Krystal Glowatski, PhD Student (Simon Fraser University)
After a hiatus while working on my PhD, it feels great to be back working on Dr. Stewart’s research team. This rejoining came about during discussions at the biennial FASD and The Law Day, a pre-conference to The International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, held in Vancouver, BC. Having had the privilege of attending this pre-conference in 2013, 2015, and now 2017, I can attest to the growth of this event. In 2013 the event was held in a relatively small panel room, with perhaps 50-75 people in attendance at any given time throughout the day. The topics of the day were ambitious, inspiring organizers to narrow the scope in 2015. In 2015, the event was held in a larger banquet room, attracting approximately 100-125 people. The talks felt much more specific to issues that had been raised in 2013, demonstrating the commitment of the organizers to the needs of their attendees. In 2017 we were once again in a banquet room and this time it was a full house. It was heart-warming to see the interest from professionals across the justice field in regard to FASD – a lifelong, challenging condition that undoubtedly impacts their day-to-day responsibilities.
When Dr. Stewart and I first started interviewing justice professionals in 2013, it was interesting to discover the inconsistencies in understandings of this disorder. Now we are seeing a packed house (at some points, standing room only!), full of people who often work directly with those who have FASD, at an event tailored to their specific needs in working with such individuals to ensure compassion and dignity are maintained. Three panels were held this year, tailored to police, lawyers, and judges. These panels were informal, giving the impression that we were watching friends have coffee while discussing incredibly important topics. Such a style allowed the audience to be drawn in, even giving us ample opportunity to pose our own questions or comments. A main theme that resonated deeply with me was that of relationship; we cannot help others without building and maintaining healthy relationships, comprised of respect and dignity. It is for this reason that I fully support future directions for this event, including the possibility of developing FASD and the Law Day into its own stand-alone conference. There is far too much that needs to be said and discovered about the implications of FASD in the justice system to confine this event to one day every two years. Moreover, there are more relationships that need to be built amongst those who work in this field.
If you have some time, please watch some of the videos capturing the 2017 event at the FASD Research Project Facebook page.