The Ontario government has given Maggie an ultimatum: the disabled teen can lose her funding or her independence.
If she fails to quit smoking by 30 June, her funding will be withdrawn.
A month later she is at Queen’s Park urging her parents to make a personal phone call to the health minister.
“It would be really nice if you could come and visit me, as this time of year I’m a little bit uncomfortable here on my own,” she said in an interview.
This isn’t the first time Maggie, now 16, has called for help. The teen says she has become increasingly outspoken about her smoking habit over the past year, and says her parents have failed to respond.
For her, independence was never the issue. When she was five years old, she was diagnosed with a severe form of Tourette’s syndrome, which causes her to have uncontrollable outbursts of physical and vocal tics.
Now in Grade 9, Maggie says she’s been spending more time in doctor’s offices and other health services.
In an interview, she also talks about how the government funds health care on behalf of the disabled and children.
The teen says that despite being diagnosed, she has been allowed to smoke cigarettes, because of her disability.
“I would like to have my independence,” she says. “I never wanted to have a disability, to not be able to do things, and to be with people who have a disability.”
Maggie is now on a medical leave of absence from Queen’s University, where she’s been enrolled in a program for adults with autism. She’s also enrolled in a new school program for students with autism and autism spectrum conditions, as well as students who are challenged by ADHD.
She says she’s now the sole support person in her family, and her parents are unable to help.
“They have a lot of things on their plate,” she says. “It’s really hard.”
Maggie isn’t doing a particularly good job of explaining her smoking issue.
She says she smokes one or two cigarettes a day, and it’s not because she’s addicted. At school she says that her parents support her smoking