Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is linked to the Justice System

    TORONTO, April 3 /CNW/ - For the first time in Ontario, a website has
been developed that helps lawyers, crown attorneys and judges deal with the
most perplexing and costly phenomena they face routinely in the courts - Fetal
Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
    FASD has been a medical diagnosis in Canada since the mid-70s but it is
only recently that Justice System personnel began to link repeat offenders and
victims to the potential of permanent, but invisible, brain damage.
    "FASD, affecting offenders, witnesses, and victims, is a major issue in
the criminal justice system," said Jonathan Rudin program director of
Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. "FASD is permanent brain damage from
before birth. People with FASD do not learn the same way as others and
reliance on punishment as a response to wrong-doing will usually make the
situation worse for everyone."
    "A judge wants to do the right thing. But a judge, like any mortal, can
only work with what he's given. In too many cases, I suspect, judges are
hamstrung because they're denied the information they need. This doesn't serve
the interests of justice or the public or, perhaps most importantly, the
interests of defendants with FASD who, far too often, find themselves in
conflict with the law. Access to the information on this website will begin to
address these issues," said Justice Melvyn Green of the Ontario Court of
    "Most of the legal cases where FASD has been a factor identify
individuals as being Aboriginal, but this disorder affects anyone whose mother
drank during pregnancy," said Joyce Atcheson, policy development officer for
Ka:nen Our Children Our Future. "The reality is that the early studies that
identified Fetal Alcohol Syndrome occurred with a Navajo population, but the
problem is much more widespread since alcohol consumption statistics show that
non-Aboriginals drink as much and often more than Aboriginal Peoples."

For further information:

For further information: Brian McInnis, media contact, (647) 989-2800;
Jonathan Rudin, Aboriginal Legal Service of Toronto, (416) 408-3967 ext 226;
Justice Melvyn Green, Ontario Court of Justice, (416) 325-8979; Joyce
Atcheson, Ka:nen Our Children Our Future, (800) 361-0563 ext 1932

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