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NAN Continues to Pressure Ontario/Canada to Address FASD

March 4, 2013

Thunder Bay, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says the governments of Ontario and Canada continued inaction to address the serious issue of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) will result in irreparable damage to the health of current and future generations to come. He made his remarks following his return from the 5th annual International Conference on FASD in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“FASD is an issue faced by all NAN communities. Coupled with a legacy of historical trauma, housing and poverty issues, and the lack of quality resources, supports and services, the impacts are devastating,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “It is unacceptable that the regions most impacted by FASD are ignored. Even those few NAN children that receive assessment, diagnostic and follow-up rehabilitation services are those who are in the care of a child welfare agency, or youth involved in the criminal justice system. These are services that must be available to all our people.”

In December 2011, NAN called on the government of Ontario to get serious about FASD and develop an integrated provincial strategy for First Nations and all Ontarians however, there has been no movement by Ontario to implement such a concept which includes early diagnosis, intervention and follow up treatment – basic essential services lacking in NAN territory.

Furthermore, at the Federal level, the government introduced Bill C-10, an omnibus bill titled the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which further criminalizes not only aboriginal people, but people who are poor, mentally ill and disabled with conditions like FASD. Bill C-10 increases punishments for more crimes and limits discretion of judges who are in the best position to look at the individual factors of each case at sentencing.

Early diagnosis and intervention of FASD prevents many of the complicating factors such as involvement in the criminal justice system in the first place.

“Communities should be equipped to support individuals to avoid their involvement in the justice system in the first place, instead of criminalizing individuals with brain damage such as FASD who are already overrepresented in the provincial and federal justice systems,” said Fiddler, who while attending the Conference participated in a breakout session focusing on FASD in the Canadian Correctional Population.

“Treatment that addresses the specific symptoms of FASD is necessary to ensure the proper rehabilitation of such offenders – the public will be safer in the long run.”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty No. 9 and Ontario portions of Treaty No. 5 – an area covering two thirds of the province of Ontario in Canada.

For more information please contact:
Amy Harris, Director of Communications, Nishnawbe Aski Nation – (807) 625-4906 or cell (807) 252-2806 – email [email protected]