This article has been updated to add quotes and additional photo/video content.
CORNWALL, Ontario – Police were called to a peaceful protest among two mothers, one grandmother and three 5-year-old children at MPP Jim McDonell’s office around 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12.
The families entered McDonell’s office after 3 p.m. intending to write letters to our local MPP expressing their concerns over the recent changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
Approximately 10 minutes after entering the office, an employee of McDonell’s office requested Cathy Varrette, mother of son (who we are not naming in accordance with Varrette’s wishes and will refer to as N), to prohibit N from playing with a window blind.
“Okay! That needs to stop,” stated the employee.
“When your government agrees to pay for my son’s therapy, I will make him stop,” said Varrette.
Varrette explained to the employee that her son is non-verbal, non-compliant autistic and this action would only escalate the situation. Varrette requested that the employee not touch her son when the employee approached. The employee explained that McDonell was not in the office due to health reasons to which Varrette replied she did not care.
“I’ve had enough of this and I am calling the cops,” said the employee.
Three police cars promptly arrived with sirens on.
“Here’s where the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapy, that this (person) is not trained in, but I am (is needed)…(they) don’t know how to deal with my son,” said Varrette after she explained her side of the story to the police. “So, this is a perfect example of why the Conservative government needs to do consultations with parents, and with the (care) providers, and with the people who actually know, because clearly people like this (person) have no idea how to deal with an autistic child.”
Varrette said she has taken a few ABA courses offered to parents with a child with autism.
“Am I surprised the police were called? No. I think that it is hard to deal with children that are non-compliant. I think that understanding that behaviour process is important and I think that this is a societal issue, not just a parent issue and a school issue,” said Varrette.
Protestors and police left the office after 4 p.m. Jim McDonell’s office declined to comment on the matter.
“We interviewed both sides,” said CPS Cst. Peach. “No charges are being laid and everyone is leaving peacefully.”
“(Some parents) are not able to care for their own child because they are so stressed out because they are not going to be supported by our government,” said Varrette. “Myself, I don’t have mental health issues, but I went down…I felt that going to the protest at Queen’s Park on Thursday, March 7 gave me the motivation I needed to pick myself up and say alright, I need to…come against this government and tell them they are not doing well by our children in this province.”
“I am so sad that you can’t go to your MPP’s office, with children they are cutting the funding to, and they can’t handle having two minutes of them in their office without having their own little melt down about a blind,” said Leanne Seguin, grandmother of 5-year-old Riley Seguin, who lives with autism. “It blows my mind. Then they tell you they’re sympathetic. Does anyone have a dictionary to explain to them what the meaning of that word is?”
“He (N) needs people to understand him, not arrest him,” said Ryan.
“I am concerned for our environment,” said Ryan. “The mental health of our teachers is going to be questioned after this. They’re not therapists.”
Krista Ryan, a mother who attended the protest, uploaded a Facebook live video expressing her concerns with program changes and how police were called during the peaceful protest.
Posted by Krista Ryan on Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Below is a video of CPS officers arriving to McDonell’s office during the peaceful protest.