POLITICS

Advocates disappointed Yukon MP Ryan Leef’s FASD bill dropped

11/28/2014 09:53 EST | Updated 01/28/2015 05:59 EST
Advocates for people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are disappointed Yukon MP Ryan Leef's private member’s bill won't be debated in this session of Parliament.

The bill would have allowed courts to consider FASD a mitigating factor in sentencing when a judge believed FASD was a factor in a crime.

“Both the public and the government need to understand that it’s a disability,” says Michael McCann, the executive director of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society of Yukon.

“The resultant behaviours that come about as a result of the disability are not behaviours a person may have any control over,” McCann says.

“Therefore do you treat them the same way within the criminal justice system as you would someone who may have full understanding and consciously have chosen to act in a certain way?”

A former police officer and corrections officer, Leef says people with FASD should receive more treatment and less punishment.

Leef agreed to set the bill aside last week and refer the issue to a committee for more study.

He says it was a matter of priorities: the government brought forward many other debates, and his bill wasn’t given a chance.

“When I assessed the amount of time left in the 41st Parliament, it just became very clear to me that the process would be impossible to get a private member’s bill through.”

A justice committee will review the bill this winter.

Leef says it’s possible that the committee will broaden the scope of his bill, and could lead to a comprehensive change in Canadian law.