Minister's Refusal To Regulate Autism Centres Could Lead To Substantial Lawsuits
The Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau has actively refused to bring in regulation of the provinces regional autism centers despite major issues being reported to the government regarding the behaviors of these regional service providers. I've heard significant issues over the past few months with respect to the roll out of the new Ontario Autism Program and the lack of compliance with ministerial guidelines by these providers in which the Minister himself stated was an issue in a town hall last May.
The issues right now are with respect to wait list management in which is the responsibility of these regional centres, and adherence to new OAP guidelines. The Ministry has stated it will be providing regulations regarding how private autism centres are administered, however Coteau in a townhall with parents last May rejected the claim that regulations were needed on the regional centres because "some people are happy" despite admitting frustration that these centres were not adhering to guidelines. This decision to not regulate the regional autism centres may have opened the door to massive legal liability on the province moving forward.
I've written a lot on this blog about autism and our long battle to get service for my son, which has come at great cost to all in our family. While doing this I've been making a legal case directly to the Ministry regarding the need for regulation of the regional autism centres. That appears to have fallen on deaf ears. With less than a week away from the election writ dropping, there has been no legislative movement on the file. I recently commented on social media about the case we made to the Ministry with the hopes that it might assist others legally going forward. We are now getting service through our regional provider. Here is that conversation:
JK (me): "The implementation committee rejected calls for legislation to regulate the regional centers. I have the Minister on tape with respect to that, and even acknowledging the fact that these regional centres do not follow ministerial guidelines. It's the ministry's legal responsibility as the legislative body to oversee these centres. The minister is also on record that these regional centres HAVE to provide you with your place in line when asked, and an estimate as to when you are expected to get service.
In short those that are on the implementation committee who rejected regulating the regionals hoping a direct funding option would cure any bad behavior, opened up the government to substantial legal liability. The government can't distance itself from the behaviors of the regionals because they've openly admitted there are problems, and have actively refused to legislate a solution.
Statute of limitations for all of this began May of last year with the admission from Minister in the first pilot teleconference. Families experiencing problems now, have one more year to file with the Superior Court of Justice. There may not be any limitations on the Human Rights Tribunal since the problem is ongoing."
Link to the May 2017 Townhall is here:
MB: "The ministry has successfully argued before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that the government is not responsible for the service delivery of the AIP. We are just on of many other programs the province claims ownership of but the reality is there is no oversight over any programs.
The MCYS has allowed children's aid at at with impunity for years. And the youth justice system under the MCYS doez what exactly?
It was public embarrassment that lead to the current charges, nothing more. The only way to affect change is through public awareness."
JK: "Yes they have successfully argued that they are not responsible in the past, however these cases didn't include an admission from the Minister and government directly of the problems, and admittedly walking back on regulation because "some people are happy". We also had several phone calls recorded from our regional provider, blatantly disregarding ministerial guidelines, and treating us as hostile.
I would also add, after we slapped this on the Ministry, the Ministry essentially took over, and is currently overseeing progression of our file with the regional provider ensuring service delivery. I've been in consistent contact with the Ministry regarding service delivery since November. They've been working along side the regional ensuring we are properly supported.
MB: "I have an email from the ministry asking about accountability. They avoided answering the question.
I used this example: as a feberal employee i am responsible for my actions with the public. My employer, the federal government is accountable for my actions. They will not admit accountability."
JK: "Of course they aren't going to blatantly admit it. They are currently trying to duck liability. You don't need them to admit it. The minister already has.
Coteau is on record stating the Ministry is accountable. Not only did he state that in the teletownhall in May last year, but prior to that he reaffirmed that position here:
"Parents have long complained about red tape, miscommunication and inconsistencies when dealing with the regional centres. The minister said he has heard from families who say they’ve been pressured to choose services run by those centres instead of the direct funding option they prefer, which would allow them to arrange and pay for their own therapist and treatment schedule.
Many say they’ve been told by the centres that choosing direct funding will mean waiting at least a year longer for treatment, he said.
“To me, that’s unacceptable. We need to hold systems accountable,” he said. “When you have so many people complaining about a particular system, the status quo cannot be maintained.”"
^^ He assumed liability with these statements in the Star. Couple that with an admission that the regionals are disregarding ministerial guidelines, a walk back on regulation in the teletownhall in May, and they can't distance themselves from it. After the first teletownhall in May last year, all the questions were screened and Coteau stuck to talking points, for this very reason. We got him off script in the May teletownhall. He screwed up royally. They need to regulate. It'll be up to next government to deal this with now. In the meantime that's the door to walk through.
One final point and the reason why I'm coming forward in a public way now on this, is because the election writ drops next week. So unless the Ministry drops legislation in to fix it and passes third reading in the next 3 or 4 business days, this door will be open for a while for others to walk through."
If any of you have any further questions you can e-mail me at jkobopoli at rogers dot com