Content: police brutality, murder, racism, ableism
Autistics United Canada condemns the murders of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Eishia Husdon, Breonna Taylor, Jason Collins, D’Andre Campbell, Chantel Moore, and many more at the hands of the police. As communities in the USA, Canada, and around the world surge to protest police violence and brutality towards Black and Indigenous people, we add our voices as racialized and white autistic people.
Disability justice requires solidarity and collective liberation. Disabled, neurodivergent, Mad, Black, Indigenous, and otherwise racialized communities are disproportionately targeted by police violence in a system that is upheld by white supremacy and ableism. Canada has a long, brutal history of state violence against Black and Indigenous people: the RCMP were originally used to force Indigenous people off their ancestral lands, keep Indigenous children in residential schools, and enforce slavery of Black and Indigenous people. To uphold our fight against ableism, we must also combat the systemic racism and police state that harm countless people in our communities.
This is not just a case of a few bad apples. If one police officer wrongfully kills someone, and the rest of the police do not hold that officer accountable, then the whole justice system is broken. And it is.
It is important to note that 42% of people who were killed by Canadian police since 2000 were in mental distress. This is a problem when police are called on neurodivergent people, particularly neurodivergent BIPOC, in crisis. Disabled BIPOC deserve to live and receive support when we are in mental distress. Police are not mental health professionals. We need to end the practice of calling the police for people who need healthcare and support, simply because there are no non-police mobile crisis response teams. Defund the police and fund culturally competent, trauma-informed, BIPOC-led mental health support!
Defunding police is a start--but ultimately ending state violence requires abolition of police and carceral spaces. There are viable alternative solutions to police. As Black Lives Matter Toronto organizer Syrus Marcus Ware says, "We can build communities rooted in social justice that actually keep us safe. We can keep each other safe. We can create community crisis response teams, transformative justice circles, supportive housing for all who need it, a universal basic income, decriminalizing drugs..."
To do this, we must center the voices of people that are usually targeted by police, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, people experiencing homelessness and poverty, sex workers, and drug users. Black and Indigenous people are speaking up now--we stand by them in solidarity. To our Black and Indigenous community members: we care for you. Your lives matter.
We know that many people are looking for ways to actively support Black and Indigenous people in their struggle for liberation. We have included a list of resources below, including ways you can support from home. As disabled people, we recognize multiple ways of helping and caring for one another, whether it be checking in with Black and Indigenous friends and neighbours, providing child care, cooking meals, going to protests, providing jail support, fundraising, emailing, phone calling, challenging racist remarks from family and friends, teaching children about anti-racism, translating documents, or sharing resources and information online.
Regis Korchinski-Paquet. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Eishia Husdon. Breonna Taylor. Jason Collins. D’Andre Campbell. Chantel Moore. And many more. We honour their names; we fight for a world where our Black and Indigenous community members can live freely without fear.
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist." - Angela Davis
#DisabledPeopleForBlackLives #DisabledPeopleForIndigenousLives #BlackLivesMatter #DefundThePolice #AbolitionNow
Learn, support, and take action! Check out our resource list here.
A Toronto hospital has denied 69-year-old Tommy Jutcovich his main means of communication - an iPad - by calling it a "surveillance tool". This is a gross human rights violation.
One hour a day is NOT enough to communicate with hospital staff and with his family. That is all the time they are giving him on his augmentative and alternative communication device.
In an impassioned plea, Tommy's daughter begged for help. His family is unable to visit Tommy during the pandemic. The iPad is Tommy's connection to the outside world, his mental health support, and his voice. By taking away his AAC device, the hospital staff are silencing him for 23 hours each day. This impacts his care, with no way to raise new concerns or communicate his symptoms and pain.
When a disabled elder has difficulties speaking or moving, with no family around, he is extremely vulnerable to abuse and medical neglect. People in hospitals, institutions, and long-term care homes should have the right to document their care for their own safety.
1) Sign & share the petition
Tommy Jutcovich’s family has started a petition to demand TGHC to give him access to his primary communication device: http://chng.it/5WNDXCrbrb
2) Contact the Toronto Grace Health Centre to tell them that #CommunicationIsARight and #AACSavesLives!
Online form: http://www.torontograce.org/about-tghc/contact-tghc/
Patricia Skol - Director, Quality, Patient Experience, Professional Practice & Chief Nursing Executive (CNE)
Phone: 416-925-2251 ext 219
Jake Tran - President & CEO
Phone: 416-925-2251 ext 295
Sample script for AAC users:
Hello Toronto Grace Health Centre,
I am writing to you to urge hospital staff to give Tommy Jutcovich access to his iPad for communicating with staff and with his family.
I am an AAC user. That means that like Tommy, I also cannot rely on oral speech reliably to communicate, and use augmentative and alternative communication.
One hour a day, at the whim of hospital staff schedules, is not enough for a person to be able to communicate through their ideal means. This means 23-hours of silencing a person's voice. That is an act of violence.
During COVID-19 physical distancing measures, an iPad is Tommy's connection with his family, his religion, and the outside world. Allowing him only an inconsistent hour of time with his family per day is callous and inhumane.
This is a gross human rights violation: both in denying Tommy a connection with his family and in denying his right to communicate.
I strongly urge TGHC to reconsider their decision to harm their patient by denying access to communication.
Ironically, TGHC is a member of Safer Healthcare Now, a "national campaign to promote improvements in patient safety". They have a campaign to #ConquerSilence. We encourage people to submit their concerns about TGHC to this campaign.
Hey @TorontoGraceHC, how can you claim to #ConquerSilence as a member of @Patient_Safety when you are actively silencing a non-speaking disabled elder patient by taking away his #AAC device 23 hours a day? Give Tommy Jutcovich his iPad! Let him speak to his family! #AACSavesLives
3) Share our 5 calls to action about communication access in hospitals with your MPs & provincial/territorial reps.
We have linked tools to help you contact your representatives.
This was in light of the recent death of Ariis Knight in BC, who was denied access to support staff and family who helped facilitate her communication.
4) Sign A4A Ontario's petition on patient access to AAC in hospitals:
Petition to Government of Canada: Consult with autistic-led organizations when developing national autism policy
To sign the petition, visit: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/511/865/033/
The full version of the petition is below.
We oppose the “National Autism Strategy” Campaign. It does not represent autistic people--and has never meaningfully consulted with autistic people. It promotes the segregation of autistics, instead of inclusion.
We stand for inclusion. The Government of Canada should consult directly with autistic people when creating a new, inclusive approach.
We, the undersigned, strongly oppose the National Autism Strategy campaign in Canada (“National Strategy”). We call on our government to do what’s right and meaningfully consult with autistic self-advocacy organizations when developing autism policies.
The current National Strategy campaign is not supported by independent data, nor does it reflect meaningful consultation with autistic self-advocacy organizations or autistic individuals. It represents a small interest group of providers, with a minority of parent support.
The National Strategy campaign is opposed by every autistic self-advocacy group in Canada, as well as many disability rights advocates, parents, organizations and policymakers.
Autistic people deserve to be included in school, housing, work and public life. But the types of autism services endorsed by National Strategy petitioners promote segregation--not inclusion. Autistic toddlers should not be segregated in full-time ABA “therapy” centres, nor should it be the norm for autistic students to be tracked into “special” schools and grow up to live in segregated group homes and work for pennies in sheltered workshops. These services may seem to make life easier for parents, but they do so at an unbearable cost--in human rights, freedom, autonomy and inclusion for disabled people.
Autism is not a disease to cure, but a disability to accommodate. We need access and services that promote inclusion. National Strategy petitioners take the short-sighted view that autism should be placed under Medicare. Our Government needs to keep autism policy under a range of portfolios to reflect its commitment to inclusion in all aspects of Canadian life. Canada is behind much of the rest of the world on inclusion for autistic people. It is time to catch up.
This spring, the Government of Canada met for the first time with autistic self-advocacy groups to share ideas, resources and input. We urge the Government to continue these meetings, and to:
Autistic people in Canada have so much to offer in the national discussion about autism policy. They should be included every step of the way. We ask our government to reject the National Strategy petition and instead develop robust, independent policy based on consultations with a range of stakeholders, including autistic self-advocates and disability rights groups across a diversity of identities and backgrounds. This includes centering the voices of black, indigenous, and other autistic people of colour, LGBTQ+ autistic people, working class and low-income autistic people, autistic people who are immigrants and refugees, autistic people with additional disabilities, and autistic people who live at other margins.
Canada can do better on autism policy--and it needs to start now.
The Autistic Advocacy Coalition of Canada
- Autistics United Canada (chapters in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia)
- Autistics 4 Autistics, Ontario
- London Autistics Standing Together