Ontario Alcohol and Pregnancy Awareness Campaign draws mixed reactions


This awareness campaign in Ontario has been getting a fair amount of attention in the past few weeks. (See the CBC coverage: LCBO joins campaign against Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, August 25, 2014)

The campaign was developed by FASWorld in Toronto, a non-profit organization co-founded by adoptive parents, Brian Philcox and Bonnie Buxton. Earlier this year, posters from the campaign could be seen around Toronto.

This September, FASWorld teamed up with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to spread the campaign across all 640 LCBO outlets in Ontario.

While many people find the images to be positive, others have critiqued the campaign as it suggests that women who do not stop drinking during pregnancy are uncaring and irresponsible. Others have found the focus on the fetus/pregnant belly and the use of naked women to promote awareness as problematic.

Global News reports on mother, Laura Jamer, who lodged a complaint with the LCBO.  Jamer critiques the campaign in light of inconclusive research on “light” drinking.

Jamer is quoted as saying that the campaign is unlikely to be effective for women with serious alcohol misuse concerns and may make other women feel guilty or scrutinized: “This marketing campaign is probably not going to target people with the propensity to drink heavily while they’re pregnant. Those people have bigger issues going on in their lives where a light guilt-ridden campaign is not going to make a difference to their drinking.” (See the coverage: LCBO ad urging pregnant women to avoid alcohol spurs formal complaint, September 16, 2014)

Tom Megginson on the Osocio blog also takes a closer look at the campaign. He comments:

“This campaign sounds positive, but there’s a second read here: “If you love your body, and love your baby, you won’t drink any alcohol while pregnant.” Or worse: “IF you drink ANY alcohol while pregnant, you obviously don’t love your body or your baby, and if the baby has problems it’s your fault!”

Rethink Your Drinking campaign from southwestern Ontario


Rethink Your Drinking is an awareness campaign from nine health units in southwestern Ontario.

Based on Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, the campaign does not encourage individuals to stop drinking but rather to rethink their drinking and find a healthier relationship with alcohol.

The website includes downloadable posters and fact sheets on different aspects of the guidelines. “Size Matters” helps individuals to understand what is a standard drink. “Time Matters” describes the importance of spacing drinks and drinking slowly. “Choice Matters” describes impairment, injury and alcohol myths. “Sex Matters” looks at sex-specific differences in the guidelines and why women are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. “Everything Matters” examines the long-term risk of alcohol use including stroke, cancer and other chronic disease.

The Rethink Your Drinking website has a section specific to women. (The Low Risk Drinking Guidelines have different suggested limits for women and men and suggest avoiding alcohol altogether when pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or about to breastfeed).

For more on Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, see previous posts:

Pimotisiwin: A Good Path for Pregnant and Parenting Aboriginal Teens

Pages from pimotosiwin_july19b

The Best Start Resource Centre in Ontario, Canada has released a new resource for service providers called Pimotisiwin: A Good Path for Pregnant and Parenting Aboriginal Teens.

Pimotisiwin is an Ojibwe word that means following a good way or a good path. The resource is intended to help service providers support Aboriginal children and youth to live a good life, on a good path.

The content is relevant to health care providers, early childhood educators, teachers, prenatal service providers, parenting program staff, and others who come into contact with Aboriginal teens who are pregnant or parenting. The resource may be most useful to non-Aboriginal service providers who want to strengthen their services for Aboriginal youth. The content may also be useful for new Aboriginal staff, providing an orientation to the prenatal and parenting needs of Aboriginal youth.

Substance use is included as an area for discussion during pregnancy. The resource provides background on why Aboriginal teens might use substances:

“Substance use can be seen as a way to cope with past and present traumas, self-medicate for undiagnosed mental health concerns, or cope with serious ongoing stresses such as poverty or abuse. Substance use can include alcohol, solvents such as glue and gas, street drugs, misuse of prescription drugs, etc.’

This resource is available for free download from the Best Start Resource Centre’s website here.

For more resources for service providers on working with Aboriginal women during the perinatal period, see previous posts:

Trauma Matters: Guidelines for trauma‐informed practices in women’s substance use services

Pages from trauma-matters-final

Over the past several years, the impacts of trauma and the interrelationships between trauma and women’s substance use have been well-identified by both research and clinical practice.

Recently, the Ontario Drug Treatment Funding Program Trauma and Substance Use project team released guidelines to support organizations that provide substance use treatment services for women. The guidelines are intended to help service providers understand the interconnections of trauma and substance use and to provide improved care for substance-involved women who have experienced trauma.

The guidelines identify six core principles for trauma‐informed practice: acknowledgment, safety, trustworthiness, choice and control, relational/collaborative approaches, and strengths-based empowerment.

The guidelines also take a look at trauma and its connection to mothering and family relationships. The authors comment:

“Substance-involved women who have experienced trauma may also be mothers, or be pregnant. Many have needs related to their mothering role when they seek help with their substance use concerns. For
these women, concerns about their children and their role as mothers can play a critical part in their recovery and be a powerful catalyst for change.

Hard data on substance use, mothering, and pregnancy are somewhat limited because many mothers fear negative or punitive consequences if they disclose their substance use concerns; however, research
indicates that up to 70% of women who attend substance use programs have children.

Although there are sensitive and caring mother-centered programs in Canada, “there are vast gaps in the availability and accessibility of these services, depending on the required level of care, parenting status,
and the severity of health and social problems.” “(p. 87)

Trauma Matters: Guidelines for trauma‐informed practices in women’s substance use services can be downloaded here as well as from the Jean Tweed Centre, the Evidence Exchange Network, and the Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addiction Programs.

For more on women’s substance use and trauma, see Trauma-informed care for women in Canada (July 11, 2011).

Alcohol and Breastfeeding brochure from the Best Start Resource Centre

Mixing Alcohol and Breastfeeding brochure

In February 2011, Best Start Resource Centre conducted an online survey with parents across Ontario to examine awareness and behaviours regarding breastfeeding and alcohol use.

The researchers found that most women drank little or no alcohol when breastfeeding:

  • 64% did not drink alcohol while breastfeeding
  • 27% drank less than 1 drink a week.
  • 5% drank 1 to 3 drinks per week
  • 4% drank 4 to 6 drinks per week

Most women stopped drinking or reduced the amount that they drank while breastfeeding.

  • 57% stopped drinking altogether
  • 26% reduced the amount of alcohol they drank
  • 18% did not change their drinking habits

Breastfeeding and alcohol survey cover

Women were split on the impact of alcohol use on their decision to feed their baby:

  • 48% felt that drinking alcohol did not impact their decision about how to feed their baby
  • 39% felt that alcohol use did impact their decision on how to feed their baby

In general, the survey showed that:

  • Women with higher incomes had higher levels of alcohol use
  • Women with higher incomes were less likely to stop drinking while breastfeeding

Best Start Resource Centre with the support of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) has created a new brochure for mothers and their partners to help them make an informed choice when it comes to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.

The Centre has also created a printer-ready handout with information and tips for expectant parents about alcohol use in pregnancy which are available in English, French, Arabic, Cree, Ojibway, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog.


View more resources on alcohol and pregnancy on the Best Start Resource Centre website here.


Best Start Resource Centre. (2012). Breastfeeding and Alcohol Use: Parent Knowledge and Behaviours in Ontario, 2011. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

FASD Awareness Day 2012: Round-up of Activities across Canada

Here are just a few of the events and activities held across the country on September 9, 2012.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland – Breakfast at Nunatsiavut’s Health and Social Development building. Listen to the CBC Radio coverage here.

St. John’s, Newfoundland – Pancake breakfast and ringing of bells  on the steps of St. John’s City Hall. See the news coverage here.

Thunder Bay, Ontario – 4th Annual Mini-Powwow held at Marina Park. See the news coverage here.

Kenora, Ontario – Information booth at Kenora Shoppers Mall. See news coverage here.

Timmins, Ontario – Purple-pancake breakfast at the Timmins Native Friendship Centre, including activities for kids and mocktails. See news coverage here.

Fort Frances, Ontario – Gathering at the Circle of Life Centre in Fort Frances. See more here.

St. Thomas, Ontario – Bells rang. Hear a radio clip here.

Mississauga, Ontario – Peel Public Health (serving the areas of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga) and other community organizations host an education event with mocktails. See the news coverage here and here.

Kingston, Ontario – Breakfast and networking hosted by the Kingston FASD Action Network. Dr. James Reynolds from Queen’s University presents on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Basic Science Research to Treatment Strategies. See the news coverage here.

Ottawa, Ontario – BBQ, display booths, games, and drumming at Heron Park. See the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Coalition of Ottawa website here.

Portage La Prairie, Manitoba – Free BBQ hosted by the Portage and District FASD Coalition. See the news coverage here and here. The Portage Friendship Centre‘s Insight Mentoring Program held a feast to honor FASD Day and Grandparents Day. See the news coverage here.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – Saskatoon held its annual FASD Walk for Awareness and is hosting the Fetal Alcohol Canadian Expertise Research Roundtable and FASDLive Conference this week. The Métis Addictions Council of Saskatchewan Inc. (MACSI), the FASD Support Network of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute are just a few of the organizations involved this year (see the news coverage here and here). The theme for this year was “FASD: Let’s talk about it. Groups also worked to spread the word through Twitter by using the hashtag #FASD, with a goal of making FASD a trending topic for the day.

Melfort, Saskatchewan – A mocktail event at the Marguerite Riel Centre.

Image via Barrhead Leader Facebook page

Barrhead, Alberta – Community awareness event, proclamation and walk. See the coverage here.

Calgary, Alberta – AltaGas Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network Run/Walk FASD

Edmonton, Alberta – Edmonton and area Fetal Alcohol Network, in partnership with many community agencies, hosted a flashmob at Kingsway Garden Mall. See photos on EFAN’s website here.

Lethbridge, Alberta – Music, speakers, yummy treats, fun and games at Galt Gardens.

Whitecourt, Alberta – Gathering at Friendship Park. Click here for more.

Image via http://www.country95.fm

Vernon, British Columbia – FASD Day at Polson Park. An awareness walk, music from The Shags and Kat and The Valentines, lunch and speakers. See the news coverage here.

Comox Valley, British Columbia – Community Brain Fair at Simms Park, Courtenay. Bounce Mania and other activities for kids and information for parents and care-givers. See the news coverage here and here.

Nanaimo, British Columbia – Cake and an information display. Learn more on the Nanaimo FASD Society website.

Quesnel, British Columbia – FASD Awareness Walk and Pancake Breakfast. Check out the photos on the Quesnel Tillicum Society Facebook page and see clips of Metis jiggers and FASD Awareness Jeopardy on YouTube.

Dawson Creek, British Columbia – City proclamation. Click here for more.

Terrace, British Columbia – Free pancake breakast, sirens and bells at 9:09; family activities, entertainment, FASD info and BBQ at George Little Park. See a schedule of the day’s events here.

Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories – Parade hosted by Dehcho Health and Social Services, the Village of Fort Simpson and the RCMP.

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories – “Stop.Check.Be Sure! ” event on Friday which offered free pregnancy tests in women’s public washrooms. Free mocktails for women at the Hot Shots Pub, The Ravens Pub and the Boston Pizza Sports Bar. See the news coverage here.

Hay River, Northwest Territories – Information sheets distributed at the liquor store and restaurants; a short quiz on the TV in the hospital waiting room throughout September; Lunch and Learn presentation.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories – Community baby shower at Ingamo Hall. See the news coverage here.

Check out this awareness video developed by the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services on YouTube.

And, as a finale to this roundup, you may want to read a message from the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, from September 9, 2012 on International FASD Awareness Day.

For previous round-ups, see FASD Awareness Day 2011 and FASD Awareness Day 2010.

2012 Alcohol and Pregnancy Media Campaign in Ontario

FASD Ontario Network of Expertise (FASD ONE) Campaign: August 27 – September 30, 2012

2012 Ontario Alcohol and Pregnancy Campaign

FASD Ontario Network of Expertise (FASD ONE) is a group that works to address issues related to FASD in the province of Ontario in Canada. The Prevention Working Group develops and promotes effective strategies, resources and programs that address alcohol use in pregnancy with a priority focus on high-risk groups.

One of the main activities of the Prevention Working Group this year has been the organization of media buys for an alcohol and pregnancy campaign in September 2012 (to coincide with International FASD Awareness Day on September 9th).

With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada – Ontario Region, the Group has bought media buys that include transit ads, mall ads, cinema ads, and information through web, print and social media in approximately 30 communities. The focus has been on provincial media buys that are usually beyond the scope of local groups.

You can learn more about the media buys on the Best Start Resource Centre website here. There are also links to short articles that organizations are welcome to include in newsletters, media releases, and other activities to support FASD awareness.

2008 Ontario Alcohol and Pregnancy Campaign

You can learn more about FASD ONE on the organization’s website and read the May 2012 newsletter here.