On December 14, 2017, Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Sophie Kiwala presented two important private member’s motions for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Ontario.
The first one, to recognize September 9th of each year as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day (FASDay) in Ontario, received unanimous consent from all parties.
The gravity of the motion hit home when one of the guests who has FASD and was present at the Legislature said to me with tears in her eyes “I have felt like a dirty little secret all of my life”.
We need to create a world where increased awareness and less stigma, will result in reduced cases. That is what this motion is all about.
I am so grateful to all members how spoke on the bill including; Steve Clark (MPP, Leeds-Grenville), Bill Walker (MPP, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound), Teresa Armstrong, (MPP, London-Fanshawe) Peggy Sattler, Granville Anderson (MPP Durham), John Fraser (MPP Ottawa South). – MPP, Sophie Kiwala
This was great news on many levels, but for me, most importantly, it took Ontario 20 years to recognize an awareness day, celebrated all around the world, yet started in its own backyard. Better late than never I suppose.
The second motion put foward Bill 191, an Act to amend the Education Act in relation to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) was carried for first reading, but requires a total of three readings to receive royal assent and come into law.
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
1 The Education Act is amended by adding the following Part:
FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDER (FASD)
320.1 (1) Every board shall promote awareness and understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), including best practices to support pupils who may have FASD.
(2) Every board shall facilitate collaboration with parents and FASD Support Groups in undertaking the promotion under subsection (1).
According to Rob More, author of the Give Us More Special Needs blog: MPP Kiwala, as a backbencher, does not have any more opportunities to have this Bill moved forward to second reading. It requires a cabinet minister to do so. The most likely minister is the new Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris.
According to Rob More, it is important to band together and write these letters.
It is clear our current government is not currently willing to mandate FASD as a priority issue due to the fact all cabinet ministers removed themselves for the FASD motion vote so not to show support on behalf of the current government.
When the election writ is dropped in the next few months, all bills waiting readings will be gone and so Bill 191 will disappear.
This is why it is so important to write a letter to the Education Minister immediately, as if the Minister does not take it forward for a second reading (February 20), it will be dropped and an incredible opportunity to change the education landscape for thousands of children and youth, will be lost.
The author of the Special Needs blog, Rob More, has prepared a template which you can use (I’ve copied it below). Visit the link above to download the letter.
Dear Honourable Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris,
I would like to share with you my congratulations on your new portfolio and the statement you made at the Trillium Grant announcement for your riding:
“The Halton Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Collaborative provides important support for many Halton families facing challenges in their lives. This Ontario Trillium Foundation grant will help them expand their vital services and take care of the unique needs of local children and families affected by FASD. I’m so pleased our FASD community is getting this help.”
I am also writing to you to support Bill 191 which would amend the Education Act to promote awareness and understanding of FASD in our school systems and involve parents and Support Groups in the promotion. I would also ask for your help in bringing this Bill forward for second and third reading before the next election writ is dropped.
As a parent of (number) beautiful children impacted by FASD, I know firsthand how difficult life can be for my children. However, I have also seen when collaboration, support and early intervention exist within the school, my children can succeed.
When supports and early intervention were not in place for my child at school, we had several events and challenges where we had to find solutions. These events included things like: (list some of the challenges you have dealt with).
However, when we have collaborated with others like (list some of your supporting people or organizations), we have found success. We have learned it is through collaboration that we have discovered what types of support and early intervention our child needs. When our child started receiving supports like (list the supports and strategies that have worked for you), this is when we really started to see success.
However, the biggest challenge we are currently facing in our school board right now is a lack of understanding and corresponding strategy on how to best help my child. They do not seem to fully understand how FASD impacts my child’s learning, behaviour and challenges which we know is unique from any other neurodevelopmental disability. This is why Bill 191 is so important. We need school boards across the province to begin the discussion on what FASD is, how to support it, and determine best practices from us, the caregiving experts, on how to implement it in their schools.
Finally, as a member of the (name your FASD organization) and connected within the provincial FASD network, I also know what happens when this early intervention and collaboration doesn’t exist. When I think about what our FASD pioneers have gone through, I am wanting to see a brighter future for my child. Please give all our Ontario families and children being impacted by FASD hope with the passing of this bill. I know for my family, hope is what we need right now.
You can send your letter to Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris through email:
Also send a copy to:
House Leader, the Honourable Yasir Navqi firstname.lastname@example.org who schedules the dockets in consultation with Opposition House Leader email@example.com and Third Party House Leader Gilles Bisson firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also a good idea to copy MPP Sophie Kiwala, (email@example.com) as well as your local MPP. Click here to find a list of MPPs.
Please feel free to share this post, your letter, or the template created by Rob More with everyone you know and ask them to send their own letter. We need as many voices as possible telling the government that our children can no longer wait.
To stay up to date on the latest Ontario government FASD news, you can set up Google Alerts to receive updates direct to your email inbox. Although not as handy, you can visit Ontario government website for updates on the FASD strategy.