Born in 1947, I am the child of an alcoholic father and mother. Mom drank, mostly as an accompaniment to my father’s drinking. She also used a lot of prescription drugs.
Yes, to some degree, I have FAS/D or fetal alcohol syndrome, as it is known commonly. All through my life I have been up against the effects of fetal alcohol. I was a kid with an active intellect but was miserable in school. I had a plethora of behavioral issues that match the fetal alcohol profile and grew up with very little self-esteem.
Alcohol first, then drug usage became a hallmark of my mid-20s until well into middle age. Three treatment centres and a range of therapeutic options helped me to finally bring addiction into my willingness and ability to tackle it. I did win that battle.
So far, my past reads like that of too many Indigenous men and women. I also was abused sexually as a toddler, again a Native marker for too many.
But the unifying point here is that FAS/D or fetal alcohol that leads to addiction happens in a relative vacuum. There is little emphasis on assisting women, especially single women facing down a multitude of issues. Those younger women are birthing children that may have full-on fetal alcohol syndrome or effects-of.
They need help; we need insight.
As usual, a possible solution is obscured by a lack of willingness to wrap heads around the evolving effects of ignoring a critical societal ill, one that affects everyone, even those who do not understand its roots or delivery systems.
Young women in unstable circumstance may become pregnant. They may receive little or no help from governmental systems except the usual welfare considerations.
Percentages of births in Canada for the past few years have shown Aboriginal pregnancies are on the rise while non-native pregnancies are on the decline.
The past is the present without clarity – another way of saying “the sins of the father are visited upon the son”, but through the mother. There are a host of wise maxims about rigid views too factual to be wanted to be remembered. And that is on all of us.
Fetal alcohol syndrome starts with a drinking parent and too often slides into adversities that were fixable before another sad story really began.
According to former B.C. Aboriginal lawyer-specialist Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, in our correctional systems, those who test out as having fetal alcohol issues are rated at 70 per cent or higher among Aboriginal men or women. Does this help to explain why they may have come to be incarcerated in the first place?
Think of the wanted or even unwanted pregnancies; the avoidable cost to society in productivity of a so-called lost person that could have contributed to Canadian society and the economy.
This young person may place great strain on mental and physical health care.
This fictional baby may end up in trouble with the law, or without decent mental health options, or perhaps in correctional systems, to name the more obvious signs of avoidable disregard and continuation of racism toward the lot of the majority of Aboriginal people, a paradigm still with us today in both hidden and obvious ways.
How do we begin to turn around this societal problem? Its roots are in the past, but it is a monster of the present, rolling like that of a massive train, almost unstoppable as it bears down on its expected derailment, the wreckage of colonialism’s unwanted responsibilities.
Why does the average person not seem to understand that failure to embrace human potential for one faction of society is justice denied for all?
To end, I’m suggesting that there be greater emphasis by far to assist all young women who are pregnant but especially those who are in grim financial need, or on their own with a child or children, neglected, or in an abusive relationship.
This emphasis alone would increase the potential of all Canadian youth to grow into useful, hopefully non-addictive lives that would produce better outcomes for them and society as a whole. Much needs to be done to greet a better day, one that can’t come without examining current models of spending to actualize the potentialities of youth.
It begins by helping moms first.
Eli Bryan Nelson, Langley City
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