A forum for comments on FASD, sharing, life challenges, politics and other things that bother us. By GrampaBrian, FASD Advocate (AKA Brian Philcox)

Archive for March, 2015

Niqab Ninnies

Let’s be clear – I was raised a Catholic but my thirst for more information about all religion led me to become a reformed Catholic. So, presumably I could still write RC on a form if asked but I must also acknowledge that I am a reformed smoker too. As some would say, I’m in recovery.

Without delving into all the various aspects of the many religions now and in the past, suffice to say they are generally based on tradition, superstition and mythology. I don’t have any problem if someone finds solace in any of these aspects – I simply don’t want their philosophies imposed on me. Freedom of expression means the ability to say or do anything you feel inclined, as long as you inflict no harm or hindrance on anyone else.

In the case of the niqab (or the burka, hijab, whatever) in places where the authorities demand that its use is required or suffer physical punishment; this is totalitarian despotism and goes against every fibre of my sensibility. Why we tolerate friendly relationships with regimes who impose this kind of stricture on women is beyond me and no amount of commercial profit can excuse this form of hypocrisy by our political and business leaders.

However, here in Canada we pride ourselves on an environment of freedom of expression and tolerance for benevolent diversity. If someone here likes to dress in any kind of different or odd manner, that is a choice. No one is forcing that individual to dress in the way that person has decided to. We see unusually different modes of costume at Pride Parades, fashion shows and among religious groups, for example. Whether it’s a wimple, gamp, turban, yarmulka or side curls, we see that these differences are harmless and simply culturally informed. I’m often baffled by what some golfers wear on the links, why some men choose to look scruffy in half-grown beards or why some women wear platform stilettos. But to get your knickers in a knot over some women who choose to wear the niqab seems pointless. If a woman is legally allowed to go bare chested down the street as men can, what business is it of mine if she so chooses to do so? In Canada these are personal choices, not dictates from some male authority. As for the PM’s pandering to the troglodytes in his party, a person going to a public swearing-in ceremony  has already been approved for citizenship and been authenticated by a Canadian official. So please, let’s condemn the Saudi Wahhabists for their intolerant cruelty to women but let Canadian women enjoy the freedom of choice we so proudly espouse.

Meanwhile, would the politicians and the media kindly shut up on this subject?

An Ontario policy on FASD?

My MPP, Mitzie Hunter, reports that The Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) is transforming the child and youth mental health system through the ‘Moving on Mental Health’ plan. Lead agencies are an integral aspect of this transformation. Their role will be to coordinate efforts locally for the 34 geographic service areas in the province.

As it happens, Bonnie, Linda Rosenbaum and I met with the parliamentary secretary to the MCYS Minister yesterday to outline the current state of FASD in Ontario. Granville Anderson is doing some preliminary  consulting about this issue and has promised to keep us informed of developments and would continue to bring us into the conversation as the consultation process continues.

Here are some of the key points we reviewed with Mr. Anderson and his Executive Assistant, Ian McMillan:

General FASD Picture

  • High numbers of Ontarians struggling with FASD: invisible; undiagnosed; limited resources
  • High cost of FASD to our society for education, social services, health and justice systems
  • No apparent provincial policy to deal with FASD crisis

Our experience

  • Hands-on experience coping with 2 generations with FASD
  • Created and facilitated FASworld Toronto family support group since 1998
  • We are all volunteers; no core funding
  • Created FASDay in 1999; now observed in 42 countries in every time zone
  • FASD caregivers have saved this province millions

What Ontario needs           

  • Partnership with FASworld to expand awareness and understanding of FASD
  • Education system must recognize that FASD is a learning disability and teaching programs must be adapted to meet the needs of those affected
  • Diagnostic services must be expanded to serve all communities – not just major centres
  • Supportive housing combine with skills training for “hands-on” vocations as an alternative to incarceration

Next steps

  • Let’s link all appropriate ministries on this issueAs well, we left this letter with the Parliamentary Secretary:

Dear Mr. Anderson,

FASD: The most common, most expensive, yet most preventable of all mental disorders in the industrialized world. (Dr. Christine Loock)

Today’s Youth Crisis Issue

Ontario youth are struggling with high unemployment, multiple interactions with the justice system, and growing use of street drugs and binge drinking of alcohol. The delegation of Rosenbaum, Buxton and Philcox are here to present a brief analysis of the current crisis along with a number of remedial recommendations.

Linda Rosenbaum, Bonnie Buxton and her husband Brian Philcox are adoptive parents of children with learning and behaviour problems caused by prenatal alcohol.  The umbrella term for this condition is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Health Canada acknowledges that at least one out of one hundred live births have some form of FASD in Canada. This represents 136,000 youth and adults in Ontario. Any other health condition of this proportion would constitute a pandemic. Yet, governments across Canada appear to be indifferent to the scope and depth of this issue. Of greater concern is the fact that current research is finding that the prevalence rate for FASD in North America is more likely between 2 & 5%.

Because typical individuals with FASD cost our society around $2 million each in their lifetimes, we have an unbudgeted debt of billions annually for special education, police, and the criminal justice system, health care and welfare.  In other words, between 1.4 million to 7 million Ontario residents currently struggle with FASD, and most of them will never be diagnosed. Until this issue is addressed responsibly, we will continue to have an unwieldy cost burden on our society, continued high youth unemployment and a devastatingly high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse.

In brief, here is what our children need:

  • Early diagnosis;
  • Special classrooms for FASD;
  • Training skills for “hands-on” occupations;
  • Understanding of the mental deficits of our children with FASD from the education and justice systems

Here is what parents/caregivers need:

  • Respite;
  • Back-up support (Community Kinfolk);
  • Post diagnosis resources;
  • Supplementary funding for support costs (prior to ODSP)

What our communities need:

Better awareness and understanding of the ramifications of maternal drinking in pregnancy.

Since 1998, Buxton and Philcox have worked as full-time volunteers to support families of children with FASD, and to build awareness of this issue. They created two charities, FASworld Toronto, a support group which meets monthly at the Hospital for Sick Children; and FASworld Canada, a national charity. In 1999, we created International FASD Awareness Day (FASDay), observed on September 9 in innumerable communities in 42 countries around the world.  On the 9th minute of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month, we ask the world to remember that during the nine months of pregnancy, a woman should not consume alcohol.

Adoptive parents Bonnie Buxton and Linda Rosenbaum are both journalists.  Buxton’s book, Damaged Angels, was published in

Canada and the U.S. in 2004 and continues to provide parents, professionals and other caregivers with understanding and guidelines for coping with FASD.  Rosenbaum’s critically reviewed charming book, Not Exactly As Planned, about her adoptive son, Michael, was published in 2014.

What FASworld Needs:

  • Financial Support (ongoing operating expenses)
  • Executive Director (full or part-time)
  • Workshop/Training Opportunities (target: professionals/decisionmakers)
  • Provincial partnerships for our media events (e.g. FASDay)

What more can be done:

  • Labeling on beverage alcohol containers
  • Better info in LCBO stores (see our Baby Bump campaign which ran briefly in LCBO stores this past September)
  • Better government info for distribution by medical profession
  • Assistance in developing data on alcohol abuse vs the cost of health services, incarceration and youth unemployment
  • Ongoing relationship improvements with the beverage alcohol industry to eliminate resistance to education about maternal drinking in pregnancy
  • Designate FASD as a learning disability within the education system

These suggestions are respectfully submitted for discussion and further action in collaboration with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and other Ontario ministries as appropriate.