Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (Action Canada) has begun an in-depth analysis of the health and physical education curriculum released by the Government of Ontario today.
The new curriculum comes after months of sustained pressure mounted by health, gender equality, and human rights advocates concerned about the Government’s 2018 repeal of the 2015 health and physical education curriculum.
Our initial review of the 2019 curriculum suggests that many topics critical to the health, safety, and well-being of young people—like consent, sexual orientation, and the prevention of gender-based violence—remain within the new curriculum. This demonstrates the power of collective mobilization over the past year by students, parents, teachers, and advocates.
Action Canada, along with our allies, have supported this mobilization in Ontario and across Canada to ensure all young people are provided with the information they need to live healthy, empowered lives. Among demonstrations, online consultation responses, and government outreach, we called on the UN to investigate Ontario’s failure to uphold the rights of young people to receive comprehensive sexuality education.
But our work is not done. While we’re happy to see gender identity and expression remain in the curriculum, we’re extremely disappointed to see it moved from grade 3 into grade 8. We are also disappointed to see the removal of content on LGBTQ+ families.
In Ontario and across the country, sex-ed curriculums are still failing to meet international human rights standards and the 2019 Canadian Guidelines on Sexual Health Education. Young people are receiving sub-par, inconsistent sex-ed. We can do better.
When we say that sex-ed saves lives, it is not an exaggeration. When done right, sex-ed addresses the root causes of many negative health and social outcomes. It gives people the right information to take care of their bodies and the skills to navigate interpersonal relationships throughout their lives. It promotes gender equitable attitudes and is an effective violence prevention tool. Time and again, the evidence tells us that comprehensive sex-ed means lower HIV and STI rates, less unintended pregnancies, and more access to health care.
Action Canada’s national campaign #SexEdSavesLives is aimed at ensuring all young people across the country (including Ontario) have access to the highest quality sex-ed. We’re calling on all Premiers and Ministers of Education to meet Canadian and international human rights standards and best practice for the delivery of quality sex-ed. Our campaign will continue until every young person across the country is receiving sex-ed that empowers them to live healthy, happy lives, and all teachers have the support and resources they need to deliver the highest quality sex-ed.