History of the autism treatment movement:
The autism treatment movement in British Columbia began in 1996 by FEAT of BC (Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC) founded by Dr. Sabrina Freeman. It is a not-for-profit, volunteer organization which has been advocating for universal accessibility to autism treatment for over a decade.
In 1998, after two years of fruitless meetings with bureaucrats and politicians lead by FEAT of BC, thirty BC families initiated the landmark Auton case which sought a court order stating that failure to provide publicly funded, medically necessary autism treatment constitutes discrimination and is a violation of the Charter’s section 15 equality provisions. At the BC Supreme Court the families won and the government was ordered to pay for autism treatment. (click here for Auton trial decision) The NDP government at the time appealed the decision. At the BC Court of Appeal the families won again. (click here for Auton appeal decision). However, this time, the BC Liberal government appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).
The SCC heard the Auton appeal on June 8, 2004. All other provincial governments across Canada, and the federal government, intervened against children with autism. On November 19, 2004, the SCC issued its unanimous decision in which it overturned the BC courts and stated that it was not discrimination to fail to provide autism treatment in Medicare because it was not prescribed in any health-related statute. It also said it was a matter for parliament, not the courts to decide how health-care dollars were spent. (click here for SCC decision)
This decision was a tremendous blow to the autism community across Canada and demonstrates a severe weakness in the equality provision of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the limitation of the concept of “universality” of Medicare – health care for everyone – that is supposed to be the foundation of the Canada Health Act. As noted constitutional lawyer, Mary Eberts said, “This Supreme Court of Canada has effectively given away the store. I think they have torn the guts out of s.15.”