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Parents of children with autism hear Ontario program ‘woefully broken’

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Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa


Published Friday, January 11, 2019 5:38PM EST


Last Updated Friday, January 11, 2019 5:39PM EST

“Woefully broken.”  Parents of children with autism say that’s the message they heard this week from the Ford government about a system aimed at helping them.  The wait list for the Ontario Autism Program is getting longer with no solution in sight.

And while they wait, parents face crippling debt and crushing disappointment. The Ford government had campaigned on fixing the Ontario Autism Program.  Parents were hopeful but say that hope was short-lived as the crisis in the system worsens and they sell their homes to save their kids. 

Every day is a challenge with children living with autism.  For Amelia Spiers, it’s double the love but double the difficulty, too.

“We’re blessed with twins,” she says, “We planned for double everything.”

What they didn’t plan for was double therapy for 4 year olds Kael and Hayes, diagnosed two years ago with moderate to severe autism.  While they wait to get provincially-funded therapy under the Ontario Autism Program, they pay for private therapy out of pocket.  That therapy costs them $6400 a month.  Add on daycare at $1500 a month and that’s a whopping $8000 bill, with no end in sight

“Here we are two years on wait list,” says Spiers, “and early intervention is key and here with are with no movement.”

Spiers was invited to a round table discussion earlier this week with MPP’s from the Ford government.  She says the message from them was that the Ontario Autism Program isn’t working.

“In fact, one of MPP’s, Jeremy Roberts, who I greatly admire, acknowledged it is woefully broken,” says Spiers.

The Ford government promised during the election campaign to invest more than $100 million towards fixing this system for kids living with autism.  The minister responsible, Lisa MacLeod, says one of her first moves was to spend more than half that, $62 million dollars towards families who needed it most.

“We are currently evaluating how best to invest the remaining $38 million dollars of our campaign commitment to autism services,” Minister MacLeod said in an email statement, “by consulting with parents and service providers through roundtable discussions held across the province, including a second roundtable in Ottawa scheduled in the near future.”

But parents say the numbers here in Ottawa don’t reflect that.  In 2017, about 2082 children were on the wait list in our region for therapy.  That number has grown to more than 2,255.

Kerry Monaghan knows that first hand.  While her 5-year-old son Jack was approved for therapy, her 3-year-old daughter Charlotte is number 893 on the wait list. 

The family is paying about $4000 a month for private therapy for Charlotte. Monaghan says if the Ford government is spending money to fix this system, she’d love to know where.

“This community has no idea how that money being used,” says Monaghan, “There’s been no announcement.  Lisa MacLeod hasn’t stepped to a podium to tell us what’s happening, and has not told us what the future of the program is.”

She says the future for their family and the 24-thousand others waiting is just as unclear. 

Parents have now launched a petition urging the provincial government to take a leadership role.   They acknowledge there is no easy fix, but hope at least to open the dialogue of what that “fix” might look like.

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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