The maiden participated in her first role as an advocate for services for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has started a cross-Canada Tour and included a stop on Friday, January 13th, in a small village close to us. It meant missing part of school, but I thought this was a great opportunity for my daughter to see our Prime Minister in person. She surprised me when she decided to write a note to give to him introducing herself, and telling her story.
I had no idea if we could get close enough to hand it to him, but we bundled up and got in the car at 7:30 a.m. and drove to Bewdley, Ontario.
He was expected to arrive for 9 a.m. This Prime Minister has always taken time to greet people so we lined up across the street from where the police had barricaded a section for his vehicle or tour bus (we didn’t know how he would be arriving). His office had not released details about his visit with much notice, so when we arrived we found out we could not get into the restaurant where he was going to be greeting people, so we lined up with a few hundred other people.
The crowd was small, being a small town, a short stop (only 30 minutes) and a school and work day. He had held a town hall type meeting in Belleville the night before and was heading off to Peterborough that morning, so we thought there would be more of a chance to get close in this small village.
He surprised everyone when his motorcade came from the opposite end of the village – so we were the furthest from him. Undaunted, we walked toward the motorcade, but when my daughter tried to hand him her card, an Ontario Provincial Police officer told her she was not allowed. The Prime Minister was quickly ushered into the restaurant.
I could see how disappointed she was, so told her not to worry, we would mail the card to him. I also suggested if we waited until he came out, she might get another opportunity to hand it to him. She was a bit worried about being told no again, but I told her if she was, we would mail it.
We found a place to stand close to the exit and waited. When he first came out, he was busy signing autographs and taking pictures with others who were closer. She asked if she could move further down the line, so I said go ahead and I’ll try to get a picture of you if he stops.
I soon lost sight of her (except for her hand), as the crowd moved forward and I was pushed back. However when the PM had finished and climbed back into his car and drove off, I heard an excited voice: “Mom, I met him. He hugged me and took my card!” I was so happy for her, but disappointed I was not able to get a picture.
Being the polite person she is, she asked one of his security team if she could give him the card. The man told her if the PM stopped to talk to her, she could – but she couldn’t just hand it to him. And he saw her (must have been the Pikachu hat!), stopped to say hello, greeted her with what she called a “side hug”, asked if she could give him the card, he said yes, she said, “My mom is back there trying to get a picture.” He asked “Where” she said” I can’t see her.”, but he took the card and she thanked him.
The maiden does not always speak about having FASD. She is not really sure how to advocate for herself yet, but she took the first step in doing so by presenting our Prime Minister with a plea to get more services for her and people like her.
The Canadian government does have a FASD strategy, but it seems to focus more on awareness and research. There isn’t a lot I see for services. There isn’t even a strategy yet in Ontario (the province we live in). I have no idea if the PM will read her card, or if it will make any difference, but she had an opportunity to let her voice be heard. And that is what democracy and advocacy is about in its simplest form.
What Justin Trudeau and his government do with that voice is out of our hands. She told her story in a few lines. I hope he listens and takes some action.