FASD requires more than talk

FASD requires more than talk

By: The StarPhoenix, 22 Jan 2014

Accessed on: 23 Jan 2014

Commentary by: Krystal Glowatski

As a follow-up to the meeting of FASD experts in Saskatoon in mid-January to discuss the issue of FASD in Saskatchewan, The StarPhoenix ran a story titled, “FASD requires more than talk.”

The story outlines the preventable nature of FASD, but also sets the stage for the limitations on prevention as a solution to FASD.  While the solution seems simple – don’t drink while you’re pregnant and you will not produce a child with FASD – there are limitations on the controls government can place over women’s rights when it comes to their bodies.

The article states, “A 1997 Supreme Court decision made it clear… that governments have limited powers in forcibly preventing pregnant women from drinking or having them take solvent-abuse prevention programs in the guise of protecting the fetus.  Women in Canada have the right to control what’s done to their bodies even if society disagrees with how they exercise that right.”

For example, as this article points out, there are many awareness campaigns out there, informing women and girls of the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant.  This is an excellent initiative – for some women.

The problem, however, is that while women do not wish harm on their babies, there are issues that need to be addressed which extend beyond awareness.  For example, women often do not know they are pregnant for the first while – something that is often mentioned at conferences on FASD and by advocates promoting prevention through abstaining from alcohol altogether.  If you recall a news blog I wrote in early January about pregnancy test dispensers being placed in pubs, the goal of these dispensers is to offer awareness to women going out for drinks.  By taking a pregnancy test at the earliest possible moment, women can cease drinking immediately, thus reducing the potential harm to their fetus.  However, some women may be struggling with alcohol and other addictions.  The initiative is an inventive one for certain, but I hope there will be further focus on other issues causing FASD – issues such as addiction, trauma, poverty, abuse, and the effects of colonialism.

As the final passage of this article states, “It is the responsibility of governments to try to address the social problems at the root of these issues, including making sure that women have the financial security to take control of their lives.  It may not be cheap, but it costs society less in the long run than dealing with FASD victims for their entire lives.”

Saskatoon courtroom dedicated to mental health issues Docket deals with psychiatric and cognitive disorders in organized, efficient way

Saskatoon courtroom dedicated to mental health issues Docket deals with psychiatric and cognitive disorders in organized, efficient way

Bre McAdam (November 21st, 2013)(Accessed November 28th, 2013).

Commentary by Shauna Makie 

Saskatoon justice officials have come together to develop a new courtroom in Saskatoon that is dedicated to overseeing offenders living with mental health issues and cognitive disorders. The Mental Health Strategy (MHS) docket will be held twice a month at the Saskatoon Provincial Court for those living with a range of disorders in attempts to respond to the needs of offenders while dealing with the court system. The MHS will be focusing on a holistic approach to connect offenders to appropriate support and supervision services. Val Adamko summarized that the goal is to provide offender specific sentences which should reduce recidivism while promoting better rehabilitation of the offender. Leslie Allen, executive director of Saskatchewan’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) support network, was also in attendance and stated how the criminal justice system often becomes a revolving door for offenders living with mental illness, and in particular, that those with FASD are more inclined to struggle with decision making and maneuvering through court practices.

The recognition of the challenges faced for those living with FASD and the complexities they face in their engagement with the criminal justice system by justice officials provides hope for those advocating for this particular population of offenders. This new process will provide the courts an opportunity to slow things down and give offenders living with mental health challenges an opportunity to have a fair trial and access to external supports that may not otherwise be in place.