The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister,
I write to inform you of an official communication delivered by UN human rights experts demanding Canada take immediate steps to ensure compliance with human rights obligations. We request your immediate action to implement recommendations contained in the communication.
In December 2018, Canada received a communication from the United Nations, calling on the government to uphold young people’s right to comprehensive sexuality education in every jurisdiction in Canada, and within the province of Ontario, in particular. The communication comes as a result of a submission of evidence by Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (Planned Parenthood Canada), in collaboration with The 519 and SHORE Centre, drawing attention to the human rights violations occurring as a result of the Government of Ontario’s decision to repeal the 2015 health curriculum and revert back to the outdated 1998 curriculum.
The 1998 health curriculum excludes lessons on LGBTQ+ identities and families, consent, media literacy appropriate for the digital age, gender equality, and inclusivity of persons with disabilities. It puts the health and lives of young people at risk – particularly LGBTQ+ youth, women and girls.
Canada is being called upon to explain and account for the serious breach of human rights occurring as a result of Ontario’s policy decision. Specifically, the federal government must: (1) “ensure that all individuals and groups have access to comprehensive, non-discriminatory, evidence-based, scientifically accurate and age appropriate information on all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, including gender equality, sexual and gender-based violence, and the issue of consent” and (2) ensure all jurisdictions comply with international human rights obligations. The communication clearly establishes the role of the federal government in ensuring provincial jurisdictions comply with human rights obligations.
This official communication comes after Canada received and accepted a recommendation through the 2018 UN Universal Periodic Review process to take action to ensure equal access to comprehensive sexuality education throughout the country. Canada now has four years to meet its human rights obligations and take meaningful action to remedy the inconsistent and sub-standard implementation of comprehensive sexuality education.
Action Canada, alongside our allies, call upon the federal government to engage immediately with the Government of Ontario to ensure the human rights of children and youth in accordance with international human rights treaties as well as the Canadian Charter and the Ontario Human Rights Code. The ongoing violation of young people’s rights to non-discrimination, health and education is unacceptable.
We demand federal leadership on comprehensive sexuality education, in line with Canada’s human rights obligations. Specifically, we call on you to:
- Engage with Ontario Premier Doug Ford in an effort to immediately reinstate the 2015 health curriculum.
- Establish a joint Public Health Agency of Canada/Department for Women and Gender Equality awareness raising campaign in support of quality, evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education.
- Allocate resources to the Public Health Agency of Canada to invest in capacity building and training of sexual health educators.
- Conduct regular national monitoring; through inter alia broad-based surveys, of a robust set of sexual health indicators disaggregated by relevant factors including gender, age, location ethnicity and others.
- Launch a national strategy towards equalizing access to comprehensive sexuality education across Provinces and Territories.
Scientifically accurate, evidence-based, non-discriminatory, age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education is the internationally recognized right of all young people. It is essential for their sexual and reproductive health and it works to end gender-based discrimination and violence, including homophobia and transphobia.
As signatory to international human rights law, it is your responsibility to ensure all young people in Canada have access to sexual and reproductive health information. Action Canada remains available to support any effort aimed at ensuring every young person’s right to comprehensive sexuality education is realized.
Executive Director, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
[email protected], 613-241-4474 x3
CC: The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs