Yukon News

Bagnell’s FASD bill defeated

Ashley Joannou Wednesday December 14, 2016

Joel Krahn/Yukon News

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Yukon MP Larry Bagnell's private member's bill would in part require courts to recognize FASD as a factor in sentencing.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell’s private member’s bill, aimed at helping people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder who are involved with the justice system, was defeated in the House of Commons Tuesday.

The bill was defeated 133 in favour to 170 against.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m happy on the other hand that we made so much progress and we had strong support from all three of the major parties,” Bagnell said after the vote.

The bill would have allowed judges across the country to take someone’s FASD into account during sentencing and to order assessments, and would have required the correctional system to recognize FASD as a disability.

All of the NDP members present for the vote supported the bill. The majority of the Conservatives did not. Liberals who voted were split. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the MPs not present for the vote.

Bagnell said he was surprised how few MPs knew anything about FASD and how it can lead to time in front of a judge.

FASD is a brain injury caused when a mother drinks during pregnancy. It limits healthy brain development, including the ability to understand cause and effect.

Former Conservative MP Ryan Leef tried to pass a similar bill when he was in office, but withdrew it in late 2014 saying there wasn’t enough time to make it through the process.

After Leef, Sean Casey, the Liberal MP for Charlottetown, tried to pass his own bill but ran out of time. Records show Casey voted against Bagnell’s bill.

Following the vote Leef tweeted he was sorry the bill didn’t pass.

“Good work Larry. It was close.”

Bagnell said he knew his bill was unlikely to pass after a report by representatives of federal, territorial and provincial justice ministers came out in October.

It concluded legislative change was not the way to go to help people with FASD.

The Yukon Department of Justice confirmed that staff contributed to the lengthy report but couldn’t say whether staff or Brad Cathers, who was Yukon’s justice minister at the time, agreed with its conclusions.

In 2014, the Yukon Legislative Assembly voted unanimously in favour of a motion urging the Canadian government to support Leef’s bill.

Current Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee wrote a letter four days ago to the federal justice minister expressing the Yukon government’s support of Bagnell’s bill.

Bagnell said he’s glad more politicians are aware of FASD in the justice system than were before.

He hopes the federal justice minister will consider the support this bill got when she’s reviewing the criminal justice system.

“One of the things she’s looking at is mandatory minimum sentences,” he said.

“If those are reduced that will help people with FASD who are in a mandatory minimum sentence who shouldn’t be in jail at all or shouldn’t be in a mandatory sentence, should maybe be in other types of treatment.”

Wenda Bradley, executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon (FASSY), is not surprised that many MPs are unfamiliar with FASD.

“We run across this all the time in any profession. So why would MPs, unless they’ve been specifically involved with a family member or a friend or work, know about this?”

Even though Bagnell’s bill was defeated, Bradley said the process was worthwhile because it got a conversation going on the prevalence of FASD in the justice system.

“Because until we get talking about it on levels where people have more influence on the bigger culture of Canada then it’s not going to get recognized to the extent it needs to be.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

5 Comments

Red wrote:
10:20am Saturday December 17, 2016

Education?  You need about as much education telling people drinking when you are pregnant is bad, as you need education telling people shooting yourself in the foot will hurt. 

And making even less people responsible for their criminal actions?  How is that a good thing?

All for programs and treatment, councillors.  What ever….that is all great.  But if there is one trend I hate in society today is no one is at fault for their actions anymore…everyone is a victim…  meanwhile the actual victims and society gets let in the dust.

Fact Check Time wrote:
11:05am Friday December 16, 2016

Frozen Toes, you are kidding about more education right? There is not a single person in this territory who has not heard many times ‘don’t drink when you’re pregnant’. Every time they lift a bottle to their lips it even says right on the bottle- drinking during pregnancy endangers your unborn child. Everyone knows people with FAS in their communities and has seen with their own eyes what drinking during pregnancy does to a unborn baby. There are government funded posters, newspaper adds, commercials, and never ending public health classes specifically aimed at preventing FAS. In spite of all this you have the audacity to state government ignores this problem? This is not about more education its about people knowing exactly what they are doing to their unborn children and making the decision to drink anyways.

Frozen Toes wrote:
10:09pm Thursday December 15, 2016

Good work Larry. I think the gov’t should have more resources for people who suffer with FAS\FAE. This disorder is definitly 100% preventable and I think more education and resources are needed to prevent this from happening. Gov’t makes a lot of money off of alcohol in the form of taxes and they are also well aware that some pregnant women due consume alcohol when they are expecting. It is almost like gov’t sees no evil, hears no evil. Gov’t ignores this because of money, god help it if they loss of any of it. I know some people will say that a women has a choice as to whether she drinks or not but, does the unborn baby have a choice, NO. People who have FAS\FAE should sue the gov’t for selling alchohol when they know it does damage to unborn babies. What is 9 months compared to a lifetime?

A little off wrote:
11:29pm Wednesday December 14, 2016

Good try Larry, your work is appreciated.

Perhaps with education, and a little common sense, fasd can be eradicated.  Yes, that is a choice.  And we wont have need for it to be recognised as a disability.

Duane Gastant' Aucoin wrote:
3:32pm Wednesday December 14, 2016

This is so disappointing! Gunalcheesh Larry for trying your best! Hopefully one day Canada will realise that FASD is a permanent disability & treated as such! :(

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