North

Advocates disappointed Yukon MP Ryan Leef’s FASD bill dropped

Leef says a parliamentary committee on FASD will still "lead to concrete, measurable, and tangible action."

Parliamentary committee to examine issue of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Mike McCann, the executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society of Yukon, says if the dispensers are effective, they'll be left in place. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Advocates for people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are disappointed Yukon MP Ryan Leef's private member’s bill won't be debated in this session of Parliament.

The bill would have allowed courts to consider FASD a mitigating factor in sentencing when a judge believed FASD was a factor in a crime.

"Both the public and the government need to understand that it’s a disability," says Michael McCann, the executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society of Yukon.

"The resultant behaviours that come about as a result of the disability are not behaviours a person may have any control over," McCann says.

"Therefore do you treat them the same way within the criminal justice system as you would someone who may have full understanding and consciously have chosen to act in a certain way?"

Leef's bill had been supported by the Yukon Party, NDP opposition and Yukon Liberals.

On Nov 26, Yukon Liberal leader Sandy Silver wrote to express dismay at the bill's dissolution.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef says a parliamentary committee on FASD will still "lead to concrete, measurable, and tangible action."

"It was very disappointing to see what happened in Ottawa. Our Member of Parliament introduced a good piece of legislation; one that all parties in this assembly unanimously supported. 

"It would have been a huge step forward for those who suffer from FASD and who end up in our justice system.  Unfortunately that bill is now dead and our MP didn’t even put up a fight.  The powers that be in the federal Conservative government decided for some reason they didn’t want the bill to pass and now it will not." 

Leef says the bill wasn't dropped for ideological reasons. He says the government brought forward many other debates and his bill wasn’t given a chance.

"When I assessed the amount of time left in the 41st Parliament, it just became very clear to me that the process would be impossible to get a private member’s bill through," he said.

Instead, the issue of FASD and its effects in Canadian society will be subject of a four-month discussion by a parliamentary committee. Leef says it will include Justice, Public Safety and Status of Women committees.

"In very fundamental terms, I have withdrawn the bill. It will not proceed further," Leef says. "But I proposed an amendment that moves the subject matter to committee."

Leef says the issue going to parliamentary committee will still "lead to concrete, measurable, and tangible action." 

He says northern witnesses and experts could be called to Ottawa to discuss FASD

"As soon as I get the nod from the Justice Committee, I know our stakeholders are ready to testify," he says. 

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