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Yukon MP Larry Bagnell

MP picks up cause for those afflicted with FASD

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell introduced a private member’s bill last week that would ensure a change in how individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) are treated in the criminal justice system.

By Aimee O'Connor on March 1, 2016

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell introduced a private member’s bill last week that would ensure a change in how individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) are treated in the criminal justice system.

If this feels like déjà-vu, that’s because it is.

Former Yukon MP Ryan Leef introduced a very similar private member’s bill – which he later withdrew because he felt there wouldn’t be enough time to debate it in Parliament before the 2015 election.

In 2014, the Liberal MP for Charlottetown, Sean Casey, brought forward a bill that bore a striking resemblance to Leef’s.

It was to amend Canada’s Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to create a procedure for individuals in the criminal justice system who may suffer from FASD to be assessed.

If the disorder was found to affect an individual’s abilities to make judgments or fully comprehend the consequences of his or her actions, the court would be required to consider the disorder as a mitigating factor in sentencing.

In other words, if an individual was assessed and diagnosed with the disorder, it could result in reduced charges or a lesser sentence.

These changes are based on recommendations made by the Canadian Bar Association.

FASD is a group of conditions that may occur in an individual whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. Those with FASD often have physical disabilities and problems with behaviour and learning due to brain damage.

Casey’s bill also included a requirement that individuals determined to be suffering from the disorder must follow an external support plan to successfully reintegrate into society after they serve their sentences.

But Casey’s initiative didn’t progress much – once the federal election was called last summer, all bills that had not been passed were removed from the agenda.

As per Parliament rules, such bills must be re-introduced in the new session.

In an interview with the Star Monday, Bagnell said his bill is identical to Casey’s.

This time, he’s hopeful it will gain more momentum.

Bagnell’s bill was picked 34th in Parliament’s draw of private member’s bills out of a total of 270. Back when Leef introduced his bill, he was drawn 130th out of 243.

“That should get me into Parliament within a year. It could be faster, though,” Bagnell said.

To the Yukon MP, the importance of the bill lies in a mismatch between individuals with FASD and the criminal justice system in Canada.

“There’s all sorts of undue suffering because their condition doesn’t match the system.”

The bill, if passed, could allow those suffering with the disorder to get appropriate treatment during sentencing and connect them to external supports to help them land on their feet when they are released.

“A good example of this is (that) people with FASD don’t always have a good sense of time,” Bagnell said.

“Without external support, they could miss their probation hearings. If you ask Yukon judges about this, they say it’s like a revolving door – they go right back where they started.”

The executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon (FASSY) echoes this.

“We see what he’s been saying about the ‘revolving door,’” executive director Wenda Bradley said in an interview this morning.

“In our role as support workers, we find that a lot. We remind them, help them get there, make sure they’ve had breakfast so that they can think as best they can.”

Having external support has been a mantra of sorts for FASSY all along.

“You can’t just expect these people to walk away and do the things that the court expects them to do,” Bradley said.

“These bills are vital... judges (will) get a little bit of help in being able to really address the situation and help these people.”

She describes a case in the territory where the judge told the individual with FASD exactly what to do and where to get help.

“It happened and it worked because the judge had initiated that thought,” she explained.

“That’s how I feel this will work. It seemed to have a little bit more pull than just the agencies trying to convince those individuals.”

Like Bagnell, Bradley is hopeful that this time, the idea will stick.

“Ryan Leef got this discussion going, and Larry will continue it.”

Comments (9)

Up 0 Down 0

Josey Wales on Mar 7, 2016 at 9:35 pm

it has a lot to do with a big progressive symptom, the racism of lower expectations.
But yet those very same progressives nag us to the point of brainwashing to spay and neuter our pets.
Guess it is a drag to have animals completely able to fend for themselves in a "over crowded" pet environment...that does not exist...doing what animals do.
Yet at the same time we have gobs of room for more humans apparently, so much so... folks breed/drink....we pay...OH dear we pay.
How many women are in federal pens for destroying someones life before it even started?
I'd say zero when there should be thousands.
....but yeah...carry on nagging us about all these kittens/puppies we do not need.

Up 10 Down 1

June Jackson on Mar 5, 2016 at 10:23 pm

To: Marylaker and FortyPercentproof. Both of you are right. There just isn't any politically correct way to say.. FAE/FAS IS 100% preventable.

But, it isn't the fault of the child, who grows up to be an impaired adult. This societal problem is so complex, there aren't easy answers. Meanwhile, they have to be taken care of.

Drinking or addicted women are not given the option of having their tubes tied. Most probably had accidental pregnancies. I don't feel that any mother does this deliberately, but as others have said..vodka wins.

Up 4 Down 6

Josey Wales on Mar 5, 2016 at 12:13 am

Hey mary laker, maybe the star stop farming out its moderation to North Korea?
Must have, as you just shot a wad of cordite full of logic and common sense and they posted it?
And did so PC sans?
Effin awesome...carry on please.

Up 15 Down 4

mary laker on Mar 4, 2016 at 10:38 am

I am extremely pro-women's rights, but I do not think it is a straight forward case that women have the right to soak the brain of a developing human being in alcohol while they are pregnant. If they choose to continue with their pregnancy, they have an obligation to the future child to not destroy his or her brain before she / he is born.

It is so sick, it's beyond belief, but that is addiction to alcohol and also the mentality of some pregnant women. That their drinking comes first and who knows, maybe the kid won't end up too bad.

Rabid politically correct thinking has lead to some bad outcomes, and this has got to be one of the worst. We sacrifice the lives of thousands of people instead of insulting women who choose to drink their faces off while pregnant. Listen to some of the 'mothers' who sober up and how they feel about the fact that they ruined their own child's brain as a side effect of their drinking. I bet they would be saying, "I wish you locked me up."

We need to face the facts of what is going on and stop destroying people on the alter of 'Political Correct Can't Talk About That'.

As soon as the baby is born, that woman would be thrown in jail if she got wasted and threw the baby against a wall. Whether she wanted to go to jail or not, it is recognized that she has no right to endanger or injure this person. Can we not take SOME protective action against the mother's will to prevent FAS?

There needs to be conversation in communities, conversations with birth parents of FAS kids, and better solutions than coming up with new legislation so the people who had their brains injured by their mother's before they were born are held to account only so far as matches their diminished mental capacity.

The current situation is outrageous, and FAS is 100% preventable. Easily preventable! DON'T DRINK WHILE YOU ARE PREGNANT!

Up 14 Down 9

Whatever on Mar 3, 2016 at 10:00 pm

All women who drink during their pregnancy, resulting in a child with FASD should be put in prison PERIOD. Their children will live in a worse prison their entire life, and we all pay for it!

This is alright news, but come on Larry not much substance here and a very easy feather in the hat. Not that impressed, there are other commitments we're still waiting for! Time to roll up the sleeves!

Up 31 Down 7

jc on Mar 2, 2016 at 9:43 pm

Same old same old. Politicians always attempting to pour money and solutions after the fact instead of fighting the problem that causes the damage. The problem of FASD can be solved, but not with bandaid treatments. Begin at the source and get serious about it.

Up 43 Down 9

FortyPercentProof on Mar 2, 2016 at 11:19 am

Every sympathy in the World for the unborn afflicted child. None whatsoever for the ignorant and selfish drunks who poison their child. I would like to suggest education and support for these women ( and men ), but the vodka bottle wins out over the classroom most times. A hopeless situation .

Up 20 Down 40

Kathryn Kelly on Mar 1, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Canada is leading the way worldwide in making access to justice a reality for those living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Thank you, Mr. Bagnell, for introducing a private member's bill to amend Canada's Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to assist those disabled by FASD who have gotten in trouble with the law. When this bill passes, it will be model legislation to advance justice systems around the world.

Up 31 Down 68

Michael McCann on Mar 1, 2016 at 3:36 pm

Thank you Larry for bringing this forward again.

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