On March 30, three days before World Autism Awareness Day, people from across Ontario marched from Barrhaven to Parliament Hill to request a national autism strategy. The march was prompted by recent changes by the Ford government to the Ontario Autism Program and funding cuts for many families with children with autism. A day after the march, Lisa Macleod announced that the province will consult with parents about a needs-based approach to the provincial Autism Program through an online survey which will begin on May 1.

Parents, children and allies walked from the office of Lisa Macleod, Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, to Parliament Hill. In all more than 150 people began their march at the office in Barrhaven. [Photo ©John Gallardo]
The march lasted five hours, over 22 kilometres from Barrhaven to Parliament Hill. [Photo © John Gallardo]
It was two degrees outside as participants marched to the first check point of the walk. [Photo © Mélanie Ritchot]
Greg Kloepfer drove six hours from Orangeville, Ont., to march for his grandson alongside his daughter, Olivia Kireti. He wore a photo of Gabriel, who is on the autism spectrum. Kireti says she will soon lose the funding for her son’s Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy if the provincial changes stick. ABA therapy helps increase communication skills and attention, and decrease problem behaviours. [Photo © John Gallardo]
A bus was available for participants who weren’t able to walk the entire 22 kilometres. Kerry Monaghan, an organizer of the march, handed out snacks to the people on the bus. [Photo © John Gallardo]
Drivers passing by honked their horns near the National Holocaust Monument on Wellington Street to show support for the march. [Photo © John Gallardo]
Senator Jim Munson, middle, made his way to Parliament Hill where accepted of the Autism File. [Photo © Mélanie Ritchot]
Marchers arrived at Parliament Hill at 1:30 p.m., and several speakers spoke to the crowd. [Photo © John Gallardo]
One of the program changes is a new age cap for funding. As of early April, 2019, families will receive a set amount based on the age of the diagnosed child. [Photo © Mélanie Ritchot]
Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre said a national autism strategy is necessary. [Photo © John Gallardo]
More than 400 people joined the marchers on Parliament Hill. Kerry Monaghan, one of the event’s organizers, asked the marchers to hold up photos of their children and participate in a moment of silence. [Photo © John Gallardo]
Families held up photos of their children with autism in reflection and unity. [Photo © Mélanie Ritchot]
Michelle Cedeno and her family attended the march, joining the crowd on Wellington Street. [Photo © John Gallardo]