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Parents look for options to pay for autism therapy as Ford changes funding plan





Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa

Published Thursday, February 21, 2019 5:04PM EST

Last Updated Thursday, February 21, 2019 5:06PM EST

Parents of children with autism say they’re considering their options as the date for funding changes fast approaches.  Some say they will refinance their houses in order to continue therapy for their kids.  One Ottawa father says he will decide between leaving the country and going on social assistance.  Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod was also talking options, suggesting to CTV News in an interview that parents could use government funding to buy technological devices such as an iPad to help their kids.  Today, Ottawa parents kept up their fight, protesting outside the office of the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Merrilee Fullerton.

He listens well but 5-year-old Hassan El-Sarji isn’t able to respond.  Hassan is non-verbal but his father says 25 hours a week of intensive therapy, at $55 an hour, has helped tremendously.

“He’s come a long way,” says Ali El-Sarji, “He used to bite, scratch, hit every child in sight. He was uncontrollable.”

Hassan, who turns 6 in March, was diagnosed with autism when he was 2.  He started intensive behavioral intervention therapy, or IBI about eighteen months ago through a therapist based at CHEO.  But El-Sarji says his son’s therapist called recently to inform him that Hassan’s therapy plan ends April 22nd.  And El-Sarji has no idea how his son will fare under the Ford government’s new plan with just $5000 a year.

“I’m extremely worried,” he says, “I’ve thought about plan A,B,C,D and E; plans as extreme as selling my home and going abroad to find different services for him.”

They are options being considered by many parents as the funding options change and they face crippling debt to continue with the therapy they consider a life-line.

Christine Clayton’s 7-year-old son Miles has been receiving full therapy and says it has transformed their little boy.

“He couldn’t hold a pencil, couldn’t run, was still in diapers,” she says, describing life before therapy, “Now he’s potty-trained, he’s eating independently.  He tells me he loves me.  What parent doesn’t want that for their kids?”

She says her family is also considering their options, believing that their funding will be cut entirely, “There are options,” she says, “moving provinces, moving countries.  We don’t know.  We spent all Family Day in anxiety trying to figure it out.”

Stephanie Brousseau has a 4-year-old son in private therapy.  They are paying about $60,000 a year while they wait for Charles to be off the waitlist; he is currently about number 800.  Still, she adds, “I’d sooner wait another 2 or 3 years than have this thrown at me and have no help. I’m really hoping we’re able to get this changed.”

But today Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod put that notion to rest.

“We’ve made a decision,” she told reporters at Queen’s Park today, “the decision stands.”

And earlier in the Question Period, MacLeod was reacting to a CTV interview where she suggested how parents could spend government money to help their kids.

“Last night on CTV News,” Andrea Horwath, the Leader of the Official Opposition asked, “the Minister responded by suggesting they could use the woefully inadequate government support to buy an iPad. Is that the Ford government’s idea of a treatment plan?  An iPad?

“Our plan is built on choice,” replied Minister Lisa MacLeod, “and if parents think that a technological aid will help advance their child, then I want to support them in doing that.”

Ali El-Sarji says his choices appear slim:  either sell his house or go on social assistance.  What he won’t do, he says, is cut his son’s therapy.

“He deserves a fighting chance.  He doesn’t deserve to be cut off,” he says

Also today, the NDP introduced a private members’ bill to ensure continuous support for children with developmental disabilities, including autism after they turn 18.

More protests are planned in coming days by parents. They are back at Minister Lisa MacLeod’s office Friday and plan a bigger show on Saturday.




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2 years after Westboro bus tragedy, city has settled $5M in claims





Two years after a double-decker OC Transpo bus slammed into Westboro station, killing three passengers and injuring scores more, the City of Ottawa says it has paid out more than $5 million to the victims and families who filed lawsuits in the wake of the tragedy.

Judy Booth, Bruce Thomlinson and Anja van Beek died in the crash on Jan. 11, 2019. Other passengers suffered life-altering injuries.

The City of Ottawa has been served with 18 statements of claim including one class-action lawsuit. The courts have not yet issued a decision on whether that class action should be certified, according to city solicitor David White. Another dozen notices filed could eventually bring the total number of lawsuits against the city to 30.

White said claims involving two of the three deceased passengers have now been settled, and he expects more claims to be settled this year. The city and its insurers have advanced partial payments to some victims who needed the financial assistance, he said.

A year ago, the city formally stated it was civilly responsible for the crash. The focus then shifted to figuring out how much claimants should receive, rather than deliberating over legal responsibility.

“The City and its insurers continue to work diligently to resolve the claims that have been advanced, though there is work yet to be done in this regard,” White wrote in an email ahead of the second anniversary of the tragedy.

“The objective is to ensure that the victims and their families are adequately and appropriately compensated.”

As for criminal proceedings, the trial of bus driver Aissatou Diallo remains scheduled for eight weeks beginning March 22. Diallo faces more than three dozen charges including three counts of dangerous driving causing death.

When they announced those charges back in August 2019, police said the City of Ottawa and OC Transpo had been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the crash.

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Ottawa adds 127 new COVID-19 cases on Monday for more than 1,000 in past week





Ottawa Public Health says 127 more people in Ottawa have tested positive for COVID-19, another triple-digit case count for the city.

One new death related to COVID-19 was also reported in Ottawa today.

In the past week, the city has added more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases to its pandemic total. There have been only two days in January to date where OPH has reported fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19. Daily reports from Jan. 5 to Jan 11 inclusive add up to 1,033 new cases of COVID-19 in total. 

This comes as Ontario reports more than 3,300 new cases provincewide and 29 new deaths, pushing the provincewide death toll from the pandemic to more than 5,000. The province reported 159 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa. 

Figures from OPH have differed from the province’s, sometimes significantly, in recent days, which OPH says is due to differences in when data is pulled for each respective daily update. On Saturday, OPH said its team adjusted its data pulling time locally to help cut down on the discrepancies with the provincial reports.

According to Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 11,505 total lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city since the pandemic began last March. OPH says 398 residents of Ottawa have died of COVID-19.

The number of active cases in the city continues its record-breaking rise, but the increase slowed significantly on Monday, driven by a large number of resolved cases. The testing positivity rate has also decreased slightly.

However, the city’s rate of new cases per capita is still going up.


A province-wide lockdown went into effect on Dec. 26, 2020. Ottawa Public Health moved Ottawa into its red zone last week.

Ottawa Public Health data:

  1. COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (previous seven days): 95.8 cases
  2. Positivity rate in Ottawa: 4.6 per cent (Jan. 4 – Jan. 10)
  3. Reproduction number: 1.12 (seven day average) 


The number of people with active infections of COVID-19 has increased by five to 1,207, as it continues its trend of reaching record-breaking heights.

However, this is much lower rate of increase compared to the weekend, when more than 200 new active infections were recorded.

OPH says 121 more people have had their cases of COVID-19 resolve, bringing the city’s number of resolved cases to 9,900.

The number of active cases is the number of total laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 minus the numbers of resolved cases and deaths. A case is considered resolved 14 days after known symptom onset or positive test result.

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COVID-19: About half of 184 new Ottawa cases in those 29 and under; Ontario reports record high 3,945 cases





Ottawa Public Health reported another 184 new laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday as the province reported another single-day record with 3,945 new infections over the past 24 hours.

Ontario reported 61 more deaths linked to the virus in the previous 24-hour period. Two of those deaths were in Ottawa.

Ninety new cases, or about half of Sunday’s new cases in Ottawa, were reported among those aged 29 and under, with 18 new cases in children nine and under, 28 new cases in those aged 10 to 19 and 44 cases in those aged 20 to 29.

Of those in hospital in Ottawa, one patient is under 19, two are in their 20s, three in their 50s and four in their 60s. There are nine patients in their 70s, five in their 80s and two in their 90s.

Four new institutional outbreaks were declared Sunday in long-term care settings, with new outbreaks at the Duke of Devonshire retirement home, Colonel By retirement home, Grace Manor and at a group home.

“Ottawa we were doing so well,” Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, the minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture, said via Twitter on Sunday afternoon. “We had just 19 cases Dec. 23. Had we kept it up we were heading to Yellow (“protect” zone). Today, however, even with new restrictions, Dr. ⁦Vera Etches is telling us we are moving to Grey (“lockdown”) … Our rate of infection after the province wide shutdown is going the wrong way and fast.”

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 1,160 new cases of coronavirus in Toronto, 641 in Peel Region and 357 in York Region. There are 223 more cases in Windsor-Essex County and 220 in Waterloo.

A total of 4,983 people have died from COVID-19 in Ontario and 215,782 have tested positive for the virus over the course of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations are increasing at a rate that is alarming public health experts.

There were 26 new admissions in Ontario hospitals since the last reporting period. There are now 1,483 COVID-19 patients requiring hospital treatment, with 388 people in intensive care units across the province and 266 on ventilators.

More than 62,300 tests have been completed since the last provincial update on Saturday.

A total of 397 people have now died from the virus in Ottawa as the city’s active case count continues to spike.

There are now 1,202 active cases in the city. According to OPH data, 9,779 of those are resolved.

There are 26 patients in Ottawa hospitals, with nine in intensive care.

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