Federal election campaigns are currently underway in Canada and candidates across the nation are campaigning fiercely for your vote. There are many social, political, and environmental issues that are currently impacting Canada, as well as the rest of the world. Choosing the right candidate for you can be difficult, as attitudes towards these issues may differ across parties.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is one such issue that should be a concern for Canadian citizens and politicians alike. FASD is a lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol in the womb. Each person with FASD has both strengths and challenges and will need special supports to help them succeed in many daily activities. There is no cure for FASD, but proper supports and resources can help individuals with FASD live successful, meaningful lives.
FASD affects more than 1.4 million Canadians
FASD affects approximately 4% of Canadians, which is more people than autism, cerebral palsy, and Down’s syndrome combined. However, researchers believe that the prevalence of FASD is actually higher than current estimates.
FASD is commonly under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed for many reasons:
- Medical professionals often don’t have the necessary training and knowledge to consistently make an accurate diagnosis;
- FASD is a complex disability that is hard to diagnose. Symptoms may not manifest fully until late in an individual’s life and these symptoms often overlap with many other disabilities; and
- The shame and stigma surrounding alcohol use during pregnancy often prevents women from disclosing their alcohol consumption habits, which can delay diagnosis.
FASD has both social and economic costs
The impacts of FASD are unique for every individual. However, common challenges that individuals with FASD face include disrupted school experiences, inappropriate behaviours, mental health issues, substance abuse, employment, trouble with the law, and correctional and psychiatric confinement.
FASD is costly from both a social and economic standpoint because of the wide range of possible negative consequences. Individuals with FASD and their families need extra supports and resources across all sectors in order to overcome the challenges they face. Research estimates that FASD costs Canadian taxpayers approximately 9.7 billion dollars each year. Funding for FASD prevention, diagnosis, and treatment initiatives can significantly reduce that cost.
FASD is a preventable disability
FASD is a preventable disability, resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). It is the responsibility of our government and our society to reduce the prevalence of FASD in Canada. Prevention initiatives are complicated, but reducing the prevalence rates of FASD is entirely possible if we devote funding and resources to awareness campaigns, addiction services, supports for victims of domestic abuse, and widespread access to contraception.
FASD is more than a health issue
In 2018, the Australian government released a groundbreaking national strategy to address FASD in Australia. In order to remain a global leader in health and social justice initiatives, Canada needs to take similar action.
FASD is not just a health issue. It is a social issue that requires a multidisciplinary solution taking into consideration socio-economic factors from housing and education, to child welfare and justice, to employment and sexual health, and everything in between. In short, in order to tackle FASD, we need a comprehensive national strategy developed through collaboration with multiple departments, multiple organizations, all governments, individuals with FASD and their caregivers, and research leaders across Canada and around the world.
Your vote matters
Election day in Canada is October 21, 2019. You can find all the election information you need including voting locations and necessary identification at Elections Canada. The number one thing that you can do to make a difference is vote for the candidate you believe will best represent your values and opinions. Your vote matters.
Encourage your friends and family to get out to the polls. Share information and start conversations about FASD to encourage discussions around this issue. Ask questions to stay informed with a complete understanding of FASD and where it stands in the 2019 Federal election.
You can also communicate with your federal candidates. Bring their attention to social issues that matter to you and demand their support to address these issues. Attending local events, sending letters, and communicating on social media is a great way to get your candidate’s attention.
Check out the CanFASD elections page here to find out more.