Ken Robertson – We Are All in this Together
“My motivation is to discuss the challenges of First Nations children on reserves and the limited access services faced by all Canadians but especially focusing on the systemic barriers that First Nations peoples face. The premise of my speech is to reaffirm that we are all in this together and that we work together for a common goal. My motivation came after the second diagnosis of autism in my family with my daughter. As a father of four, my approach began with an awareness campaign during the 2014 municipal election for Toronto District School Board Trustee. The success of placing second pushed me to continue working towards my goal of advocacy. I decided to first create Four Directions Autism to focus on the need for the Urban First Nations community and then later speaking with various Members of Parliament including Gary Anandasangaree and my MP Julie Dzerowicz, I decided to do something more. With the support of my family, we painstakingly reached out to as many people as possible to reach the minimum 500 signatures we needed for a response. The government responded and now provincial and federal partners are working toward a clear goal to aid parents. However, more needs to be done as children with autism eventually become adults with autism.”
Ken Robertson is a Secwepemc from the Neskonlith Indian Band located in the south-central part of British Columbia’s Rocky Mountains. Raised in East Vancouver -“Canada’s poorest postal code”- in a way similar to many First Nations peoples, he had challenges accessing services on the reserve. Ken moved to Toronto in his youth and held positions at the Tumivut Youth Shelter, and later the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. Shortly after the diagnosis of autism of two of his children, Ken began advocating for autism parents when he ran in the 2014 municipal election for Toronto District School Board Trustee, placing second. He is a current Board Member of Autism Ontario and successfully launched a House of Commons E-petition advocating for services for First Nations families off-reserve. His continued goal is advocating for all autism parents, and addressing the challenges each family faces.