Parliament one step closer: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder the Criminal Code
The Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network Welcomes Justice Committee Recommendations
VANCOUVER, May 2015 – The Canadian justice system is one step closer to recognising the potential impacts of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. This week the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD) was acknowledged by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as a ‘vital’ contributor in its report on Bill C- 583, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code.
“The Canada Northwest FASD Partnership appreciates the Standing Committee’s interest in and acknowledgement of the value of the research being undertaken by CanFASD”, said Honourable Melanie Wight, Manitoba Minister of Children and Youth Opportunities, while speaking on behalf of the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership. “The Partnership looks forward to working with Federal colleagues to develop more comprehensive and effective approaches to prevent individuals with FASD from becoming involved with the justice system, as well as appropriate forms of accommodation for those who find themselves in conflict from the law,” said Hon. Wight.
“The recommendations that have come forward from the Parliamentary Committee are a clear step in the right direction for Canada’s efforts to prevent, manage, treat and understand FASD. As the leading Canadian research network on FASD, we heartily endorse the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee, and urge their implementation,” said CanFASD Executive Director Dr. Amy Salmon.
“Research shows that people with FASD have a disproportionate level of contact with the justice system, both as victims and offenders. Using evidence-based strategies is the most effective way to address issues faced by vulnerable Canadians in conflict with the law,” said Salmon.
Research has shown that nearly 60% of people with FASD come into conflict with the law, and youth with FASD have been found to be between 10-19 times more likely to be incarcerated than youth without FASD.
“The evidence is clear. When we incorporate FASD screening and diagnosis into justice settings, we are better able to reduce recidivism, enhance public safety and improve outcomes,” Dr. Salmon noted.
The Committee on Justice and Human Rights released its report on Bill C-583 after two months of study and submissions from expert witnesses. The report recommends that:
more resources be allocated to crime prevention and diversion programs for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder;
the federal government work with the provinces and territories to encourage and develop a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder awareness campaign;
the federal government work with the provinces and territories and key stakeholders such as the Canada FASD Research Network to support innovative research to improve understanding of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, its risk and protective factors, and help improve health outcomes;
the federal government work with the provinces and territories to encourage standardised data collection on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Canada;
the RCMP and Correctional Service Canada officers receive training on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as part of their standard training;
the Correctional Service Canada continue to evaluate community-based best practices to screen offenders for FASD and that FASD be built into the existing mental health evaluation upon admission to a penitentiary; and
the Correctional Service Canada considers strategies to help the integration and rehabilitation of individuals with FASD who are sentenced to two years or more in prison.
CanFASD is a collaborative, interdisciplinary research network, with collaborators, researchers and partners across the country. It is Canada’s first comprehensive national FASD research network.
CanFASD’s unique partnership brings together many scientific viewpoints to address the complexities of FASD, with a focus of ensuring that research knowledge is translated to community and policy action. Our mission is to produce and maintain national, collaborative research designed for sharing with all Canadians, leading to prevention strategies and improved support services for people affected by FASD.
For more information on CanFASD and Bill C-583, please visit: www.canfasd.ca/bill-c583