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Montréal, May 27, 2018 - An autistic 47 year-old Anglophone man and his family are accusing the Quebec government of discrimination for failing to provide services in English in the Montérégie and for refusing to allow him access to services in English in Montreal.

Mark Zeron had been living at home under the care of his parents until his father passed away 2 years ago. His 87-year-old widowed mother, Margo Zeron, whose mobility is limited, could not care for her son alone, so she placed him in a “foster family” group home environment. Care for residents in the foster home was inconsistent, and the caregivers did not notify the administration or any of Zeron's family members when they went out of town. Poor communications and services led to tensions between the foster family, Zeron and his family.

When the foster family decided they did not want Zeron in their home anymore, they called the police to take him away. At this point, Zeron's mother and sister had to step in to protect and care for him. Zeron spends four days a week living with his mother with additional support from his sister Anne. However, both women are not in positions to give him the full support he needs.

Anne Zeron sought help from the office of Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, Gaétan Barrette, who also happens to be the MNA for the riding of La Pinère, which includes Brossard. The office of the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de la Montérégie-Ouest refused to recognize any issue with Zeron's foster home or offer help, stating in its reply: “There is no quality gap that has been noticed in the Foster home where he stays and therefore we trust their abilities to take good care of your brother until another foster home is found.”

However, there are no alternative housing options available to Zeron. There are very few housing resources for English-speaking adults, which results in extremely long waitlists for what does exist. Based on his residence in the Monteregie, English services on the island of Montreal are out of reach for Zeron.

Anne Zeron describes her brother as a “generally happy and easygoing man who likes to listen to music and write in his sketchbook.”

“What is being done for the English-speaking population of autistic adults and the elderly parents now taking care of them?” she said. “What is being done for those who require services, therapy, training and support in English in the South Shore? What is being done for families who are desperate?”

Seeing the discrimination against Mr. Zeron and bearing the burden of care for him has been overwhelmingly stressful for his family members, who have all consequently been treated for depression and anxiety.

CRARR is discussing with the family regarding the eventuality of a civil rights complaint, as the social service agency's failure to accommodate Mr. Zeron's needs amounts to systemic discrimination based on disability intersecting with language.

“Mr. Zeron's case would make an interesting test case where discrimination based on language for autistic people is concerned,” said Celia Robinovitch, a social work intern at CRARR.

“ English-speaking Quebecers with autism experience an added level of disadvantage, and this shows once again that across the bridge to Montreal, access to health and social services for Anglophones is still a major barrier,” she added.