Autism Registry: a pilot project by Ottawa Police

If you read my blog, you are probably aware that I have a strong interest in Asperger’s Sydrome:  I am an Aspie, I am married to an Aspie, both my children are Aspies, most of my friends are, if not full-Aspies, at least ‘almost-Aspies.

Hence the interest.

Or, perhaps, obsession…

While I like to explain that Asperger’s is to Autism like ‘wearing glasses’ is to ‘being blind’, it is an Autism spectrum disorder, there is some overlap (OK – I’d have to  go on a tangent to explain this ‘right’:  let it suffice (for here) that both Autism and Asperger’s have the same ‘thing’ which affects how the brain is wired ‘differently’, but the difference is that each affects a different bit of the brain….some people have a bit of ‘re-wiring’ in both areas – thus, the overlap).  So, I am always paying attention when I hear about both…

So, I was quite interested when I heard that the Ottawa Police were doing some sort of a pilot project to do with interacting with members of our community who are Autistic or have Asperger’s Syndrome.  Thanks go to my favourite Ottawa City Councillor, Eli El-Chantiry, for getting me in touch with the people running the pilot project.

It looks excellent!

This – in a nutshell – is what it is about…

When a call comes in to the ‘911’ emergency service, the operator pulls up the info on the address where the call is coming from:

  • the address
  • map
  • other relevant info (like the much reviled gun registry, and so on)

A person who looks after an Autie or an Aspie (or the Autie/Aspie themselves) can register in this program.  When they do this, the ‘relevant information’ will include some information about the Autie/Aspie that lives there.

This can save lives!

The information can be, say, there is a small Autistic boy who fears loud noises.  If there is a fire alarm, he is likely to hide under the bed or in the closet.  Only answers to ‘Xxx’ nickname….  Touching him makes him panic.

Or, it can say something like ‘this is a group home for adult Auties.  These are their names, this is how they react to being agitated,’ and so on.

Information is power.

When emergency responders are walking into a situation where they know they will encounter a person who is not fully functional – and, the stress of emergency situations does often push ‘partially functional’ people (especially kids) into a non-functional state – they will be able to do their job better.

This Autism Registry pilot program harnesses the power of information into better helping vulnerable people in emergency situations.  Into saving live.

I liked what I learned about the program so much, I offered to help out as best I can.  And, perhaps, there may be a tiny role I can play.

One way I – and you – can help is to ‘spread the word’!

If you know someone in the City of Ottawa who would benefit from registering – tell them.

If you live outside of Ottawa, tell your police department to check out this pilot project in Ottawa.  The model is highly portable – perhaps your community would benefit from something similar!

Chair of Ottawa Police Services Board: “It’s not our job to ‘police’!”

Last week, I sent this email to the Mayor of Ottawa, my Councilor and the Head of the Ottawa Police Services Board, expressing my dissatisfaction with the failure of Ottawa Police to police the demonstration protesting Ann Coulter’s appearance.  This failure to police was so severe that, at the ‘strong suggestion’ of the Ottawa Police, the event was canceled.

My main point of was that it is inappropriate for the police in general, and Ottawa Police in particular, to dictate (through either direct action or through inaction) who does or does not have the freedom of speech!

Mr. El-Chantiry – the Chair of Ottawa Police Services Board – was the only one to reply.  Here is his response – in full:

Hi Ms. Belaire,

This event was not cancelled by the Ottawa Police. This was a University of Ottawa event. Please contact them for clarification.


Eli El-Chantiry

Chair, Ottawa Police Services Board

Councillor, West Carleton-March

Here is my reply to Mr. El-Chantiry:

Dear Mr. El-Chantiry,

thank you for your prompt – if brief – reply to my letter of concern. I will be posting it on my blog.

It has now been a full week and neither Mr. O’Brien, the Mayor, nor my Councilor, Mr. Hunter, have replied. So, I do appreciate that you, sir, do care!

Still, your letter did not address my concern…

If my poor wording had misled you into thinking I was complaining about insufficient security at the University of Ottawa event where Ann Coulter had been invited to speak, I apologize and clarify: the University of Ottawa did indeed provide sufficient security to ensure the people attending the event (all of whom had to pre-register) did not breech any laws or bylaws. No problems or complaints there.

It was regarding the failure to provide sufficient ‘supervision’ and/or security at two additional events – both protest demonstrations (one opposing, one supporting Ann Coulter’s right to speak) – that my complaint is about.  Neither of these two outdoor demonstrations were organized by Ann Coulter, her sponsors or the University of Ottawa.

This would be comparable to, say, you hiring an entertainer to come to your home for your child’s birthday party….and, for some reason, this entertainer had earned the wrath of some people who gathered outside your home to protest this entertainer’s presence. Would it be your responsibility to provide the ‘supervision’ and ‘security’ at the protest gathering outside your home, against your will?

Your response would suggest that yes, it would be the homeowner (or the event’s organizer) – not the protest’s organizer – who is responsible…

With whom does the responsibility really lie?

From the official City of Ottawa website (the emphasis is mine):

Definition: For our purposes, a demonstration is a spontaneous or planned collection of people using the road allowance as a place to express an opinion. This type of event can be stationary (confined to a specific location) or one which moves from one point to another (commonly referred to as a “march”). Both types of demonstrations are subject to the criteria outlined in this section.

This seems clear enough: both of the protest demonstrations were indeed ‘demonstrations’, as defined by the City of Ottawa. As such, they were subject to very specific rules and regulations.

The City of Ottawa imposes very significant limitations (I might even argue these rules and restrictions are ‘unreasonable’ and ‘counter to common-sense’ – but, as long as they are the law of this land, we must all abide by them… ) on both organized and spontaneous demonstrations. Through imposing these limitations, the City of Ottawa unequivocally claims the sole jurisdiction – and thus responsibility for – over all outdoor demonstrations – for the Ottawa Police alone!

Point #9 of the bylaws governing ‘demonstrations’ states:

    Police supervision is required for a demonstration. It is the responsibility of the demonstration organizer to contact the Ottawa Police to arrange for supervision. The demonstration organizer may be responsible for any costs associated with the provision of this service.

Let’s take it one sentence at a time:

Police supervision is required for a demonstration.

This one single sentence states that it is the police – the Ottawa Police – who has the sole responsibility for the ‘supervision’ of any and every ‘demonstration’ within the City of Ottawa.

What is more, this one sentence also quite unequivocally denies the University of Ottawa the right – yes, the very right – to ‘supervise’ any ‘demonstrations’ which take place outside the walls of its buildings!

This one sentence, Mr. El-Chantiry, also puts the failure to provide adequate security at these ‘demonstrations’ squarely onto the shoulders of Ottawa Police – the civilian oversight board of which you, sir, are the chair!

If this is insufficient to convince you, let us consider the next sentence of point #9 of the City of Ottawa bylaw:

It is the responsibility of the demonstration organizer to contact the Ottawa Police to arrange for supervision.

If nothing else, this clearly states it is the organizers of the demonstration and the police – not the organizers of the event which sparked it – who are responsible for the ‘security’ at the demonstration!  And, it places the responsibility solely onto the Ottawa Police.

On the night of the ‘Ann Coulter’ fiasco at Ottawa University, the Ottawa Police were either unable or unwilling to fulfill their part of our social contract.  Therefore, it is essential that the Ottawa Police Services Board investigates this failure in governance and ensures that it does not occur again.

What is even worse, the context in which this happened – forcing the cancellation of a speech by a speaker whose views are known to be unpopular with many labour unions, including the one Ottawa Police officers belong to – opens the Ottawa Police to charges of ‘selective policing’ to further the political interests of their labour union.  I very much hope this is not so!  Still, this issue must also be thoroughly investigated, if only to remove the cloud of suspicion which is currently marring the reputation of the Ottawa Police even more that the simple failure to act did.

Mr. El-Chantiry,  please, find out what happened, and let me know.  Fix the problems – and restore the good reputation of the Ottawa Police!

Sincerely yours,

Alexandra Belaire