Mr. Speaker, according to a 1998 survey on fetal alcohol disorder around the world, the prevalence of FASD is about 2 cases per 1,000 births.
However, in Canada, there are 9 cases per 1,000 births, which translates to about 3,000 infants a year. The prevalence is much higher in this country.
The prevalence may be higher here because the consumption of alcohol is legal in Canada and not frowned upon. For example, there are more cases here than in countries where alcohol is illegal, frowned upon, or much less available. I think that this is an important issue that we must consider. It may be specific to Canada, and our legal system should take it into account.
Some of the diagnostic guidelines are very specific. In particular, there can be prenatal or postnatal growth deficiency, which can be identified through weight-to-height ratios. There are also defects such as facial distortions, which are fairly technical, but are characteristic of the disorder. There will be evidence of deficiencies in three of the central nervous system domains such as cognition, brain structure, and communication. It is also evident in school performance, especially memory and executive functioning.
Some of these symptoms will be obvious at birth, while others may be more difficult to see at that time. These individuals must therefore be monitored to determine whether they actually do have fetal alcohol disorder. For example, a baby who has a high birth weight but then later fails to thrive may have fetal alcohol disorder.
Craniofacial deformities may not always be a sign of this disorder. If a delivery was particularly difficult and the doctor had to use forceps or vacuum extractor, the doctor will likely wait before providing a diagnosis. Obviously, cognitive problems are also difficult to assess in a newborn.
In my opinion, it is important to monitor these individuals. Since they are also at a higher risk of becoming involved in criminal activity, it is important that their disorder be taken into account by the corrections system at sentencing. However, it is also important that the condition be considered in determining what assistance that person can be given, from childhood through adolescence, to ensure that they receive the psychosocial support they need and that they are monitored by a social worker. That is why I think it is worth implementing this bill.
Since we know that there is a high incidence of fetal alcohol disorder in indigenous communities, it would be worthwhile to implement specific programs there to help people with this disorder. We need to ensure that these young people are carefully monitored because we know that they are at increased risk for delinquency.
It is important to take fetal alcohol disorder into account in the corrections system, in sentencing, and in the justice system. However, I think it is also important to take it into account in general, to help prevent these individuals from ending up in our prisons. We should incorporate that aspect into our discussion about the bill.