Mr. Speaker, we could say a lot of words here. A lot could be said about why the private member's bill did not succeed through committee in its current form. More importantly, though, I think we should talk about why this process did work and how it did work. Perhaps it did not achieve the outcome that we would all have liked, especially the mover, the member for Mississauga South, who has done a lot of arduous work on this. He has done a lot of hard work for a number of years. He is an expert in the matter.
A lot of people in the House supported sending the bill to committee so that it would have full study. I think we have to see that where the system worked for the private member's bill was in bringing an increased level of awareness to the House, to all parties and to Canadians to make sure that people understand the horror of diseases like FASD, fetal alcohol syndrome, the risks in the operation of machinery, the danger to general health with misuse of alcohol and other drugs, and the effects that improper use has on families and on communities generally.
We have had a very good debate on that. Now we have a follow-up to one element of it. We listened to reports. Committees should do that. All parliamentarians from all parties worked very hard at the committee. Perhaps Canadians become disenchanted with parliamentarians when they watch the House and listen to the arguments, name calling, screaming and accusations, but I think those who followed the committee would have seen people working very hard and very seriously, asking good questions of a lot of experts and of people with their protected interests, of course, who came to the committee, were able to testify and were asked questions by all members in a very good manner.
At the end of the day the decision was made that perhaps it was not the time to go alone in a stand-alone fashion on labelling, but that we needed a comprehensive strategy. The committee reported on that and the member for Yellowhead put a motion to the committee, which was supported nearly unanimously if not unanimously, if my memory serves me. It was very well supported that we get a report and get some action from the Department of Health, that the Department of Health appear and talk about its comprehensive strategy on FASD and that we see what it is preparing.
I think that is very good. If we get that element out and get people working together in the right direction, then the member's work is not lost. I believe he worked very hard. We cannot lose it. We cannot have that work go for nothing. No member of Parliament and no Canadian benefits from that. We have to build on the work that has been done to date and look forward to a comprehensive strategy in the future, which may very well include labelling. It has to have the participation of all players. The alcohol industry, I understand and I certainly hope, has been served notice that it has to be a player at the table. It is the product the industry profits from that is a risk to our society in many ways and society has to be informed. The question remains on what is the best way to inform.
We are now talking about one element of it, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, about which the member for Mississauga South has written and with which he is very familiar. He will be encouraged, I hope, by the moves that will be made by government and by other sectors of our society over the coming years. I hope we see a day when we have the complete elimination of FASD; certainly we have to see a reduction and that starts with awareness.
It is our intention to be present at the committee with the future strategic directions of the government's activities on fetal alcohol syndrome, as stated in the motion. The government will support the motion. We will present a document that will highlight the involvement of key partners and stakeholders, as well as the gaps, the challenges and the opportunities in current fetal alcohol spectrum disorder activities. We will speak on how we plan to address these challenges and opportunities.
The health portfolio has been working with other departments and agencies, the provinces and territories and aboriginal groups as well as a host of community based partners on a comprehensive approach to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Its objective is to address the critical gaps and pressures caused by FASD and provide individuals and organizations working with groups that are at risk with the tools and resources they need to reach and educate prospective parents.
As profound as the impact may be for affected individuals and their families, the cost of FASD is steep for society. Canadian taxpayers will spend an additional $1.5 million over the lifetime of each affected individual in extra health care, education, welfare, policing and criminal justice costs.
Consider that given the incidents of 9.1 cases of FASD per thousand births, there are an estimated 280,000 people in Canada currently living with this fully preventable disability. We believe that the most effective approach is one which focuses on awareness and on prevention. That is what the experts and academics who have studied this issue tell us works best.
For example, research shows that women are more likely to turn to their health care providers for information on alcohol during pregnancy. This reinforces that it is important to educate the range of health care professionals. Supporting health and allied professionals will enable them to deal more effectively with their people at risk and help reduce the risk factors.
To this, a lot has been accomplished already. Among the many activities completed to date, the department has published a framework for action on FASD. The Public Health Agency of Canada also conducted and published a national survey of health care professionals on their knowledge and attitudes on FASD. It has also supported the development and publication of Canadian diagnostic guidelines to assist teams of health care providers in identifying affected individuals.
In 2000 and again in 2002, Health Canada conducted public opinion surveys to gauge public awareness and general knowledge about FASD and alcohol use during pregnancy. The intelligence gathered through this process helped to shape common messages on FASD. Those were developed by the department in partnership with the provinces and territories. Posters and pamphlets using these messages were prepared and distributed to the public. Health Canada subsequently conducted limited awareness campaigns using these materials.
That is not all. Working in partnership with Thyme Maternity and News Canada, the department had newspaper articles published aimed at increasing public awareness of FASD and the need to avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Of particular importance to organizations working with high risk groups, the Public Health Agency has funded eight projects the country through the national FASD strategic projects fund. Through these projects, tools, resources and training programs are being developed and are used by community-based organizations to prevent FASD and to improve the prospects of people living with this disability.
A lot of work is also being done at regional levels to support local projects that will help reduce the incidents of FASD and improve outcomes for those affected.
This is just the beginning. Work currently underway will create greater knowledge and understanding of the impacts of pre-natal alcohol exposure and support prospective parents and affected individuals and their families. For instance, focus group studies are being conducted among women to gauge their acceptance of the current messages. The information obtained from these studies will help form a healthy pregnancy campaign, which is under development, targeting women of child-bearing age with health messages around pregnancy, including alcohol and FASD.
Another sample is a series of literature reviews being undertaken that focuses on alcohol use by pregnant women and the alcohol consumption rates of women of child-bearing age. Research is also being carried out on FASD training opportunities and public awareness activities across Canada.
Momentum is building all across the country to address many of the challenges Bill C-206 proposes to resolve. National multi-stakeholders meetings were recently held in Ottawa, including one to follow up on the publication of the diagnostic guidelines. A symposium on FASD was held as part of ongoing discussions on Canada's alcohol strategy and a national framework in substance use and abuse.
A survey of allied professionals' knowledge, attitudes and behaviours regarding FAS is currently being planned. The result of this survey will provide baseline information on FASD knowledge among such groups as correctional officers, teachers, social workers, nurses and other front line workers dealing with affected individuals. The public health function that they provide is paramount to FASD harm reduction and prevention.
An analysis of disability laws and regulations and the evidence necessary to declare FASD as a disability is also being compiled. The first nations and Inuit health branch of Health Canada is developing culturally appropriate screening and diagnostic tools. There will be a new call for proposals for the national FASD strategic project funds.
This says nothing of the plethora of activities taking place in the regions of the country. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada are working hard to ensure that their efforts merge seamlessly with those of community based organizations in the provinces and territories. They are ensuring that prevention and awareness measures are not limited to the health care domain.
FASD is an issue that cuts across sectors and jurisdictions. All these activities contribute to a comprehensive approach that seeks to reduce the risks and tragic consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure. That, as witness after witness told the Standing Committee on Health, is exactly what is needed if we are to produce meaningful results.
Make no mistake. This is precisely what the Minister of Health has indicated he intends to do. All parties are well aware that the health minister is serious about preventing FASD. He has told the House of Commons that his department is working toward a comprehensive strategy for FASD based on proven and established best practices.
Do not forget that while I have focused on challenges specific to FASD, I remind my hon. colleagues that there is a broad range of important programs at play, including Canada's drug strategy, the alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation program, the drug strategy community initiative funds and the national native alcohol and drug abuse program, in addition to the national fetal spectrum disorder initiative.
It is important to remind ourselves that while the committee did not see fit to go through with the bill as proposed, the committee did not say, or I certainly did not as a member of the committee, that there was not a benefit to alcohol labelling. I believe what has been said by most witnesses at the committee and by the committee's decision at the end is that it is not in the interest of Canadians to proceed on a one-off basis on this one element, but that it is important to have a strategy. It is important to inform Canadians on the risk of alcohol abuse and drug abuse generally and to give the tools to the communities so they can help those affected individuals and so they can identify those who are at risk.
We should all be thankful of the hard work done by the member for Mississauga South, the information that it gives to the public, the baseline work that it provides to committee in the House of Commons and the anticipation of resolutions to these very serious matters in the future.