FASD, access to justice on the agenda for CBA President Fred Headon’s visit to Whitehorse, Dec. 16, 2013

  • December 12, 2013

WHITEHORSE — The President of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), Fred Headon of Montreal, will visit CBA-Yukon (CBA-Y) in Whitehorse on Dec. 16, where he will speak about the ongoing need to improve access to justice for individuals with FASD and the CBA’s major initiative on Reaching Equal Justice.

“The CBA believes that all levels of government should allocate sufficient resources to develop alternatives to the current practice of criminalizing individuals with FASD,” says Mr. Headon. “More important, our health care system must be properly resourced to care for these people at the front end, helping them to avoid conflict with the law, rather than expecting prisons to address the complex needs of inmates with FASD.”

Fred Headon praises the Yukon’s leadership on the FASD file with elected officials at the recent federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers meeting held in Whitehorse in November. Within the CBA, the Yukon Branch has sponsored resolutions in 2010 and 2013 calling for federal action on FASD as an access to justice issue. 

In its Reaching Equal Justice report released in August, the CBA noted the impact of not having access to justice for marginalized people, which includes those with FASD. “These individuals are often involved in the criminal law and are overrepresented in prisons not through any fault of their own, but because of a brain injury they were born with,” notes Fred Headon.

FASD is a permanent organic brain injury experienced by individuals whose mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy. This disability presents differently in each individual because it is a spectrum disorder. However, often individuals with FASD cannot foresee the consequences of their acts, and also exhibit poor impulse control and impaired judgment.  This is contrary to basic tenets of our criminal law, such as that people intend their criminal acts and learn from past experience.    

The CBA report provides a framework for coordinated and effective action on access to justice, and contains a series of targets in 31 key areas. These targets are grouped according to three main strategies for achieving equal justice, and three key foundations to make those strategies work. 

They include legal capability training for Canadians; effective triage systems to guide people; and re-centering the courts to provide tailored public dispute resolution services. The targets also include expanding the base of Canadians who have legal expense insurance.

Fred Headon is available for media interviews in Whitehorse on Dec. 16.  Please contact hannahb@cba.org for scheduling.

The Canadian Bar Association is dedicated to support for the rule of law, and improvement in the law and the administration of justice. Some 37,500 lawyers, notaries, law teachers, and law students from across Canada are members.

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