We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to recognize as a high priority the need to address and prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and to develop, in collaboration with Aboriginal people, FASD preventive programs that can be delivered in a culturally appropriate manner.
Indigenous Watchdog Status Update
|Current Status||Oct. 4 2021||IN PROGRESS|
|Previous Status||Sept. 5, 2021||IN PROGRESS|
Why “In Progress”?
Budget 2017 of the Federal Government allocated an “additional” $10.5M over 5 years with $3.7M ongoing to the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Program beyond the $14.2M allocated annually prior to 2017-2018. By 2022 the annual funding will have increased from $16.3M to $17.9M as part of an existing suite of services aimed to improve health outcomes for First Nations and Inuit children, families and communities. No mention of Métis.
Aug. 2, 2019 – Launch of Agir Tôt (Act Early) program in Quebec including funding for FASD screening in the Nunavik region in northern Quebec.
Multiple initiatives in the provinces and territories.
Federal Budget commitments to FASD Prevention programs
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Programs
Public Health Agency of Canada
Nov. 12, 2018 – $1.1M of funding over 3 years to the National FASD Mentoring Project, led by the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate FASD information and awareness sessions to support Indigenous children and their families living off reserve across Canada.
The Saskatchewan Prevention Institute will work with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) program staff and community Elders throughout the project to ensure that information sessions respond to the needs of communities. Training will take place at AHSUNC off-reserve community sites across Canada over the next three years. The National FASD Mentoring Project will help build community capacity for the prevention of FASD as well as provide evidence-based information about FASD in a culturally appropriate manner. (Cision)
July 24, 2019 – $1.8M over 4 years Funding to support new projects focused on increasing public awareness and understanding of FASD, and the risks of prenatal alcohol exposure. These projects are being funded under the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder National Strategic Projects Fund. The Fund aims to prevent FASD and to improve the outcomes for those affected by FASD through the development of knowledge, tools and resources. Sample prohects incliude:
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
FASD prevention school-based program for children and adolescents in select urban, rural and First Nation schools in Ontario, Canada
$843,163. This pilot project aims to educate youth aged 12 to 18 about the risks of prenatal alcohol and other substance use in order to raise awareness and understanding of FASD and prevent alcohol use during pregnancy.
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Supporting our Inuit Families and Communities: $558,041
This project will conduct focus group sessions and interviews that will inform future programming and policies, and support the promotion of FASD prevention in Inuit communities. This project aims to improve maternal and infant outcomes for Inuit women and their families, and reduce stigma associated with FASD
Other Government Commitments to FASD Programs
April 15, 2021 – BC Representative for Children and Youth – released a report “Excluded: Increasing Understanding, Support and Inclusion for Children with FASD and their Families” that recommends that the provincial government should take both immediate and long-term action to improve supports and services to children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and their families.
Children with suspected or confirmed FASD should immediately be made eligible for the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s (MCFD) Family Support Services for Children and Youth with Special Needs (CYSN), based on functional need, thereby allowing these children and their families access to services that are available to those with other specific neuro-developmental conditions, said Representative Jennifer Charlesworth.
Among the report’s key findings is that structural racism appears to lead to assumptions that can influence referral processes for assessment of FASD. Clinicians and service providers involved in those processes described a noticeable trend of Indigenous children being referred for FASD assessments, while non-Indigenous children presenting in a similar manner are more commonly referred for other assessments
The report has 11 specific recommendations.
2008 – 2018 – Nine provincial government ministries – including Justice – were involved in the development of “A 10-year Provincial Plan (FASD – Building on Strengths” which demonstrates government’s commitment to a collaborative, cross-ministry approach. The FASD Plan serves to guide the efforts of provincial ministries and regional and community-based partners. It has fostered the coordination of these organizations in addressing the complexities of FASD prevention, improving the early identification of FASD, and supporting those living with this disability and their families in BC.
2008 – 2018 – 9 provincial government ministries – including Justice – and other agencies developed a 10-year FASD Strategic Plan to design, administer and develop prevention programs, assessment and diagnosis services, and support for those affected by the disorder coordinated through 12 FASD Service Networks in Alberta.
1995 – The FASD Network of Saskatchewan is a parent-led organization that helps individuals with FASD and their families recognize themselves as safe, supported, valued and contributing members of the community. The FASD Family Support Program offers individualized support to families living with FASD along with opportunities to gather, connect and share lived experiences. This program has a goal of empowering healthy families and healthy communities.
2014 – The Saskatchewan Prevention Institute releases “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevention Framework 2014.” The FASD Prevention Framework is based on the Levels of FASD Prevention Framework developed by Nancy Poole with the Children’s & Women’s Health Centre of British Columbia (2008). This approach clearly delineates four levels of prevention activities to comprehensively address FASD prevention.
2007 – Manitoba’s FASD Strategy is an interdepartmental partnership, with direction from the Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet, working together to support the community to address FASD. Manitoba Children and Youth Opportunities, through Healthy Child Manitoba, chairs this initiative. The Manitoba government continues to invest in and expand their 2007 FASD Strategy, and remains committed to the strategy’s five essential goals: Knowledge, Prevention, Intervention, Evidence, Quality
2009 – The Manitoba FASD Centre is a multidisciplinary assessment, education, training and research service of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Child Health Program. It provides assessment and diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in individuals. The Centre, established in 2009 and located at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children, was formerly the Clinic for Alcohol & Drug Exposed Children (CADEC) which had been operating from Winnipeg Children’s Hospital since 1999. The renamed service reflects an expanded mandate with a significant increase of services that include: Assessment, Education, Training and Research
Dec. 21, 2020 – Developed a comprehensive FASD training package in partnership with numerous FASD service providers. The training package will include four modules:
- the social context of FASD,
- what is FASD?
- strategies for support/intervention.
Module 1 includes two Elders teachings (a Unity Teaching and an Alcohol Teaching), which teach participants how colonization, residential schools and intergenerational trauma has impacted Indigenous communities
FASD Ontario is an online, accessible and bilingual website that has a:
- directory of information and services
- list of learning events
- compilation of local, national and international news online community to share information
The Indigenous Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)/Child Nutrition Program (FASD/CNP) is designed and delivered by Indigenous service providers to Indigenous children, youth and families across Ontario. The program provides:
- healthy lifestyle education;
- personal support; and
- traditional cultural activities which promote FASD prevention and healthy nutrition.
Individuals living with FASD and their families are offered intervention support services Program staff also:
- produce community resource materials
- offer professional development training on prevention and intervention to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous social service providers, educators, justice and medical personnel; and
- provide training on healthy nutrition to community service providers and families.
Syndrome d’alcoolisation fœtale Québec (only available in French)
Aug. 2, 2019 – The Government of Quebec has committed $48M towards the launch of Agir Tôt (Act Early) program, an initiative to screen for and diagnose development delays, physical and intellectual disabilities, and autism spectrum disorder in young children from birth to age five. Funding will include a new health intervention team to help screen for neurological disorders in Nunavik children. “Special attention will be deployed to increase the screening of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.” (Nunatsiaq News)
Newfoundland and Labrador
The fasdNL Network was officially formed in December 2012. By promoting accurate and credible information, fasdNL is focused on increasing the awareness of FASD and related issues among individuals, families and communities. The fasdNL Network believes that such awareness efforts will assist in the prevention of FASD as well as to increase support and functioning for those affected by FASD.
Sept. 7, 2018 – The Government of Yukon released a What We Heard document today that summarizes the key findings of its public engagement on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The public engagement took place from May 2017 through February 2018. Representatives from the FASD Interagency Advisory Committee travelled to nine Yukon communities to meet with identified stakeholders, including First Nation and municipal governments, service providers and community members. The information gathered through this engagement is now being considered by the territorial government as it develops a Yukon FASD Action Plan.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health: FASD Report
Sept. 9, 2021: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health: CAMH released Developing a Multi-source Surveillance System for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Prenatal Alcohol Exposure, prepared for the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“The effects of exposure to alcohol before birth, including FASD, must be recognized globally as a substantial public health problem with a prevalence rate that exceeds that of Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder,” the report states. “Addressing the determinants of FASD, which are a complex interplay of factors, including trauma and health inequity, is therefore a critical public health priority.”
FASD is a lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of individuals who were exposed to alcohol in the womb. It can be difficult to diagnose and currently there is no coordinated national surveillance system to monitor the prevalence of FASD in Canada.
“Overall, FASD is largely underreported and underdiagnosed,” says lead author Dr. Lana Popova, Senior Scientist, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH. “There is an urgent need for increased funding to expand diagnostic capacity and services. FASD is typically detected through a broad spectrum of psychometric tests conducted by a multi-disciplinary team that includes specialist physicians, psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists. Inequitable access to this resource-intensive diagnostic process results in many individuals with FASD never receiving a diagnosis and therefore never receiving treatment.”
This report is the first of its kind in Canada, presenting all existing data from a variety of sources on FASD and FAE prevalence rates in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
Other key report recommendations include:
- Expand Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Care for Individuals with FASD;
- Establish a Canada-Wide Surveillance System for FASD with Consistent Diagnostic Codes;
- Establish a Universal Screening Protocol and Surveillance System for Alcohol Use during Pregnancy in Canada;
- Expand Brief Interventions and Substance Use Programs for Women of Childbearing age; and
- Continue and Expand Preconception Health Promotion and Education.
The report also speaks to the importance of addressing stigma around alcohol use during pregnancy. “Stigma directed at pregnant people who report alcohol use is strong, with serious impacts on their health, adds Dr. Popova. “Anti-stigma strategies need to be employed alongside educational strategies regarding alcohol use and pregnancy.”
Canadian Bar Association
Responding to the TRC Calls to Action March 2016: FASD
In 2010 and 2013, the CBA called for greater sensitivity and flexibility in the criminal justice and corrections systems to deal more appropriately with people with brain injuries such as FASD. The CBA and others recognize the disproportionate incidence of FASD in Indigenous communities. Calls to action 33 and 34 are consistent with the CBA position on this issue, and recognize the importance of seeing this problem through an Indigenous lens.
Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019
Prior to fiscal year 2017 to 2018, the Government of Canada had been investing $14.2 million, annually and ongoing through the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Program to support First Nations and Inuit communities to prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder births and improve the quality of life of those affected by the disorder. Budget 2017 secured an additional $10.5 million over 5 years, with $3.7 million ongoing to expand the mentoring and community coordinator projects. As a result of this increased funding, by 2022 Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) will invest $17.9 million annually and ongoing.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder funding is part of a suite of community-based investments in Healthy Child Development that support access to a continuum of services aimed to improve health outcomes for First Nations and Inuit infants, children, families and communities. In addition, ISC continues to work with Indigenous partners and the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD) to support knowledge generation and exchange.