Politics invokes a variety of reactions in people, from impassioned criticism to bland indifference. Many people may even feel deeply cynical about the workings of politics and think that it’s only big business or highly-paid lobbyists that are heard. But since the growth of the internet and digital communication, more power has shifted to individuals and a new wave of grassroots advocacy has emerged.
FASD Advocacy is one of those grassroots movements taking advantage of digital communication. It has played a vital role in connecting the many voices involved in FASD advocacy, bridging the geographical gap across the vast province of Ontario (not to mention the whole country). The coordinated, grassroots efforts of advocates through email campaigns and meetings with MPPs seems to have garnered some very positive results over the past year:
- 2017 Ontario Budget allocating $26 million over four years for prevention of FASD and support for those affected by FASD
- September 9 officially being recognized as FASD Awareness Day.
- The proposed Bill 191, Education Amendment Act (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) to provide for board activities to promote awareness and understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), including best practices to support pupils who may have FASD.
- Another pivotal opportunity has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 11, 2018 with a special FASD Awareness event to be held at Queen’s Park. 115 MPP’s have been invited to attend a lunch and hear presentations from FASD individuals and organizations from the Education, Research, Health, Justice and Social Services sectors. Presenters may also be invited to MPP’s offices for further discussions throughout the day.
There is a momentum building for FASD Advocacy and the more voices speaking out the more impact we’ll have in improving supports and resources for families and individuals living with FASD.
ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE MOMENTUM
Many people may not know where to start or feel intimidated about making their issue heard, so here are some suggestions on communicating your message.
1. Connect with Your Local MPP
This is your first step in making your issue heard. MPPs split their time between their constituencies and Queen’s Park and are very open to meeting with their constituents. Consider scheduling a meeting with your MPP in their constituency office.
When speaking to an MPP, remember to share your family’s experiences living with FASD—whether it is a lack of FASD tailored community services, school challenges, lack of respite care, or employment challenges, it’s important to use real life examples to show how FASD impacts your daily living.
Engage with your local MPP with these suggestions:
- Communicate with your MPP by sending letters or emails.
- Meet in person with your local MPP. Request a meeting through their office and schedule a one-on-one chat. You may want to bring a pamphlet explaining FASD.
- Ask questions! Find out where your MPP stands on Bill 191 as well as how they will increase support to families and individuals living with FASD.
- Attend events – MPPs usually post events on their website such as town hall meetings.
2. Connect with Other Government Representatives
In addition to connecting with your local MPP, you may want to consider writing an email or letter to the Minister of Education, the Honourable Indira Naidoo-Harris, concerning Bill 191. It is important to communicate the challenges you and your loved one has faced in the education system and why Bill 191 needs to move forward.
Other representatives to send an email or letter to would be the House Leader, the Honourable Yasir Navqi who will determine if Bill 191 will be on the docket for second and third reading. He will be in consultation with Opposition House Leader Jim Wilson and Third Party House Leader Gilles Bisson.
In last year’s budget the government outlined initiatives for prevention and supporting those affected by FASD. You may want to consider writing an email or letter to the Minister of Children and Youth Services, the Honourable Michael Coteau and the Minister of Community and Social Services, the Honourable Helena Jaczek to ask what has been done to-date regarding the initiatives that were proposed in the 2017 budget. You may also choose to explain how your life or the life of your loved one living with FASD has had challenges in the areas they were supposed to implement funding for and how more resources are needed.
3. Engaging with the Opposition Parties
Each Opposition party has a designated ‘Critic’ MPP responsible for each government portfolio, including the Minister of Education, Minister of Children and Youth Services and Minister of Community and Social Services. Consider writing an email or letter to the Critics for this portfolio including your family’s experience.
Considering this is an election year, it is more crucial than ever to communicate to our elected representatives the need for more supports and resources. FASD has been ignored for far too long and every individual can make an impact just writing an email or letter to at least one of the representatives above. For some help in writing an email or letter refer to the following template letter courtesy of Mark Courtepatte, co-chair of the Hamilton FASD Support Group.