The honorable Larry Bagnell is the member of Parliament for the Yukon, affiliated with the Liberal Party. Mr. Bagnell has been active in politics representing the Yukon since 2000. Currently, he is chair of the Subcommittee on the Code of Conduct for Members of the HoC: Sexual Harassment, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure of the aforementioned standing committee. Mr. Bagnell has been a voice for populations affected by FASD in the Canadian Parliament, as it is an issue he cares deeply about.
What inspired you to start advocating for people affected by FASD through policy in Parliament?
The Yukon is ahead of the rest of the country in making progress to help people with FASD. The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) is also ahead of its time, in recognizing that the treatment of FASD in the justice system is totally inappropriate. They have created some good recommendations. When you have a majority of the lawyers in the country onside, you would think it would be an easy fix. Living in the Yukon, like most places in the world, I can see the prevalence of FASD. Obviously, people with this affliction cannot always help themselves in all situations, so I am trying to help.
Tell us about Bill C-235 which you introduced as a private Members’ Bill in 2016?
Bill C-235 had four elements in it, all of which were recommended by the Canadian Bar Association. First, it allowed a judge to order an assessment of a person charged with an offence, who he/she believed may have FASD affliction. The second component of the bill would allow the judge to take the results of that assessment into consideration in sentencing and dealing with the person charged with the offence. The third component would mandate that correctional institution staff treat people with FASD appropriately for their special circumstances, not just like any other inmate. The fourth element of the bill, would require that a person with FASD not just be released into the public when their sentence was over, but be released with a plan that would help ensure that they do not come back into the system.
Why do you think there is a lack of coordinated support in Parliament for making progress in legislation that seeks to achieve the goals of Bill C235?
In general, a vast majority of Parliamentarians, do not know anything, or know very little about FASD. In regard to this specific Bill, the reason it probably failed is that every single provincial and territorial Justice Minister, with the exception of the Justice Minister of the Yukon, were against the bill. I think they thought it would cost the provinces more for the assessments and training and of their staff in correctional institutions, and for designing successful plans for reintegrating FASD inmates into society. However, what they didn’t realize, is the amount they would save by not having people incarcerated inappropriately in highly expensive jails where they are damaged even more, is much higher for society and the provinces than the initial investment to implement the bill.
As a member of Parliament, how do you support people with FASD in the Yukon and Canada?
As a member of Parliament, I support people with FASD in Canada, by raising awareness about FASD, by lobbying for appropriate treatment of people with FASD through new legislation, by proposing private members bills like C-235, and speaking at national and international conferences on FASD and the justice system.