‘Right this wrong’: Canadian TV star Eugene Levy urges Ontario government to help families of grown children with autism

‘Right this wrong’: Canadian TV star Eugene Levy urges Ontario government to help families of grown children with autism

The Progressive Conservatives’ decision to cut funding for the families of grown children with severe autism is no laughing matter to Canadian comedy legend Eugene Levy.

Levy on Tuesday rallied support for the seven families and their nine children who are suing Premier Doug Ford’s government after their financial assistance ended last summer.

“We need this Conservative government to right this wrong,” he told CTV’s “Your Morning” as part of a day-long media blitz.

“We just expect more humanity in the behaviour of officials that Canadians elect to higher office,” said the star of “Schitt’s Creek”, “SCTV” and “American Pie.”

“I am absolutely heartbroken for these families,” said Levy, whose cousin, Michael, is one of the nine people with autism hurt by the funding change.

“Life is difficult enough for these parents and their high-needs children. It is time that our government starts working with them instead of against them.”

As first disclosed by the Star last month, the families took legal action after being cut off of “court-ordered” autism services that they had been receiving for more than 15 years.

They are suing the government “for breach of contract, negligence, and breach of Charter rights.” It will be formally filed in court on Monday.

In an 18-page letter to the premier and Social Services Minister Todd Smith, lawyers Scott Hutchison and Mary Eberts wrote that as of Aug. 6 “your government severed funding to our clients, which they had been receiving for over 15 years.”

The payments, which totalled at most about $1.7 million annually, were the result of previous litigation with the province. They have appeared as a line item in the Ontario budget, which was $163.4 billion this year.

Previous Liberal governments, which had fought the families in court, “promised that the funding would not end until a co-ordinated transition to other services had been made, in a way that provided alternative services with which the families were satisfied.”

However, there has never been a transition to other services for the families, so the cash flowed from 2004 until the Tories scrapped it this year.

The families’ lawyers point out “there was never an age limit on the court-ordered funding and it was not part of the Ontario Autism Program nor any other program or initiative of the government addressed to the needs of those with developmental disabilities.”

That means the grown children affected do not benefit from the Tories’ revamp of autism services.

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After bungling the reforms announced in February, the government has since doubled annual spending for 40,000 eligible families with younger children to $600 million.

More to come

Robert Benzie

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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