The UN is calling out Canada for failing to guarantee essential sexual and reproductive health services.
In 2016, the Government of Canada underwent two reviews by UN treaty monitoring bodies: The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR, March) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, October). Canada’s record on sexual and reproductive rights drew serious concern from both.
During each review Canada was specifically called out for its failure to regulate conscientious objection and to ensure access to abortion services, affordable contraceptives and quality sexuality education. Both Committees provided specific recommendations to Canada, with 5 (CEDAW) and 6 (CESCR) years to implement.
We need your support in holding the government accountable. Join Action Canada by ringing in the New Year with a call to action for sexual and reproductive rights for everyone, everywhere!
Keep reading to learn how!
Get Started! Pick an issue (or issues) you want to support
Get Informed! Read the short backgrounder to learn about the issue(s)
Take Action! Pick from our list of actions you can take
Access to abortion services
Only 1-in-6 hospitals provide abortion services, with most located in large urban areas (same goes for clinics offering the service). Many provinces place restrictions on abortion by:
- Denying coverage for abortions performed in clinics
- Refusing to require hospitals to perform abortions
- Placing gestational limits on when abortions can be performed
- Forcing those who need an abortion to travel long distances at their own expense
Some doctors refuse to provide abortions or even referrals. This creates stigma and discrimination that can result in carrying unwanted pregnancies to term or self-inducing abortion with unsafe methods. Young and marginalized women and trans folks suffer disproportionately under the current system as they may lack the means and information to access safe abortion services. Want to know more? Click here to read our policy brief on the issue »
- Talk to your doctor(s) and/or community health nurse
- Write and/or meet with your College of Physicians and Surgeons
- Write and/or meet with your local MLA, MP, Provincial/Territorial Minister of Health, and/or Federal Minister of Health
- Join a community health board
- Are you a student? Join or start a medical/law/public-health students for choice group
The New “Abortion pill” (Mifepristone/Mifegymiso)
Women in Canada lack access to the World Health Organization’s gold-standard drug for medical abortion (Mifepristone). The drug has been available in the US since 2000 but only approved for use in Canada last July 2015 under strict conditions. Once available, imposed restrictions will limit its availability because of:
- a shortage of physicians across Canada
- physicians who refuse to provide the service on moral or religious grounds
- the high cost of the drug
- limited information on how, when and where to access medical abortion
- the limited number of physician clinics equipped to stock and dispense medication
The imposed restrictions are not based in scientific evidence. They contribute to abortion stigma and create roadblocks to real access to abortion across Canada. Want to know more? Click here to visit our campaign website on the issue »
- Write and/or meet with your local MLA, MP, Provincial/Territorial Minister of Health, and/or Federal Minister of Health. See sample letters here (MP) and here (MLA)
- Write an op-ed or pitch the story to local news outlets. See tips here
- Speak up on social media! See sample messages here
- Engage your community: host an event, share information through your networks
- Encourage your physician to become a medical abortion provider of Mifegymiso. See tips here
Canada is the only high income country in the world with publicly funded universal health care and no national drug plan. In Canada, 24% of the population has no drug coverage and are forced to pay out of pocket for pharmaceutical products, including contraceptive drugs and devices. Women are more likely to lack coverage, less likely to have employer-provided benefits and may not be eligible for public benefits. This results in differential access to essential health commodities across the country. Women in Canada also have a narrower range of contraceptive options with varying coverage for specific methods (i.e., implants are not available in Canada). This leaves many relying on the contraceptive method they can afford rather than the method of their choice. Want to learn more? Click here to find out what options are available to you »
- Support the call for a National pharmacare strategy. Click here to find out how!
- Write a letter to your insurance provider.
- Start a campaign for free access to contraception.
- Volunteer at your local sexual health center or clinic. They often provide access to subsidized contraceptives, see how you can help!
The Canadian Medial Association does not require physicians to provide timely referrals if this conflicts with their personal values. Many provincial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons also have yet to amend their Conscientious Objection policies in line with human rights standards that require effective referrals and mechanisms to seek redress or remedy for violations. There are ongoing reports of women being refused sexual and reproductive health information and services on moral or religious grounds, with countless cases of women being denied access to accurate information by administrative gatekeepers across the country, particularly when seeking abortion services in hospital settings. There is evidence to suggest that some Canadian institutions have an institutional-wide conscientious objection policy (refusing to offer abortion services) despite the fact that institutions do not have human rights and only individuals may exercise their right to conscientious objection. Want to know more? Click here to read our policy brief on the issue »
- Write to your provincial/territorial College of Physicians and Surgeons requesting that they update their policies to include effective referrals and mechanisms for remedies of violations.
- Make a complaint if your rights have been violated. See examples of how to file a complaint through your provincial or territorial college of physicians and surgeons here or hospital here.
- Go to the media! See an example here.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education “Sex-Ed”
The Canadian Government has failed to implement a comprehensive set of national guidelines for sexual health education. There are no national standards through which sexuality education curricula can be monitored and evaluated. Provinces are left to develop their own implementation, monitoring and evaluations strategies, with severe discrepancies in content and delivery. In the absence of federal standards, young people and adolescents often lack the knowledge and skills required to lead healthy sexual and reproductive lives. Want to know more? Click here to read our policy brief on the issue »
- Write and/or meet with your local MPP, MLA, Provincial/Territorial Minister of Education and Federal Minister of Health.
- Volunteer at your local sexual health clinic. They often provide comprehensive sexual health education; see how you can help!
- Take to social media! Create Memes about Bad Sex Ed or why it’s important
- Promote sex-positive resources like Beyond the Basics
- Join a youth council/advisory group
- Are you a student? Talk to your parent(s)/guardian(s), teacher(s), principle, school board trustee
- Are you a parent/guardian of a student? Meet with their teacher(s), principle, school board trustee
- Share your #BadSexEd stories online and tag @action_canada
- Are you an academic? Research it! We need more data!
Rights of Sex Workers
Current laws effectively criminalize the purchase, communication, receiving of material benefit from, procurement to offer or provide, and advertisement of sexual services. Research clearly indicates that this type of legislation forces sex workers into unsafe and unprotected areas restricting access to important safety strategies that can have significant and profound negative consequences on their health, security, safety, equality and human rights. Criminalizing the selling and/or buy levitra onlineand purchase of sexual services, places sex workers in a precarious position. The fear of harassment or legal repercussions for carrying condoms and lubricant (evidence of sex work), reduces their ability to negotiate safer sex with clients, creates distrust with service providers (such as those providing condoms and harm reduction supplies) for fear of entrapment, which heightens risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
- Write and/or meet with your local MPP, MLA, Provincial/Territorial Minister of Justice and Federal Minister of Health asking them to engage in meaningful consultation with sex workers themselves regarding the current laws.
- Support your local sex worker rights organization. See here for more information.
- Speak to members of your community about ways to respect, protect and fulfil sex workers’ human rights.