Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Follow-up to Bill C-235 on FASD

The following post was published on the Fetal Alcohol Resource Program.
Dear Mr. Reid,
               I am writing to express my disappointment in your voting against Bill C-235.  I did find it interesting that you voted in favour of the other four bills that day, but voted against Bill C-235 in an open vote.  As I have not received a reply to my first letter to you, I can only assume that you voted against the bill due to the reasons listed by the Hon. Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice.  Mr. Blair stated the primary reason for voting against Bill C-235 as the follows:  "I invite members to consider that there are more than 300 separate and distinct mental disorders listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," Blair said. 
"One can only imagine what the Criminal Code would look like if each and every disorder was specifically defined and our courts were given instructions to treat each specific disorder diagnosis differently."
While we have been aware of the effects of FASD since 1973, it is evident by this statement that misunderstanding and misinformation continues to reign.  Last year, the Canadian Medical Association published in their Journal the new assessment method for diagnosing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder.  This new assessment looks at growth charts, facial features, intelligence levels and social history.  It is with good reason FASD is considered to be a physical impairment.  If three characteristics of a possible ten are found, then an individual will be diagnosed with FASD.  To lump FASD with mental disorders or to think a Psychiatrist does the diagnosis shows a complete lack of understanding of this physical disability.  While Canada continues to lag behind the world in tracking the prevalence of FASD, we know globally FASD impacts 4% of our population and has been found to cause cancer, deformations, and diseases in the nervous system, eyes, ears, heart, asthma, teeth, skin, bones, and immune systems.  Alcohol is ranked as the fifth deadliest reason in the world and is estimated to cost 1 million dollars per lifetime on our health care system. In Russia, a study was done that showed over 50% of their special education students have FASD. https://www.camh.ca/en/research/news_and_publications/reports_and_books/Documents/Popova_etal2016Lancet.pdf. It is also estimated that FASD impacts 18% of our population to the North and we continue to ignore the problem.  It is with good reason Larry Bagnell, Yukon, MP has continued to push this issue.  When you consider that this Bill had the support of the Canadian Bar Association, that the Canadian Medical Association in its FASD policy (2009) calls on the federal government to examine its role in decreasing the prevalence of FASD, and that the provinces of BC, Alberta, and New Brunswick have now developed comprehensive FASD policies, this is an issue which is not going away.  I would challenge you to speak to the experts on this issue and get informed and no longer be swayed by ill-informed MP’s in question period.  I look forward to your response.
Robert More

Smiths Falls

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