This is a message not for you, Senator Harder, but for CRA. For the record, autism is a neurodevelopment disorder. It is an intellectual disability, characterized by social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour, amongst many other symptoms. You know all that. So how can there be any fairness on the Disability Advisory Committee for those with autism when all specific organizations that represent these Canadians were left out? How can we be reassured that Canadians with autism will not be overlooked in the future?
Senator Harder: Again senator, I make a commitment to ensure that your concerns and the concerns of others in this chamber, expressed here as well as elsewhere, are brought to the attention of the minister concerned.