Alberta has updated their K-4 curriculum, and Action Canada welcomes the steps they have taken to consult parents and civil society at large. We are pleased to see the inclusion of lessons geared towards promoting consent, healthy relationships and cultural diversity. However, we are deeply concerned with the complete lack of content about sexual orientation and gender (including identity and expression, as well as challenging gender norms, stereotypes, and the gender binary) in the new K-4 curriculum.
Action Canada was among the organizations consulted by the government of Alberta, regarding internationally recognized standards for sexuality education. Both the education and health ministries were informed about the importance of a human rights-based approach to education. While we are pleased to see that lens reflected in some of the content developed, the failure to integrate any discussion around gender and/or sexual orientation represents a huge gap in the curriculum that must be addressed for young people in Alberta to enjoy their right to health and to non-discrimination.
Curricula focused on how gender and power shape young people’s experience of the world is most effective at improving health outcomes, especially in reducing STIs and unintended pregnancies (Haberland and Rogow, 2015). It is crucial to integrate gender discussions (including challenging gender norms, scripts, and binaries) into “sex-ed” content like consent and healthy relationships.
Evidence also shows a critical connection between comprehensive, inclusive sex-ed and decreasing gender-based violence, including homophobic and transphobic bullying, sexual harassment and assault (UNESCO 2018; Baams, Dubas, Van Aken, 2017). We strongly recommend the inclusion of age-appropriate content on sexual orientation (including LGBTQ+ families) and gender, both in all of its diversity, as well as the ways gender norms, scripts, and binaries are shaped by power.
All young people have a right to high quality, evidence-based, comprehensive sexuality education (which includes information on gender and sexual orientation), and all governments have an obligation to ensure those rights.
Without this content, the government of Alberta is actively failing to support the health and wellbeing of young people, particularly LGBTQ+ kids and families. We hope that further work will be done to include this content and are willing and able to continue to support Alberta’s education and health ministers in filling this gap before it negatively affects students.
Action Canada works across all jurisdictions to strengthen the quality of sex-ed curricula students receive through access to expert, up-to-date, human-rights based resources and will continue to work with provinces and territories across the country engaging in curricula reform that meets the needs of all students in Canada.