A national symposium hosted in Regina this week focused on how best to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action regarding fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
One recommendation calls for culturally appropriate prevention of FASD and the other for improving the way the justice system deals with people who have the disorder.
“We need new ways to think about these issues,” said University of Regina associate professor Michelle Stewart, who helped organize the symposium.
The report’s recommendations call on all Canadians to think about what the legacies of residential schools might have to do with the prevalence of FASD in Indigenous populations, Stewart said.
This involves looking at the root causes of why a woman would drink while pregnant.
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Policy makers, researchers, police chiefs, frontline workers and students attended the presentations and round table discussions at the symposium, which featured speakers came from British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and New Brunswick.
The symposium also heard from affected mothers.
Stewart said it’s important to change the way professionals interact with mothers of children with FASD.
“Sometimes in the absence of having culturally appropriate and holistic approaches in addressing FASD, we can see the delivery of practices that don’t feel safe for Indigenous moms,” she said.
“We had some moms sharing their experiences of feeling alienated and experiencing systems that weren’t accommodating to them.”
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Recognizing the stigma that surrounds the disability “requires recognizing that the disability is often quite racialized,” Stewart said.
There’s a lot of poor delivery of practices for Indigenous women who seek care, she stressed, and a need for a better effort to understand mothers’ circumstances when they drink while pregnant.