February 20 came and went without any acknowledgement from the Education Minister that she would bring Bill 191 – to amend the Education Act to promote awareness and understanding of FASD, including best practices to support pupils who may have FASD and collaborate with parents and support groups – forward for a second reading.
Many wrote to the Education Minister and their local MPP asking for the Bill to move forward, without any response. My own MPP has not even acknowledged my letter to him. Despite the lack of action on the Bill at the legislature, there has been a lot of momentum growing within the FASD community.
Sign the Petition
In particular, Maryann Post, one of the advocates working tirelessly to get the word out, created a petition Support Bill 191 which, as of this writing, has 900 signatures of parents, caregivers and professionals who support someone with FASD. Many are sharing very emotional and personal experiences navigating the Education System. Take a few minutes to check out their stories and add your name to petition and share the link on your own social media sites.
Share the Graphics
I have been creating graphics with some of these quotes and sharing on Twitter. Feel free to share these as well.
Why Bill 191 Matters
For those wondering why this Bill matters, Mark Courtepatte, Co-chair of the Hamilton FASD support group sums it up:
Many people may not realize just how significant Bill 191 is … it is more than legally requiring awareness and best practices support for FASD and collaborating with parents and support groups … the Ontario school system has more than 1.9 million students. Imagine next year having 1.9 million students understanding what the letters FASD mean, understanding that it is caused by pre-natal alcohol … imagine children growing up understanding the risk of sex and alcohol … imagine teachers and EAs being legally required to be trained and use best practices to support every child with FASD … imagine the reduction in the stigma and shame and blame … and many of the 1.9 million students talking to their parents and friends about it …. imagine how it will benefit each child with FASD having the benefit of awareness and best practices support enabling them to achieve their greatest potential … THIS IS HUGE!!! I believe it will roll across the rest of Canada … and the world as more jurisdictions will feel pressured to do the same. PLEASE WRITE YOUR LETTERS … you have an opportunity to change the lives for so many children and adults … please don’t leave it to others to write the letters because you don’t have the time to do it …. the future for every child with FASD depends on each and every one of you!!!
Share Your Story
As noted in a previous blog, the Education Minister was replying with a non-committal and form letter to people writing to her. The Halton FASD Parent and Caregiver Support Group has been doing a fabulous job of advocacy. You can follow this link to read their response to Ms. Naidoo-Harris.
Rob More, from Give Us More Special Needs blog provides the following update on Bill 191 and the impact our advocacy is having:
The second reading of Bill 191 has been added to the orders of the day. It is currently waiting to be added to the schedule. This decision is made by the House Leaders led by the Honourable Yasir Navqi in consultation with MPP Jim Wilson and MPP Gilles Bisson.
The Political Support
MPP Randy Hillier shared the following letter advocating for this scheduling:
You will notice that he states this bill has a lot of support from MPP’s and there is no reasonable explanation for why it should be delayed. I believe this is the first public statement made by an MPP in support of Bill 191.
Add Your Voice to the Movement
I would encourage you to follow suit and be loud. Copy and paste the following letter into an email and send it to the three house leaders, MPP Kiwala and MPP Hillier, and your local MPP. You can also mail the email to the addresses listed at the top of MPP Hillier’s letter.
February 23, 2018
Dear House Leaders,
I am writing to you today regarding Bill 191 Education Amendment Act (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) 2017, introduced in the House by MPP Sophie Kiwala (Kingston and the Islands) on December 13, 2017.
It is my understanding from the unanimous assent on the first reading that this bill will face no obstacles or objections to passing. Simple in its construction, it promotes awareness and understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) within our school boards, and facilitates collaboration between school boards and local FASD Groups.
With the end of this Session of Parliament quickly closing upon us as we lead into an Ontario General Election, I am asking that you work together to ensure the speedy passage of Bill 191 through the legislative process, that it may become law before the House is dissolved for the 42nd Ontario General Election.
I look forward to your mutual consideration of this request, and your timely reply.
Copies: Sophie Kiwala, MPP
Randy Hillier, MPP
2. House Leader Yasir Navqi met at the end of January with his constituents and listened to a passionate plea to expedite the passing of Bill 191 and appeared to be receptive. However, as you can see from the Hansard Orders M191 is printed – but not scheduled. Rowan’s Law was chosen on Tuesday for second reading to be debated which also amends the Education Act to establish protocols and procedures related to concussions. I find it interesting that the Brain Injury Association of Canada Brian Injury Prevalence states that there are currently 1.5 million people in Canada living with an acquired brain injury which includes concussions, accident victims, stroke victims, oxygen deprivation victims and other conditions. We have established through recent research there are at least 1.1 million people in Canada impacted by FASD which doesn’t include their caregivers. If Rowan’s Law, a private member public bill looking to amend the Education Act AND controversial is being given priority, shouldn’t Bill 191 be next?
3. 1,203 of you downloaded the template letter requesting Education Minister Naidoo-Harris to advocate for Bill 191. There are now over 10,000 of you currently reading this blog. Director of Education for Keewatin Patricia District School Board Sean Monteith and Director of Education Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board Manny Figueiredo have publicly stated their support for Bill 191. The CDSBEO, Hamilton, and four other SEAC’s have publicly stated their support for Bill 191. The Minister of Education Special Advisory Committee has asked for a survey to be created to give them points of conversation regarding FASD and Bill 191. Every single group directly impacted by Bill 191 has voiced their support as well as every single House party. Why are House Leaders Navqi, Wilson and Bisson not scheduling this bill?
4. Martyn Beckett, Assistant Deputy Minister, Student Support and Field Services Division, Ministry of Education currently has been assigned the FASD portfolio for the Ministry of Education and is ready to go if Bill 191 is passed.
5. The Kingston Parent Action Group has secured a room at Queen’s Park on April 11 with MPP Kiwala’s help and financial support from Dr. James Reynolds of Kids Brain Health and Steve and Karen Catney of Alliance Youth Services and has invited all 107 MPP’s to meet with them. They have secured the presence of several national FASD experts to network with them. The room has capacity for 75 people and the hope is to have it filled. After three days, there are already six MPP’s with their staff who have confirmed their attendance. It is our expectation that Bill 191 will already be passed and we will be discussing next steps in regards to FASD Awareness.
Keep an eye out for Vanessa Hrvatin and the National Post. We should be seeing some stories on FASD coming out soon.
I am looking forward to this coming election. You should be thinking about showing up at your local MPP’s debate and being the first to ask a question. Local papers always print the first couple questions asked and this is really free and easy publicity for FASD and its message.
I haven’t heard any news regarding the MCYS applications as to which organization is responsible for distributing the money for the One Stop Hub, the Research Hub, or the Parent Support Groups. I have heard the Key Worker hirings have started and applications are being received across the province.
We are making unbelievable progress and each one of you should be commended for all you do. None of this is possible without your involvement. Please keep it up and make a difference
Alot is happening, and we need to keep the momentum going, and keep the pressure on the politicians to let them know, now is the time to recognize and accommodate FASD in the education system in Ontario.
Thank you to Rob More for keeping us up to date on what is happening!
To recap, here is what you can do:
And we’ve made it easy by giving templates (see above links)
- Write/Email the Education Minister asking her to bring Bill 191 forward.
- Write/Email your MPP asking him/her to ask the Education Minister to bring the Bill forward.
- Sign the petition and share it with your friends, family and colleagues.
- Copy and paste the letter to the House Leaders and email to the list above.
- Follow Our Sacred Breath on Twitter or Facebook for daily graphics you can share.
This is an incredible opportunity we have. Let’s use it and keep FASD in the spotlight!