This poster is going to be posted in all private establishments serving or selling alcohol in Maple Ridge because the district enacted a new bylaw making it mandatory the businesses to warn women about the affects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure.

FASD awareness not in your face enough

Walk into a B.C. liquor store and the warnings about prenatal alcohol exposure anything but in your face

B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development joins in the worldwide FASD Prevention and Support Day that takes place every Sept. 9, the ninth day of the ninth month, symbolizing pregnancy.

The entire month is also dedicated to the cause, and the 196 B.C. Liquour Stores around the province are stocked that month with pamphlets explaining the condition.

But walk into B.C. LiquorStores and the warnings are anything but in your face. Most of the time, a lot of searching is needed before you can find any kind of information about FASD.

In the sole B.C. LiquorStores outlet in Maple Ridge, in Valley Fair Mall, fetal-alcohol awareness comes in the form of one sign, about the size of a legal-size letter, half-hidden on the wall near the exit.

“Healthy babies need everyone’s support: Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix,” it says, showing a picture of a mom and dad.

There are also some pamphlets with the same message inconspicuously tucked away on a service counter, behind the pamphlets about wine, beer and food, far from most shoppers.

At Christmas time, the minimal effort contrasted with dozens of posters sponsored by booze companies hiring famous athletes, exhorting people not to drink and drive.

Apart from the poster and pamphlets, the government relies on people to make their own efforts to learn about FASD through an online quiz (bestchance.gov.bc) and an online toolkit.

In 2008, it also announced a 10-year FASD strategic plan on the topic.

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux is proud of the Canadian Northwest FASD Partnership involving B.C. the territories and the western provinces, except Saskatchewan, and says efforts are ongoing to raise awareness.

“There’s lots going on and we continue to try and do more.”

The District of Maple Ridge, however, is going one better than the province.

The municipality passed a bylaw this fall requiring pubs and restaurants to post warning signs warning in their buildings and on their menus about the dangers of fetal alcohol spectrum. Putting the requirements into the building bylaw makes them more enforceable.

While municipalities can make such rules, Cadieux says the senior government cannot.

“The reality is the province doesn’t have authority to require private establishments to post that type of signage.

“But I think it’s great that Maple Ridge has taken a leadership role in that regard and hopefully others will follow.

“It’s very important for people to be aware.”

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