Dear Mr. Reid,
As your staff continues its research on Bill C-235, I wanted to share this blog with you to assist on your research.
While most of us know drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, we are just now learning the impact FASD is having on our Canadian culture. In the past two years, we have seen the Canadian Medical Association changed how FASD is diagnosed, the federal government voted and rejected a bill to allow judges to use FASD as a mitigating circumstance in sentencing, British Columbia and New Brunswick have established provincial strategies on how to prevent FASD and Ontario recently conducted preliminary research on FASD prevalence.
FASD is the number one preventable disability in Canada with over 300,000 diagnosed people with this disability including my three children. However, due to the lack of clinics equipped to diagnose and the new diagnosing criteria, it is expected that number will rise significantly as this new criteria and clinics are implemented. FASD is considered to be a permanent brain injury according to research by the National institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. While it is not unusual for children with FASD to have normal intelligence, a high percentage of people with FASD will have ADHD or struggle with social interactions. As a result, they will often act confused, immature, distracted, and impulsive. FASD also impacts the person’s overall health according to a study done by Svetlana Popova and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. https://www.camh.ca/en/research/news_and...and.../Popova_etal2016Lancet.pdf In this study, over 75% of people with FASD will have struggles with their senses particularly touch and hearing, expressing and receiving communication, and remaining focused and organized in their daily lives.
These characteristics will have huge impact on their lives and society because they won’t grow out of it, medication has a minor or damaging impact, and they tend to copy the culture around them. We see its effect indirectly in all parts of our society. According to the Canadian Family Physician Journal, it is estimated FASD is currently costing our country 4-6 billion dollars a year if the prevalence is truly 300,000 people. This costing comes from health care, special education, social services and the justice system. People with FASD require frequent health treatment due to anxiety, mental illness, sensory depravity, and ADHD. They require high levels of support and equipment to successfully complete schooling. They require social assistance due to mental illness, an inability to hold regular fulltime employment except in special circumstances, and life support people. Finally, it is estimated 25% of our convicts currently have FASD. Due to their inability to connect consequences with actions and communication challenges, people with FASD are extremely vulnerable to getting tricked or forced into committing the crime allowing the leader or planner deny involvement. In a study done by Astley SJ, Bailey D, Talbot T, Clarren SK (2000), it found a direct correlation between abused women and FASD. Finally, the Honourable Wally Oppal also found a correlation between FASD and missing women in his Missing Women Inquiry.
But there is hope. We know through education and proper social supports, FASD is a preventable disability. As research continues on brain plasticity, there may be new treatments available. Just like people with ADHD, when an external brain can be provided, a person with FASD can succeed. It is also important to recognize it is not a genetic disability. There is currently no evidence that a mother or father with FASD will pass it along to their children. As long as the person doesn’t use drugs or alcohol or encourage its usage, their children will develop as normal. As the general public continues to learn about this invisible disability and the importance of community, we can remove this stigma and truly make a difference. To learn more, go to the FASD symposium in Ottawa March 31 and April 1 https://www.citizenadvocacy.org/ourevents/first-annual-fasd-eastern-ontario-symposium/ or go http://www.fasdontario.ca/cms/news-events/upcoming-events/ for other FASD events and research in Canada.