U of R project responds to TRC call to action to address needs of offenders with FASD

By Krista Baliko Posted: September 6, 2019 1:00 p.m.

(l to r) Andrea Kotlar-Livingston, Executive Director, FASD Network of Saskatchewan; The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; Kokum Brenda Dubois, Knowledge Keeper;  Dr. Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor; Dr. Michelle Stewart, associate professor in the Faculty of Arts
(l to r) Andrea Kotlar-Livingston, Executive Director, FASD Network of Saskatchewan; The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; Kokum Brenda Dubois, Knowledge Keeper; Dr. Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor; Dr. Michelle Stewart, associate professor in the Faculty of Arts Photos: U of R Photography

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 34 asks for different levels of government to “to undertake reforms to the criminal justice system to better address the needs of offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)….”

Today, the Government of Canada, through Public Safety Canada’s Indigenous Community Corrections Initiative (ICCI) funded a three-year University of Regina research project to respond to the over-representation of Indigenous individuals with FASD in the justice system.

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced $978,272 for the University of Regina’s Dr. Michelle Stewart to implement the program, Navigator-Advocates: Integrated Supports for Justice-Involved Indigenous Youth and Adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

“Our Government is working to help reverse Indigenous over-representation in Canada's criminal justice

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Members from the Regina-
based research project
attended Friday’s
announcement.

system by supporting culturally-relevant interventions by community-based organizations,” said Goodale. “This partnership with the University of Regina will increase FASD-affected Indigenous offenders’ level of engagement and understanding of the system and of their disability, helping reduce their contact with the criminal justice system and make our communities safer.”

Funding will flow through the University of Regina to support frontline workers and peer mentors in Regina, Saskatchewan and Whitehorse, Yukon. Stewart, project lead and associate professor in the Faculty of Arts, will oversee and evaluate the program. She will work with Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the FASD Network of Saskatchewan, the community partners who will deliver the evidence-based programs at local levels.

Stewart says the goal of the project is to demonstrate that person-centred and proactive supports can help achieve better justice outcomes for Indigenous individuals in the justice system with FASD.  

She adds that the program builds on the strengths of existing relationships between frontline programs, justice programs, and agencies.

"The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 34th call to action was an invitation to rethink how justice is done in Canada. This funding allows the University of Regina – and our partners at Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the FASD Network of Saskatchewan – the opportunity to do just that,” said Stewart. 

Stewart explains that frontline workers and mentors with trauma- and FASD-informed training will advocate for Indigenous offenders in Saskatchewan and the Yukon, helping to better meet the needs of justice-involved individuals and bring about real-world change in the lives of Indigenous people with FASD. 

“This low-barrier approach is but one of many responses needed if we are going to change the justice system and address ongoing inherent structural inequalities," said Stewart, who is the director of the University's Community Research Unit and a researcher with the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit

Dr. Vianne Timmons, University of Regina President and Vice-Chancellor, said the federal government funding provides University of Regina researchers and community partners with the means to undertake new approaches to delivering supports and services that are evidence-based and informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's findings and calls to action. 

“By implementing this advocacy program, Dr. Michelle Stewart and her team have the opportunity to remedy some of the broader structural issues faced by those with FASD who have contact with the justice system,” said Timmons. 

This story was updated on September 10, 2019 to reflect Dr. Stewart’s research affiliation.

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