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

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Cherish Your Vote


Nullius in Verba*

In spite of whatever cares and infirmities we may have today, we likely have had most privileged lives. Living and thriving in Canada has been of major importance in  mine. My life has  certainly had its share of ups and downs  — the ups mainly because of the luck of being in the right place at the right time. The downs, with some exceptions beyond my control, have been largely a result of my own foolishness. The key to my enjoyment of life is that I have had choices. There are many places where choices are limited or non-existent.

One of our more important choices comes when we help to choose a government. And this month we get to vote for a member for the federal Parliament. Even so, we will have multiple choices and our specific selection doesn’t always match that of our fellow voters. What is important is our freedom to make our choices as part of a collective exercise. There is great satisfaction to be had from casting a ballot for a favourite candidate or, on the other hand, voting for an alternative who may not be as popular. Either way, your vote will always make a political statement.

Although we don’t ever get everything we want from any government, we do have the privilege of casting a ballot in a fair election every few years. There are many who have never had that opportunity to make a choice. Participation is crucial for a viable and dynamic society. While the world around us continues to change dramatically, we must keep pace with it and be part of the process.

I have not always voted for the winning party. But I always knew that I could discuss my issues with the MP who represents me. Cherish your vote. Use it on October 21/19.


*Take no one’s word for it.

FASworld, Bonnie & me…

Life, as promised, continues to be unpredictable. FASworld, after nearly 20 years of activity, is ready to evolve. Our work was initially dedicated to creating awareness of the most common, most expensive, yet most preventable of all mental disorders in the industrialized world.* Although we have pioneered many activities that have helped others mobilize their community resources to bring greater understanding of the scope of FASD, we now realize that we have barely entered the consciousness of the body politic.

Canada’s Parliament recently rejected Bill C-235, which would have added a specific reference in the criminal code, forcing the justice system to acknowledge FASD as a significant factor in the behaviour of those accused of crimes. The bill was rejected on the basis that it would lead to an unending list of other disorders being attached to the code. What our legislators have not learned or understood is that FASD is the significant disorder that often leaves the brain unable to distinguish between morally appropriate choices. Those who struggle with FASD fill our special education classes, our jails and our homeless cohort.

For over forty years, the research community has determined the powerful impact of alcohol on the brain of the embryo and the fetus during pregnancy. The fact of FASD is not simply theory; it is part of all our daily lives. It is time we, as a society, acknowledged this truth. It is time for our thought leaders and our legislators to make the fact of FASD official. And that will be our new mission.

We are taking steps for the traditional work of FASworld to carry on under the guidance of new leadership and we encourage our current directors and supporters to help us with this transition. My focus will be on helping the powers that be understand the impact that FASD has on our education, health, social welfare and justice systems. The hidden cost of FASD in Canada is easily equivalent to the national debt. And that does not take into consideration the grief and anguish of the care-giving families who strive to cope with this preventable mental malfunction.

For a variety of health reasons, Bonnie has had to curtail her involvement in FASworld. However, we will continue to collaborate on some personal projects and I will depend upon her to continue to be my best editor. We have been a team now for over 51 years and we continue to rub and polish our brains against each other for the betterment of everything we do.

Message in a Bottle

Did you ever put a message in a bottle and let it float away to some distant land in the hope that someone would find it and respond?

What if you could send a message into the future for your child – the child who is not yet even conceived, much less born? Now you can. Write out your message now and you will have it to share with your child at whatever time in the future you choose. Express your hopes and dreams for that child of the future. Just think what a profound keepsake bond there will be between the two of you.

Save your message as a comment here and we will archive it for you. We’ll have more information about this challenge activity on our website fasworld.com (also accessible via fasdfree.org).

The reason why: We want to remind everyone that avoidance of alcohol starts when you are planning* a pregnancy. If a woman waits until she realizes that she is pregnant before stopping drinking beverage alcohol, she may have done some damage to her developing baby. The presence of alcohol in the embryonic stage in the first trimester could mean abnormal impacts on the development of limbs and organs not to mention the central nervous system. Let’s never forget that FASD is the most common, most expensive, yet most preventable of all mental disorders. Over 350,000 Canadians already struggle with the effects of prenatal alcohol and there is no reason to add to that epidemic total.

So, who among you will be the first to put a Message in a Bottle for a child of the future? Will you challenge your friends to do the same?


* Planning a pregnancy is when you are sexually active and not using contraception.

Ford Follies

Is Toronto Mayor Ford the SSS man (Subways, Subways, Subways)? Or is he the DDD man? No, I’m not suggesting Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest – that’s for others to determine. His mantra is actually Delay, Delay, Delay. Toronto Council’s decision to opt for the Scarborough subway line will mean no start on that project for at least  5 years. This will cost us millions more to build and will serve fewer people than the originally approved LRT. Work had already begun on the LRT replacement for the current RT extension from Kennedy and those millions already spent will be garbaged.

What has never been discussed publicly is the unbudgeted cost of the disruption to residents and businesses while subway construction is underway for the years of the building cycle. And what about the ancillary pollution produced by the heavy duty construction methods required for a subway.

It’s obvious that Ford has a totally parochial mindset about LRT systems and has never seen or appreciated the qualities of LRTs in major cities around the world. As a resident of Scarborough Village, none of the transit systems will benefit my family directly. However, the original LRT plan would serve more residents and businesses at less cost faster than a truncated subway. Keep in mind that this extension of the Danforth/Bloor line will only add to the overcrowding problems on the Yonge/University line.

Would someone please help me understand the real difference between building a kilometre of subway and a kilometre of LRT in relation to:

  • Time scale
  • Initial cost and ongoing maintenance
  • Energy to build & use
  • Pollution caused by construction
  • Estimated cost overruns/risks of corrupt practices
  • Which individuals/companies benefit most
  • Ancillary costs to business and homeowners during construction

My conclusion: Ford is truly the SSS man – Subways for Scarborough Suckers. There was no ‘gravy train’ when Ford was elected, but there certainly is a ‘gravy boat’ for him.

Who’s in charge here?

I agree with those grampas in Spain. They are upset about the German bailout of the Spanish banks. They ask, “Why bail out the banks? Why not use the money to help hospitals and other institutions serving the public?”

Of course, what kind of thinking decides to give money to the organizations who were the root cause of the financial problem to begin with? Is it too obvious to assume that the top decision-makers are all in bed with each other and the rest of us can go sleep under the bridge?

When the banks started failing in the US they were bailed out in order to keep the financial structure, such as it was, from complete collapse. The problem is that appropriate reinvestment has not happened and the housing foreclosures have not significantly abated. What if that money went as repayable loans to the homebuyers who had been sucked into cheap credit deals that ballooned into unsupportable high interest payments? That money would have gone to the banks anyway and those house buyers would still be in their houses. If the government had decreed that the interest rates had to be moderated to hold at levels people could afford then there would not have been the instability and loss of value in the housing market.

Why is it so hard to figure out that stability in home ownership, a solvent banking system and ongoing employment opportunities enabled by reinvestment would keep us all out of a recession?  Maybe the question is not who is in charge but is anyone in charge.

Those Misleading Alcohol Studies

You’ve probably heard of the Danish study that said there was no impact from light drinking by pregnant women. They followed the offspring of light drinking mothers up to the age of 5 and found nothing ontoward. In fact, most of us who have been involved in the FASD issue know that there is very little indication of ARND before these children enter school. You can’t physically measure ARND and the behaviours almost never manifest before an affected child enters the school system.

Thus, at FASworld, we agree with the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and Department of Health and Ageing who propose in their guidelines –  that women avoid alcohol during the period of pregnancy and when planning a pregnancy.”

As every other authoritative agency will agree, there is no safe amount and no safe time for alcohol in pregnancy.

Here are some choice comments on the site below (most comments seem to reflect attitudes that say it’s OK for a pregnant woman to do anything she likes!):

    • The National Health and Research Counsil in Australia currently states

      Guideline 4: Pregnancy and breastfeeding
      Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing fetus or breastfeeding baby.

      A. For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.

      B. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

      As an unborn foetus, I would prefer if my mother would err on the side of caution and abstain. Please this is not a matter or personal choice. I couldnt care less if you took crack, heroin or binged on alcohol when not pregnant if that was your (un)informed decision- good for you, go for it! however, this isnt about YOU. It’s about another human being that is growing inside you and has no say on what chemicals cross into the placenta and affect it. Why are some people sooooo selfish .


      Date and time
      Jul 13, 2012, 01:35PM

    I think it’s a sad reflection on our societal obsession with alcohol when it’s impossible to go even nine months without drinking. I don’t think it’s up to the waitress or anyone else to decide but personally, I would feel a bit grossed out if I saw an obviously pregnant looking woman even having one drink. It just shows a huge lack of restraint on their part. Sure, nothing will probably happen to the baby but what if it was born with some medical problem? I know I would feel very guilty because I didn’t do everything (reasonably) within my power to prevent it.


    • Commenter
      Margarita Girl
      Date and time
      Jul 11, 2012, 12:04PM

      Well said Cimbom.

      I chose not to drink during my two pregnancies. When you have your ultrasounds you see the size of the developing brain and it is so small – I cannot understand anyone who would willingly expose that brain to alcohol, even just once. The way I saw it was even though one drink would not cause FASD I felt it could potentially diminish the intelligence of my children. Kill a few brain cells…why risk it? If you are not ready to give up drinking then you are not ready to accept the full responsibility of parenthood.


Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/i-cant-serve-you-youre-pregnant-20120710-21sob.html#ixzz21e87lHsf


The god thing (again!)

God is neither a patriarch

Nor a matriarch.

God is a concept –

And we all have our own.


Get over it.


Colette Saves Another Dog

Actually, she’s a bitch. My daughter Colette loves animals and, until recently, had two pit bulls. They’re OK if treated properly but they aren’t very bright. The elder died – her name was Nala and the younger is called Thor. She loves her animals to such a degree that she had their images tattooed – one head on each shoulder. Even when I was in the RCN many decades ago I never felt the need to have my skin inked.

So she has now rescued yet another animal, this time an elegant German Shepherd that appears to be about a year old. Currently, Colette is still trying to find an owner for this fine animal, but with no success. It looks like she’ll be around for a while and a name is in order. Here are a few suggestions for Colette to choose from:

Chica – Little girl (Spanish)
Dante – Gift (Italian)
Devi – Goddess (Sanskrit)
Dharma – Duty (Sanskrit)
Reggie – Regina/Queen abrv. (Latin)
Fidel – Faithful (Spanish)
Sally – My first dog’s name
Mera – Faithful dog (Greek mythology, became a constellation next to Orion, now           called Sirius
Inin – Daughter (Gaelic)
Cara – Soulmate (Gaelic)

Do you have a favourite?

More citizen response needed re FASD

Here’s some recent correspondence about ignorant remarks by Colm Feore on CBC ‘Q’ interviewing Adam Gopnik:

“We realize that there is still profound ignorance around FASD issues and there are many who refuse to acknowledge the scope of the problem. At FASworld we know we need to continue to alert the media and to make presentations at every opportunity. Unfortunately, we can’t do it all by ourselves. We must get in touch with our local media and with our local elected officials and keep telling our stories.”


On 2012-02-07, at 12:29 PM, suscath wrote:

“I am concerned about an interview I heard on the CBC today with the author Adam Gopnick of “Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food.” See the link below for an article in the NY times about him. I only heard part of the interview but he said that the idea that pregnant women should not drink wine, and they mentioned half a bottle, “Is all wrong.” 

I realize there are different attitudes in the US and France but this was an interview on the CBC at around 10:30 am, so I think we should be concerned. The interviewer of which I did not get the name, did not disagree. 

I have not been able to find the interview online. There is one with the same author in Nov. 2011 with a woman interviewer which I listened to and they do not say anything about pregnancy and alcohol. Today’s interview was with a male interviewer. 

Anyway, I just thought I would point it out. I will continue to look online for the interview as they take a while to get listed, so it may show up at a later date. If anyone has any suggestions as to how we could react to this I would be interested.



“I was appalled to hear the ignorant comments from both Adam Gopnick and Colm Feore concerning pregnant women drinking alcohol. Health Canada states that Fetal Alcohol is the leading known cause of developmental disability in Canada. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) affects roughly 1 in 10, more people than Autism Spectrum Disorder. FASD is a life-long disability that should be a national public health, education, economic and social concern. It is not and public statements such as these on your show today – from two well educated, respected men – illustrate our society’s ignorance about FASD. Allowing such comments to pass as truth is irresponsible. It infuriates me as I struggle to parent 2 children who have been irrivocably and significantly affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol. NO amount of alcohol is ever safe when a woman is, wants to be or might be pregnant.”

Laurie Whyte, Guelph

“The interview with Adam Gopnik can be heard on the ‘Q’ podcast for Feb. 7/12. I wrote to the producer:

An  otherwise fascinating interview with the author of The Table Comes First was jarringly marred by Feore’s suggestion that French doctors recommend daily champagne for pregnant women and these mothers-to-be should not drink more than half a bottle of red at a time. Alcohol is a teratogen and is the cause of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. FASD is the most common, most expensive yet most preventable of all mental disorders. There is no safe amount or safe time for alcohol in pregnancy.

I recommend that everyone who is concerned about this ignorant remark write to the program ‘Q’ on CBC Radio One with your thoughts.”

Brian Philcox

Chairman, FASworld Canada

On 2012-02-07, at 12:52 PM, SUSAN PARTRIDGE wrote:

“I think the interview with Adam Gopnick in which he says “It is all wrong” to say that pregnant women should not drink wine must have been on CBC’s Q with Jian Gomeshi but I haven’t been able to listen to it again.”

Susan Partridge

Freedom vs Responsibility

Am I the only one who gets tired of the political speechifying in the US about ‘freedom’? In Canada, I feel free to have the freedom to persue my objectives as far as I am able. The freedom to persue these objectives carries with it an implied sense of responsibility. In other words, I may not infringe upon anyone else’s rights or freedoms. What I may do falls within the parameters of legal and moral strictures.

Having said that, being a free and responsible citizen often requires time and attention. When you see injustice of any kind, it is incumbent upon each of us to do something about it. Just because you don’t always succeed in correcting a problem doesn’t mean you don’t have the responsibility to try.

In Toronto, we currently have a mayor who was elected by less than a third of the eligible electorate but who thinks he has a mandate to do anything he wants. My frustration is the fact that there are too many councillors who suck up to him, including the councillor for my area. Apart from acting the crude and narrow-minded person he is, he thinks he can run the city according to his own whims. His bully-boy ways are an embarrassment to our city and only recently have a number of our city councillors have been prepared to stand up to him. The most recent issue is the development of a mass transit plan which the City of Toronto desparately needs. Here is my correspondence with Councillor Crawford:

Dear Councillor Crawford –

Thanks for your prompt response to my note of Feb.6/12. Your rationale for the all subway plan misses the point of my concerns.
  • Subway costs are exceptionally high at this stage and involve the loss of investments already in place.
  • The subway plan moves completion to a much later date than the combination program with LRT option
  • Subways can be faster but at what premium? LRT is still superior to car gridlock.
  • Mayor Ford claims Scarborough residents prefer subways: was there a survey?; did respondents have access to the comparative costs?; Do LRT/streetcar riders really dislike travelling on the surface of our attractive city?; did they know all the timing and other factors for them to make a knowledgeable choice?
  • Mayor Ford has managed his office as if he has the power of fiat to do whatever he wants. He claims he has the mandate to build subways but has no plausible plan to pay for them. For someone who did not receive votes from over two thirds of the electorate he has no mandate whatsoever.
  • Toronto has a system of city council where each member, including the mayor, has one vote. The majority on council decides what actions will be taken.
  • Mayor Ford has crudely tried to bamboozle this city into doing what he wants without presenting a solid case for his dream scenarios.
  • Because Mayor Ford continues to be an embarrassment to me and my fellow citizens in this community, your attachment to his objectives and methodology diminishes your credibility as our councillor.
I trust you will take the honourable route today and vote for the LRT plan at the special City Council meeting today. Scarborough needs your support.
Yours truly,
Brian Philcox
FASworld Canada
250 Scarborough Golf Club Road
Toronto, ON   M1J 3G8
Avoid alcohol when planning & during pregnancy
On 2012-02-06, at 1:45 PM, Councillor Crawford wrote:
Dear Brian:
Thank you for writing me with your comments respecting the future of transit in the City of Toronto. On February 1, 2012, the majority of Scarborough Councillors presented their vision for a rapid transit system, one that will benefit all residents of Scarborough.
The proposed buried Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown will ensure that Scarborough residents have access to new opportunities ranging from innovative developments, the creation of new jobs and further neighbourhood development. An underground rapid system will cut commuting times in half and will encourage commuters to choose public transit as their primary mode of transportation.
Scarborough is home to over 625,000 residents, encompasses 1/3 of the city’s land mass and has the fastest growing population in Toronto. For years, Scarborough has been promised a direct connection to the existing subway network and we now have the opportunity to turn that pledge into a reality. Presently, Scarborough residents need to make a number of connections onto varying TTC routes in order to reach their destination.
The Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown will provide a city-wide transit line from Black Creek Drive to Kennedy station. The project will be constructed by Metrolinx, a provincial agency, and the TTC, under contract with Metrolinx, will complete the work at an estimated cost of $8.2 billion. There are misconceptions that the project will be an added cost to taxpayers and be a burden to future generations, but that is far from the truth. In reality, the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown will ensure that future generations have access to a transit system that allows them to readily connect to the rest of the city.
Transit built today should be built to last. Of the four community council areas in Toronto, Scarborough is under serviced and the only community without access to rapid transit. An underground system makes sense, it is the most efficient, will be the least disruptive during construction and serve as the most cost effective over time.
Unlike streetcars, subways do not cross intersections and this will ease congestion and allow for greater traffic flow. From a safety standpoint, streetcars are also more dangerous because they share the roadway with other motor vehicles. I invite you to image what Queen Street would have looked like if the city’s decision makers had the forethought and vision to build an integrated subway system instead of utilizing much slower streetcars. The long-term benefits of an underground system far out weight the short term gains of surface streetcars. It is time that we get back in the business of building subways.
Thank again for sharing your comments and allowing me the opportunity to respond. I look forward to working with all Scarborough residents and fighting to ensure that we have an efficient link to the rest of the TTC network.
Gary Crawford
Councillor, Ward 36
Scarborough Southwest
<brian@fasworld.com> 2/6/2012 12:43 pmCouncillor Gary Crawford
Scarborough Southwest

Dear Councillor Crawford,

I travel downtown regularly from my home office and would welcome more surface rail transit to connect with the subway at Kennedy. The more LRT available to us the fewer cars there will be on the roads. Thus “streetcars” will not be a “war on cars”. On Wednesday, I urge you to support the LRT plan that Councillor Stintz is proposing. This plan is based on solid transit principles, will get rapid transit built now, underground where it is needed, to all parts of the city, and is fully funded by the province.

Please get on with the job of building the public transit system we need here in Scarborough and vote for the LRT plan at the special City Council meeting on Wednesday, February 8th.

Yours truly
Brian Philcox
250 Scarborough Golf Club Road
Toronto Ontario
M1J 3G8

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