Liberals plan to push their own FASD bill

A federal Liberal MP is proposing a new bill related to FASD in the Canadian justice system. Well, it's sort of new. The bill is nearly identical to the one that was proposed by Yukon's MP Ryan Leef and later nixed.

A federal Liberal MP is proposing a new bill related to FASD in the Canadian justice system.

Well, it’s sort of new.

The bill is nearly identical to the one that was proposed by Yukon’s MP Ryan Leef and later nixed.

Sean Casey admits his bill has many obstacles before becoming law. But both he and Yukon Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell insist the new version is not just about political posturing or prepping for the upcoming election.

Casey’s bill will be introduced sometime late this week or early next, he said. It would do the same three things as Leef’s Bill C-583.

It would define FASD in the legal context. It would also give judges the ability to order assessments of people who may suffer from the disorder, and permit the court to consider FASD a mitigating circumstance during sentencing.

On top of what was written in Leef’s bill, the Liberal incarnation would give judges the power to order additional supports for a person even after their probation is over.

It would also amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, requiring the Correctional Service of Canada to accommodate FASD as a disability.

Casey said the specific wording of the bill is still being worked on. All five points come from a recommendation by the Canadian Bar Association.

Leef introduced his private member’s bill in April, but he pulled it last month, asserting that there wasn’t enough time to make it to law ahead of next year’s election.

Leef’s bill stood in 130th place on the list of private members’ bills.

He agreed to pull his bill on the condition that a committee still examine the issue of FASD in the criminal justice system.

Casey, the Liberal justice critic and MP for Charlottetown, says he doesn’t believe Leef’s explanation.

“So his stated reason is that there isn’t enough time. The real reason is that there isn’t enough support within his own caucus,” Casey said, adding, “If I am right, the forces within the Conservative caucus that killed Mr. Leef’s bill will also likely kill this one.”

MPs with private members’ bills have the option of swapping spots with each other to get their bills higher on the list. Casey said Leef never came to the Liberals looking for a higher spot.

“I would be very surprised if there wasn’t somebody within the NDP caucus, within the Liberal caucus, who would have been willing to trade their spot with him because they share his concern about this issue.”

Questions to Leef about whether he tried to move up on the list were not answered in time for today’s deadline.

In an earlier interview, he denied being pressured by his party.

During second reading of the bill on Nov. 20, Robert Goguen, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, raised some doubts about the bill. He asked why only FASD was being addressed and not other mental disabilities.

He then moved to withdraw the bill and refer it to committee and Leef agreed to the motion.

Casey said as soon as his bill is written, he will start looking for someone to swap spots with on the list.

He said the issue should be voted on.

“This is a very, very serious issue. It is one that has cross-party support. It is one that has at least some support within the Conservative caucus and we are bringing it forward to see whether the numbers within the Conservative caucus are going to be enough to pass it.”

MPs from all three major parties spoke in favour of the bill during its first reading.

Yukon Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell was at Casey’s announcement this week.

He insists this is not about prepping ammo for the next election.

“This isn’t about Ryan and me. This is about there are people in jail right now that shouldn’t be, that don’t fit with the justice system. There will be people tomorrow and the next day,” he said.

“I think (it) needs to be seen, that the Parliament is trying to do as much as they can, as suggested by the CBA, to get this front and centre.”

Leef attacked Bagnell in a letter, criticizing him for claiming that he had been working on issues surrounding FASD.

“I read with great surprise SLps Larry Bagnell told Yukoners that he was working on ‘similar legislation’ to my Bill C-583 before he left Parliament. Eleven years is a long time to be ‘working’ on something,” the letter says.

“Of course, the truth is, he wasn’t working on a bill to deal with FASD anymore than he was working on running the Boston Marathon.”

During the current, 41st parliament, only six of 399 private members bills tabled have become law.

The Liberals list a handful of bills they say made it through the process quickly enough for Leef’s bill to have become law before the next election.

Those include private members bills to increase awareness about epilepsy, respecting the national flag and an amendment to the criminal code related to human trafficking.

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