By Kelly Malone, CBC News Posted: Oct 28, 2017 5:02 AM CT
A young Indigenous man sat in a Winnipeg courtroom at the end of August, staring intently at his red running shoes, occasionally fidgeting with his shirt.
“We all know [my client] has FASD but he has not been formally diagnosed,” his defence lawyer, Wendy Martin White, told the judge.
“What we think of normally for rehabilitation has to be thought of differently for someone like [my client].”
That young man is part of a problem everyone knows Canada’s corrections system faces — but no one is sure just how big the problem is thanks to under-diagnosis.
Research suggests up to a quarter of inmates in federal corrections could have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, but Correctional Service Canada only provided funding for seven specialized assessments across the country last year, according to information provided to the country’s prison watchdog for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Corrections Canada said assessments may have been funded at the local level but that information was not available.
Correctional Investigator of Canada Ivan Zinger said his office has provided several recommendations over multiple annual reports about collecting better data on the prevalence of FASD, doing better assessments and providing tailor-made programming, but “very little is actually being done to address the issues,” he said.
“We are quite disappointed with the service on this matter.”
‘They are the ones that get caught’
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a brain injury that is caused when an unborn baby is exposed to alcohol. It is the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability in Canada, impacting at least one per cent of people across the country, according to Health Canada.
FASD can range from mild to severe. Some people show physical signs, like a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip and a smaller head, but many of the conditions associated with FASD are cognitive, including poor memory, learning disabilities, difficulty in school and poor reasoning and judgement skills.
People with FASD can end up coming into conflict with the justice system because many of the symptoms make them followers, said Albert Chudley — a top FASD expert, geneticist and professor at the University of Manitoba.
Those who live with the disorder don’t understand the world the same way other people do, he said.
“They are rarely the leaders in crime but they are the ones that get caught.”
Click to read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/csc-fasd-7-tests-1.4374337