Update: FASD and the Justice System

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Dr. Michelle Stewart, Strategic Research Lead for Justice Interventions with CanFASD, has had a busy start to the year! As an applied researcher, Dr. Stewart is actively engaged in local FASD initiatives focused on bringing about better justice outcomes for individuals with FASD. As a part of this work, and alongside the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership (CNFASDP), Dr. Stewart hosted a national symposium on February 22nd and 23rd 2017. The symposium, entitled “FASD, Justice & Reconciliation: Tough Questions, New Collaborations” brought together policy-makers, researchers, front-line workers, and family members from across Canada to discuss FASD and justice in conversation with the recently released Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action.

TRC Calls to Action #33 and #34 focus specifically on FASD within the justice system. Dr. Stewart took these Calls to Action as an opportunity to think differently about FASD and justice. The symposium, hosted in Regina Saskatchewan, took a holistic look at how justice programs, including those that have a strong component of prevention and/or intervention, can best focus on culturally-appropriate programming for Indigenous peoples. This included discussions on how individuals and families can be best supported in the community and, when necessary, in the justice system (as victims, witness and offenders). The symposium featured speakers from various jurisdictions and backgrounds, including mothers, diagnosticians, and front-line workers. The symposium explored Indigenous voices and programs, and broader based justice programs that have solidly incorporated Indigenous perspectives. Participants were asked to engage in roundtable and tabletop discussions to explore current practices, aspirations for future programming, and the path to working towards reconciliation as it applies to FASD and justice.

Dr. Stewart also worked collaboratively to organize the Pre-Conference FASD and Law Day on February 28th 2017. This free event, hosted prior to the 7th International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Vancouver, brought together front-line workers in various sectors of the justice system, researchers, policy-makers, and families to discuss examples of successful practices within the justice system. The event began with a framing of broad issues related to FASD and the justice system, then moved to roundtable presentations encompassing judges, probation, corrections, police, and lawyers. The perspectives of family members and caregivers were also included in each roundtable presentation.

Dr. Stewart is currently working with her research team on producing a report focusing on the FASD, Justice & Reconciliation Symposium. Concurrently, Dr. Stewart is also currently engaged in three research projects:

  1. Cross-Canada Research Project – focusing on supports and services available to individuals with FASD and their families in jurisdictions across Canada. Data collection began in summer 2016, and is continuing in summer 2017 with two provinces and one territory.
  2. FASD and Improv Project – in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Caines (Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance, University of Regina) and community artists, Dr. Stewart has been piloting Improv workshops with community groups to explore creativity and FASD. The research team is currently working to produce toolkits for families and community organizations based on the community workshops.
  3. FASD and the Lived Experience – in collaboration with the Asante Centre and PLEA, Dr. Stewart is interviewing individuals with FASD to learn about their lived experiences specific to diagnostic processes and community supports.

Read more about Dr. Stewart’s work on her research webpage here: https://fasdresearchproject.com/

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