The following post was published in the Fetal Alcohol Resource Program and Inside Ottawa Valley.
Dear Mr. Reid,
Dear Mr. Reid,
I am writing to you asking you to support private member bill C-235 on Tuesday allowing judges to use a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder as a mitigating circumstance in sentencing an individual. FASD is now diagnosed as a permanent brain injury which robs an individual of the ability to reason due to the lack of synapses connecting the various parts of the brain. This means the individual will struggle to understand the concept of time, to problem solve, to handle finances, to recognize dangerous situations, to read other’s intentions, and to link actions and consequences. A person with FASD requires a support network to coach them, to guide them, to give them direction and to advise in decision making. However, 99% of individuals with FASD will not exhibit any physical signs of this disorder. It is only through medical, psychological and occupational therapy assessments that the disorder can be diagnosed. And in Eastern Ontario, there are currently no facilities with the infrastructure to provide this battery of assessments. Yes, even CHEO doesn’t currently have the capability. To fully understand the prevalence and impact FASD has, I would encourage reading the CanFASD report at http://cbsunified.com/canfasd/wp-content/uploads/sites/35/2016/05/BrainSymposium_e-version_12-09.pdf.
While our provincial government continues to try and squash the comprehensive study done on the impact of FASD in our province, our federal government has this opportunity to say we no longer accept business as usual. We will no longer deny the prevalence of FASD in our society and we will take the first step in reforming our justice system. Make the statement to Kathleen Wynne that our provincial government can no longer hide the impact FASD is having on our public health, our educational systems, our social systems and our future.
Would we hold someone responsible for their actions that has Alzheimer’s? Would we hold someone with severe autism responsible for their action? The fact that their disabilities have physical signs should not determine the severity of their disability. In the same way, a person with Down’s syndrome would be offended by someone who assumes they can’t reason.
We have known for years and decades the impact alcohol and drugs has on the unborn baby. Imagine a Lanark County population without FASD and what that would look like today. Is it a coincidence that 20 years after Prohibition in the United States and Europe the Age of Technology began?
While I am aware this is a private Liberal member’s bill, I would ask you to put partisan politics aside and vote your conscience. I would ask you to make the statement we are not doing business as usual but rather making a difference for my constituents and move the dialogue on FASD along.