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 the ‘Communication’ Category

Doing Politics Differently? An Open Letter to My MP


Hon. John McKay, MP

Dear John,

What has happened to my Party? I am heartsick over the mismanagement of the SNC Lavalin file and the fallout from the blind arrogance of our leadership team. I have followed these developments as well as any outsider can and have come to a series of uncomfortable conclusions.

In the early days, my cynical thoughts gave me the impression that the resignation of Treasury Board President Brison was a contrivance that would provide the excuse to have a cabinet shuffle. In spite of assurances that Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) would still be Attorney General and Minister of Justice had Brison not retired, I never had the sense that JWR needed to be shifted in that shuffle anyway.

After all the  subsequent revelations since I shared my analysis* of this communication debacle, I continue to believe what I wrote then is just as valid now. As I have reported publicly, it appears that JWR was more loyal than PMJT. Team loyalty is one thing, but lack of honest support from the leader is a non-starter. Has my Party been abducted  by a charismatic amateur? Sophistry reigns supreme in the cant of some elected Liberal members.

Blind fealty is never the best behaviour. Those who have power and privilege  must take responsibility for their decisions. Serving fellow citizens is the purpose of any political party. Winning is not the goal, winning is the result!

You may find me politically naïve, but I have been involved in the workings of politics long enough to have a sense of what is fair and what is foul. I cut my political teeth as a volunteer for Bud Drury in Montreal when he first campaigned and I was part of John Turner’s communication team in his first (and unsuccessful) leadership campaign. Later on, as a Senior Communication Consultant with Information Canada, I was seconded to the PCO during the first Liberal Priorities and Planning exercise. At the time, I was startled to discover the jock mentality among the then Prime Minister’s advisors. Today, in spite of feminist claims, it looks as though much is the same as before.

The latest excuse for driving JWR out of the Liberal caucus was the fact that she recorded her call from the Clerk of the Privy Council. The sophistry around this issue reveals that many have no idea what they are talking about. It is normal for a Minister to have a staff person listen to and record the conversation in a business call from a colleague – especially if the subject is politically sensitive. When Michael Wernick (MW) called JWR at home, after office hours when she was alone, she recorded the call to ensure that she could capture the details later. This was appropriate because  many other officials had been pestering her office to change her mind for political reasons about the SNC Lavalin affair. How is this different from having a witness on the call to take notes?

Then, if this was such serious business for the Clerk and the PM, the notion that MW wouldn’t bother to inform the PM of the essence of this conversation is the height of incompetence.

Recording a call between two people participating in the conversation is not illegal if one of the parties is aware of it. I believe that this recording would never have become public if MW and Gerald Butts had not implied in their testimonies to the Justice committee that JWR was not telling the truth. The most senior people next to the PM were badgering and threatening the Office of the Attorney General and that is the critical point here. This was truly inappropriate and unconscionable.

I understand that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) did not grant SNC Lavalin a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) because that company’s behaviours and unwillingness to meet the required criteria did not qualify for a DPA. Just because a DPA exists in Canadian law, does not mean that it is an automatic solution to a political problem.

Because of the high standard of performance of JWR and Dr. Philpott, I was proud to call myself a Liberal. It was less defensible to support the promise backtracking of the Prime Minister and his various gaffe-prone behaviours.

PMJT’s decision to expel these two quality Ministers from caucus was a dereliction of leadership. His rationale was unconvincing and, because he mismanaged this file, I no longer can consider myself a Liberal.

I truly regret this outcome and I fully respect the position you have maintained in these circumstances. I have cherished your kindness and support over the years you have been my MP and I wish you continued success in your exemplary work for the citizens of Scarborough Guildwood.

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be at peace.

Yours truly,

Brian Philcox


*Earlier analysis: https://fasdance.wordpress.com/2019/03/12/truth-straddling-galore/


By Bonnie Buxton

416 264-8000

I am a 77-year-old writer, former travel editor of  Chatelaine magazine and Food Editor of Flare.  I was also Travel Editor of Star Weekly many years ago. I wrote a book about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Damaged Angels, published by Random House of Canada in 2004, and in the U.S. by Avalon. I still receive royalties.

I began thinking about “tweaking” O Canada, a few years ago, when I saw our new, young Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming little children from war-torn Syria as they arrived at the airport. I had tears in my eyes as he gently dressed them in snowsuits, hats and mittens, as the children were welcomed by our country.  Canada is not their native land, but it’s a land that loves them!

It’s time to update the lyrics of O Canada. I was delighted when the sexist “All our sons command” was changed to “All of us command.”

My British ancestor John Townsend was a politician/actor who immigrated to Canada 200 years ago, in 1817, with his seven children, all actors. My mother’s father was an American cowboy, who immigrated to Canada with my grandmother around 1900. My many cousins and I consider ourselves “native Canadians.”  Some even have skin and hair coloring indicating that they may have been descended from North American natives!

  1. We need to get rid of the expression, “our home and native land.” A lot of Canadian land has originally belonged to our Indigenous people. Also, our many immigrants are not native to Canada.
  2. I‘ve reduced the number of “stand on guards.”
  3. Let’s take God out of this.  Many of us – including our brilliant Governor-General — don’t believe in a supernatural being! WE’LL keep our land, glorious and free!

    I have sent my final version to Hon. Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and hope to meet with her at the Liberal Convention, April 19-21/18.

O CANADA, 2018

O Canada, our home and wondrous land,

True patriot love, in all of us command.

With glowing hearts, we see Thee rise,

The true North strong and free

And welcome those who dream of us,

Wherever they may be.

We’ll keep our land, glorious and free,

Like our bright-red Maple Leaf, which waves for Thee!

O Canada, we stand on guard for Thee!


©Bonnie Buxton , 2018


From Wikipedia:

O Canada” (FrenchÔ Canada) is the national anthem of Canada. The song was originally commissioned by Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Théodore Robitaille for the 1880 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony; Calixa Lavallée composed the music, after which, words were written by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The lyrics were originally in French; an English version was created in 1906.[1] Robert Stanley Weirwrote in 1908 another English version, which is the official and most popular version, one that is not a literal translation of the French. Weir’s lyrics have been revised three times, most recently when An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender) was enacted in 2018,[2] but the French lyrics remain unaltered. “O Canada” had served as a de facto national anthem since 1939, officially becoming Canada’s national anthem in 1980 when the Act of Parliament making it so received royal assent and became effective on July 1 as part of that year’s Dominion Day (now known as Canada Day) celebrations.[1][3]






Will you make love today?

No, I’m not talking about making out or making sex. I’m talking about making love. You can show your love with anyone you care about or even with some you don’t feel close to. Yes, you can make love every day, all day long!

Do something spontaneous for that special someone: make a pot of tea; create a new dish from scratch; play a favourite song; remember a shared event. Tell your partner how much you appreciate the way he or she does something, even if it’s only how they smile or make you laugh. And when something annoys you, don’t lash out, bite your tongue. There’s always something kind you can say, even to strangers. And it’s even better  when it is unexpected.

Call someone you miss, Remind your partner about something you really like to do together. Tell that special person how much having him or her in your life matters. Friendships can be loving relationships only if you keep them fresh. Renewal is what keeps us human. Love will flourish if you remember to reach out and touch someone with a caring gesture.

Making love can be contagious. Try it. Often.

FASDay 2014 Media Report

The Birth of the Baby Bump Campaign

What happens when a client isn’t afraid to take risks and great creative isn’t watered down? When talented, passionate individuals leave their egos behind and come together for a cause? When a simple, bold creative execution gets the attention and the support of a government institution? The result: a campaign that cuts through the clutter and captures attention, increases awareness, changes behaviour and literally saves lives.

The Cause

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are the most common, most expensive, yet most preventable of all mental disorders in the industrialized world. Yet, they are 100% preventable…by abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy. However, every day, there are more babies born with FASD than HIV, Down Syndrome and Spina Bifida combined. So, the challenge is how to raise awareness and help educate moms-to-be about the prevention of FASD?

September 9th marked the 15th anniversary of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day. The first FASDay was celebrated on 9/9/99.  The ninth day of the ninth month was chosen as a reminder that during the nine months of pregnancy a woman should abstain from alcohol. This year, proclamations were issued and bells were rung at 9:09 a.m. in every time zone from New Zealand to Alaska. People in 42 countries around the world gathered for events to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

In Toronto, hundreds of people sporting pregnant bellies (balloons under their t-shirts) descended upon the scramble intersection at Yonge and Dundas on Tuesday, September 9th at 9:00 a.m. for a “pregnant pause”. With the help of social media and interviews on Metro Morning, News Talk 1010, CBC, CITY –TV and METRO, more than 70 million impressions were generated.

The Client

Bonnie Buxton and Brian Philcox are adoptive parents of Colette Philcox and co-founders of FASworld and International FASD Awareness Day. Colette was diagnosed with alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder in 1999 and since then, Bonnie and Brian have made it their life’s mission to help shed some light on the topic and “change the world, one baby at a time”.

In addition to starting FASD Awareness Day, Bonnie and Brian have worked tirelessly to educate professionals, government representatives, media and the general public about the challenges of living with FASD. They have been invited to speak on the subject at hundreds of events, conferences and workshops around the globe. Bonnie also shared their personal story in her book Damaged Angels: A Mother Discovers the Terrible Cost of Alcohol in Pregnancy, published by Random House in 2004.

As former marketing professionals (Bonnie was a copywriter at Vickers and Benson in Montreal and Brian was a marketing executive for Dupont Canada when they first met in 1963), they agreed that there was a need for a new, fresh approach to getting their message out.

“We called upon our family friend, Tony Miller, Executive Creative Director at Anderson DDB in Toronto,” Brian says. “He was working with art director Boris Matas at the time. And although they didn’t deliver exactly on what we originally asked, the campaign they presented was far better than we could have ever imagined. Their idea was bold, yet simple and powerful. We instantly fell in love with the creative.”

The Creative

When Boris was briefed on the assignment, he remembers asking, “Why didn’t I know about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy?” He quickly realized that most of the general population didn’t know either. He wanted to capture public attention, by celebrating the natural beauty of pregnancy, focusing on the optimism and happiness that transcends race, religion, or gender – and stay away from alarmist messages of fear, shame and blame.  His solution… have everyday people interact with placards that highlight words like: LOVE, HOPE, JOY and MOM with a naked baby bump in place of the ‘O’. The images were accompanied with a clear message: Love your body. Love your baby. Don’t drink while pregnant. The campaign featured both still and video photography courtesy of Philip Roston and music provided by Dante Matas.

The fresh, sassy creative immediately garnered attention. Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) did a mass advertising campaign that included transit shelters, billboards, magazine wraps and a 30-second TV spot. California and Alaska have also reached out to FASworld Canada, expressing interest in the campaign. The campaign has also won several awards including shortlist recognition at the recent Clio Awards in New York.

“Brian and I have worked together on various projects since we met in 1963,” says Bonnie. “Outside of coming up with the idea of International FASD Awareness Day in 1999, Baby Bump is by far the best campaign we’ve ever worked on!”

The Collaboration

Brian and Bonnie then partnered with Morgan Ramsay Glowienka Inc. (MR. G Advertising), who designed and produced all of the campaign material, including posters, a website and video. But, as a not-for-profit organization, FASworld needed the support of a corporate partner to help launch the campaign. Brian and Bonnie approached the LCBO and presented the new campaign idea to Elizabeth Kruzel D’Cunha, Senior Policy Advisor/Coordinator, Social Responsibility and Government Relations. “She was really the driving force behind getting LCBO to commit to the Baby Bump Campaign,” says Brian.

LCBO collaborated with FASworld to develop a comprehensive campaign that included focus group testing, exterior signage, decals on shopping carts and at checkout counters in all 647 LCBO stores in Ontario. It also featured the creative in the autumn issue of Food & Drink magazine and a mandatory training video for all employees.

“With the support of LCBO, together with the help of Toronto Public Health, Children’s Aid Society, and many other youth-oriented social agencies, the annual FASD Awareness Day was bigger and better than ever,” says Brian. “Everyone came together to make it a huge success.”

The Consequence

With over two hundred media mentions, the campaign has generated over 70 million audience impressions. A week after FASD Awareness Day, the campaign was still being profiled in the news. A Toronto mother had taken offence to the message and vented on Facebook. Global TV did a follow-up interview with her, as well as a doctor and a spokesperson from the LCBO – both of whom reiterated the risks of drinking while pregnant. This spurred additional buzz online, including a blog post on Huffington Post. Although some clients may have been concerned about the negative backlash, Bonnie and Brian welcomed the fact that the conversation about FASD was still going on.

“The campaign creative, coupled with the record number of participants at the Pregnant Pause event, helped us garner media attention,” says Brian. “That has gotten people to talk about FASD like never before.”

One can’t attribute the outcome of the Baby Bump campaign to a single reason. Instead, there was a confluence of factors that contributed to its success:

  • A cause that is often misunderstood and yet affects the lives of 1 in 100 Canadians;
  • A client who was willing to take risks and trust their partners;
  • A compelling creative solution that was bold, simple and effectively cut through the clutter to get attention;
  • A collaborative partnership between public and private sector;
  • A team who was willing to check their egos at the door and work together to make a difference.

It was a perfect PR storm that resulted in a campaign that keeps on giving.

During my career, I’ve had the honour of working on about a dozen ‘feel good’ campaigns that were born out of true collaboration, inspired creativity and a client that was willing to take risks. These opportunities are few and far between, so be sure to take a pregnant pause, to appreciate and celebrate them when you find them.

By Danielle D’Agostino

Danielle is a freelance public relations consultant who has been helping her clients share their stories for more than 20 years. She can be reached at 905-274-7337 or Danielle.v.dagostino@gmail.com

2014 Review

December, 2014           ANNUAL REPORT

What an extraordinary year! Our focus continues to be on convincing women and their partners to avoid alcohol when planning and during pregnancy. 2014 has been a breakthrough year for FASworld’s ongoing communication message about the devastating scope and cost of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)*.

Baby Bump Campaign: Two years ago, a brilliant creative team was convened by Tony Miller, Executive Creative Director of Anderson DDB Advertising. Supporting Tony at that time was Steve Morgan of Mr. G. Advertising (then known as Soda & Tonic Advertising) and freelance creative genius Boris Matas. Currently at Mr. G we are supported by key executives Susan Ramsay, Chris Glowienka, Mike Pelchovitz and Bruno Mackay. Along with their skilled staff, they are completing a total redesign of our fasworld.com website so that it may be more readily followed on smart phones and tablets. Under the creative inspiration of Boris, our key campaign has been aptly titled “The Baby Bump Program”.

LOVE button

We wanted our message to be as positive and upbeat as possible in order to get acceptance and understanding from our key audiences. The campaign espoused MOM, HOPE, JOY and LOVE and was quickly adopted by MOFAS (Minnesota Organization on FAS) and promoted widely throughout the state in the spring of 2014. Over late August and early September of this year – to coincide with the 16th international FASDay – the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) provided signage and handout materials throughout its 647 stores across Ontario. Further enquiries have been received from Alaska, California and Tennessee for permission to use the Baby Bump Campaign which we license for a fee based on the size of the market.

FASDay: Since creating International FASD Awareness Day in 1999, we have seen its observance grow until FASDay is now seen in every time zone around the world on Sept. 9 in 42 countries and counting. As a result of our collaboration with LCBO, local Toronto media has finally acknowledged our annual event and we received extensive coverage this year in spite of the usual overlap with the media-devouring Toronto International Film Festival. Please see the separate report from our media relations counsel, Danielle D’Agostino.


DSC_2784 DSC_2779

FASworld Toronto: Currently meeting monthly at Sick Children’s Hospital, our family FASD support group has been providing counselling and comfort to families reeling from the outcome of foster, adoption and birth children with diagnoses of FAS and ARND since 1998. Several years ago we obtained charitable status for FASworld Toronto (FWT) and more recently for FASworld Canada (FWC). Because the two organizations are so closely linked, we have agreed to keep charitable status with FWC and allow the FWT support group to continue as an independent, volunteer-run organization. A newly constituted FWC board of directors will provide oversight and guidance for FWT as well as for all other FASworld affiliates here in Canada and abroad. Family support groups who follow the FASworld commitment to its mission and vision are welcome to apply for affiliate status and to use “FASworld” in their name. There is no charge for this application but permission must be requested from the FWC Board of Directors.

Although FWC became a federally constituted organization in 2002, a general meeting was called in 2011 to review its constitution and by-laws. This took place in Salmon Arm, BC that year and a Board of Directors was duly elected from among those who had expressed an interest in serving and who wanted to participate in the election process. Since then, several directors have resigned and a new slate will be offered to the membership in the new year. Bonnie and Brian will continue to offer their services in the nomination process and will be looking for a suitable succession-planning process as time goes on.

NOFAS Leadership Award: FASworld became the Canadian affiliate of NOFAS this year. At the summer affiliate conference in Washington DC, Bonnie & Brian received the NOFAS 25th Anniversary Leadership award for their pioneering work creating international awareness of FASD. The theme of the Annual NOFAS Gala in the Fall was International FASD Awareness day created by FASworld. Hearty congratulations came from former US Senator Tom Daschle and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.

 Tom Donaldson, Pres. of NOFAS and spokesperson Kathy Mitchell present Bonnie & Brian with the NOFAS 2014 Leadership Award.


Sponsorships: MOFAS and LCBO have been the major sponsors of our Baby Bump Campaign this year but we also gratefully acknowledge significant financial support or professional services from the following:

  • McBurney Family Trust
  • Boris Creative.com
  • Anderson DDB Health & Lifestyle
  • Ledgley Law
  • Mr. G Advertising
  • Instil Productions
  • Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (Ontario)
  • Dante Matas Music
  • Peggy Oba at FASIN
  • Plus numerous family memorial donations

FASworld has always been run by volunteers and operating expenses have been covered by donations, workshop fees and sales of such items as books and FASKnot lapel pins. The organization has never had core funding and relies upon the goodwill of so many generous individuals, agencies and companies. Without them FWC would not survive and this critical work would remain undone.

On the Family Front: This was a very positive year for the Buxton/Philcox families. Apart from the honour received from NOFAS, we were pleased to see that Colette continued to sustain a strong motivation to parent her children as effectively as she could – with particular emphasis on maintaining equilibrium for Kenny who continues to struggle with his ARND deficits. Colette has shown that she is a valiant mother for her children ensuring that they are receiving the appropriate care and supports from the medical community and from each of their schools. Vicky continues to work part-time at the horse farm where she is devoted to the animals. Her ambition is to study as a vet and we think that she could handle that program very well. Cleo has also maintained a steady relationship with her current partner Joe who also has a similarly fragile personality as she. In spite of normal ups and downs in their relationship, they continue to support each other and we look forward to them finding projects that will take them beyond the narrow scope of their lives.

Brian’s right hip reached the point of no return so replacement surgery took place at the end of September. Bonnie’s foot and knee issues were a big distraction but they both soldier on with the aim of finding suitable successors to take over FASworld in the years to come.

*Cost of FASD in Canada: Although many experienced diagnosticians and other clinicians now estimate that the incidence of FASD may be as high as 3-5%, by using the official Health Canada count of 1% of live births, we are looking at as many as 350,000 Canadians who are currently struggling with some form of this disability. We estimate that the lifetime costs for each of these individuals at $2 million for health issues, special education, welfare and criminal justice. This represents a total of over $600 billion (roughly equivalent to the national debt) of unbudgeted cost to society. This does not include the anguish and social disruption costs to families and other loved ones.

Dec. 18/14; updated Jan.2/15