Glen Abernethy – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Pan-Territorial Symposium March 4-5, 2014

Glen Abernethy - Official PortraitMr. Speaker, investing in prevention, education and awareness, and early childhood development are priorities of the 17th Legislative Assembly.

On March 4th and 5th, the Department of Health and Social Services will host the Canada Northwest Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Partnership Symposium.  The theme is Sharing Voices, Inspiring Hope:  FASD in Northern Communities – Finding Solutions that Work.

Professionals and community workers will share information on innovative approaches and initiatives that are uniquely suited to northern communities and can both prevent FASD and improve the quality of life for people living with the disorder.

The Canada Northwest Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Partnership (CNFASDP) is an alliance of the four western provinces and three territories.  The goal of the Partnership has been to develop a coordinated approach to the prevention of FASD and the care and support of those affected by FASD.  The GNWT has been a proud partner in this work since 1999.

FASD is a major concern in our territory, and its social and economic impact has touched all of us, either directly or indirectly.  FASD is a preventable developmental disability that affects about one percent of the Canadian population. It cannot be cured and has lifelong impacts on individuals, their families and their communities.

Individuals with FASD have permanent brain damage from exposure to alcohol before birth. They need support throughout their lives to overcome challenges to their health, mental health, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems that can lead to issues with addictions and involvement in the justice system. Our government is committed to preventing FASD, and to supporting individuals affected by FASD.

Mr. Speaker, the Symposium will give individuals affected by FASD, as well as their families, an opportunity to share their experiences and success stories. They will talk about what resources exist in their communities, and how these resources can be better managed.  They can then go back to their communities with new strategies to address FASD.

The Symposium will help us to improve our network of community services and supports.  I would like to acknowledge the work done by our partners to organize this Symposium; Aboriginal governments and organizations, non-government organizations, professional associations, Pan-Territorial communities, and the Governments of Yukon and Nunavut.

With the support from these organizations, we are happy to announce a number of keynote speakers including:

Dr. Sterling Clarren, who is the Scientific Director of Canada FASD Research Network and clinical professor of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia and the University of Washington State, and Ms. Nancy Poole, who is the Director of Research and Knowledge Translation for the BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health and the Prevention Lead for the CanFASD Research Network.  These notable speakers, combined with our own local experts will provide a great opportunity for learning.

Addressing FASD is an important step towards having sustainable, vibrant, safe communities, Mr. Speaker.  This Symposium will help further this goal.  It also aligns with commitments made in the GNWT Framework for Early Childhood Development to ensure that expectant mothers have the support they need, whether it is help to stop drinking, to eat a healthy diet, to be protected from an abusive relationship, or to get the best prenatal care possible.

This Symposium will help us achieve our goal of ensuring families and individuals affected by FASD feel better supported within their communities and function more independently.

I look forward to sharing the final report from the Symposium with my colleagues in this Assembly and the CNFASD Partnership.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.