Leef’s criminal code amendment is on the right track

Leef's criminal code amendment is on the right track The Yukon branch of the Canadian Bar Association supports the introduction of Yukon MP Ryan Leef's private member's bill to improve access to justice for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disor

The Yukon branch of the Canadian Bar Association supports the introduction of Yukon MP Ryan Leef’s private member’s bill to improve access to justice for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

The bill would require the courts to consider, as a mitigating factor in sentencing, a determination that the offender suffers from FASD, if the condition was relevant or contributed to the commission of the offence.

The CBA Yukon has been advocating on this issue for years. This bill represents the most significant step forward that we have seen to date in the quest for access to justice for individuals in the criminal justice system born with this neurological disability.

The CBA Yukon urges non-partisan, all party support in principle so that this bill can get to a parliamentary committee for further study and make any necessary amendments.

Last summer our Canadian Bar Association, a national organization of over 37,000 lawyers, adopted a policy resolution proposed by the CBA Yukon calling for specific changes to the criminal law as it applies to individuals with FASD.

Mr. Leef’s bill adopts the CBA resolution recommendations to define FASD, order assessments, and treat FASD as a mitigating factor in determining sentences, although it doesn’t include our recommendations for external support orders or changes to the federal Corrections and Conditional Release Act to accommodate FASD as a disability when providing correctional services to inmates with FASD.

CBA Yukon has also called on the Yukon government to amend the territorial Corrections Act to accommodate individuals with FASD in the Yukon corrections system. Mr. Leef has acknowledged his bill does not address prevention or programming in correctional facilities, which he agrees are necessary.

CBA Yukon shares his hope that his bill will further discussion and will lead to the development of complementary legislation. It is our hope that the Yukon government, which has shown national leadership on the FASD issue, will be inspired by Mr. Leef’s bill to take action in our correctional system to make a difference for individuals with FASD.

Individuals with FASD are in contact with the criminal justice system more frequently than the general population because often their ability to control impulsive behaviour, to understand the consequences of their actions, and to internally modify their behaviour is impaired because of their disability. We can do better than we are currently to address this access to justice issue.

Heather MacFadgen

President of the Yukon Branch,

Canadian Bar Association

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