Federal Budget 2023: Sexual health wins are keeping the lights on—but we need to keep advocating for more

Coordinated attacks on abortion and wider sexual and reproductive rights are on the rise in Canada, the U.S. and globally. Budget 2023 makes clear that the Government is prepared to support access to abortion. 

Action Canada worked with our partners to advocate for a Federal Budget that supports and protects abortion access, universal contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and the services and infrastructure for people to be able to make real, meaningful choices around their sexual and reproductive health.  

What We Got in Budget 2023   

In a year of serious pushback, Budget 2023 made clear and tangible investments to improve access to sexual health services in Canada. While overall Budget 2023 continues to fund programs and initiatives that benefit the day-to-day life of people in Canada, it is barely keeping the lights on for the communities who most need the support and fails to address critical structural barriers like the right to housing, migrant rights, or the promised mental health transfers.   

We must keep pushing for stronger, long-term investments across all these critical services and infrastructure.  

What We're Celebrating   

Direct Investments in Abortion and Sexual Health  

Action Canada is thrilled that the 2023 Federal Budget includes a 36-million-dollar investment over three years in the Sexual and Reproductive Health fund. It shows that the Government is taking concrete action to improve access.    

The SRH fund will resource civil society partners to improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and services and build capacity among health care providers to offer affirming care for the people in Canada who face the greatest barriers to sexual and reproductive health care.   

It builds on the Budget 2021 first-of-its-kind investment of 45 million dollars over three years, which was scheduled to sunset in 2024 and will now continue through to 2027.   

The impact of this fund has been profound. It has ensured that people can access abortion care as well as funded the development of critical resources including to improve access to sexual health information for 2SLGBTQIA people and tools for health care providers to effectively promote the sexual health of Autistic youth. The fund supports evidence-informed and innovative programming for people in Canada at increased risk for poorer sexual and reproductive health outcomes.   

While we celebrate the continuation of this fund, the continuing gaps in access demonstrate the need to make the Sexual Health Fund a permanent fixture.  

Investing in comprehensive sexual health programming has net positive economic impacts. Research has shown that in Canada, the combined economic burden of outcomes that negatively impact sexual and reproductive health, including but not limited to sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, and sexual assault, likely exceeds $6 billion annually. Investing in sustainable mechanisms to develop, implement, and scale up effective sexual and reproductive health services meaningfully contributes to health and well-being and results in significant cost savings.   

Continued Support for Feminist Organizations  

Action Canada welcomes the Federal Government's investment of $160 million over three years in the Women's Program, which supports feminist and gender equity organizations. This funding is crucial in strengthening civil society, human rights, and democratic institutions. This investment is critical as we are living through a coordinated global backlash against sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality in Canada and around the world. Political scientists have long noted that democracy and the advancement in women's and gender diverse people's civil rights go hand-in-hand as their human rights activism and political participation are a precondition for genuine democratic and egalitarian progress.   

Action to Increase Access to Justice, Introduce Pregnancy Loss Leave, and Expand Primary Care in Rural Areas  

Action Canada also welcomes several other important initiatives in the budget. We note the 24.5-million-dollar investment in the Court Challenges Program, which supports constitutional challenges to federal laws, a crucial step in building a more just society by facilitating access to justice and redress for groups that have been and continue to be marginalized by state institutions and practices. We also celebrate Canada setting norms around paid leave for pregnancy loss and other needs of parents and families grieving the loss of loved ones by bringing in legislative changes to the Canadian labour code.  

We are encouraged by the step to introduce new student loan relief measures that work toward increasing health care providers' presence in rural settings. Through our work supporting people in Canada accessing abortion care, we have direct knowledge of the kinds of barriers people face. For many, the shortage of primary care providers in their community multiplies the degree of complexity of the pathway to receiving the care they are entitled to. Primary care providers can prescribe the abortion pill to their patients, circumventing the need to travel to the hospitals or clinics that offer abortion, which are mainly located in urban centers and the southern parts of provinces. They also play a crucial role in ensuring people are connected to the specialist care they need, increasing access to sexual and reproductive health care like testing for and treating sexually transmitted infections, and much more.    

What Is Missing From the 2023 Budget  


With the promise to pass a Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023, the absence of any mention of pharmacare is a glaring omission from this year's budget. 1 in 5 Canadians currently have insufficient or no drug coverage, disproportionately impacting people who already face barriers to accessing timely, patient-centred health care. Action Canada has long advocated for a universal pharmacare program that includes the full range of contraceptives and essential sexual health medicines to ensure everyone can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights without discrimination. It is unclear how the Government will be able to move ahead with the passage of the Pharmacare Act by the end of this year and establish a national formulary without the necessary resources.  

International Aid  

At a time of concurrent global crises, reducing international assistance is very concerning. In 2021, the Government committed to increasing international assistance each year towards 2030 to support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Budget 2023 reiterated important and ongoing international initiatives supporting women and children's health—particularly the 10-year commitment that dedicates $700 million per year towards sexual and reproductive health and rights. Still, the overall reduction risks undermining the progress made to date and sends the wrong message to partners worldwide about the reliability of Canada's commitments.   

There was no mention in the budget about Canada's long-awaited Feminist Foreign Policy and how it will inform the budget choices made this year. This speaks to a continued lack of coherence across Canada's foreign policy, including international assistance, that needs to be addressed urgently.  

Leadership on Comprehensive Sexual Health Education    

For close to a decade, Action Canada has been ringing the alarm on the urgent need for federal leadership on access to comprehensive sexuality education for all people in Canada. In the face of an intensifying global backlash on gender equality and sexual rights fueled by anti-democratic actors, access to the kind of civic education that could counter the rapid rise and intensification of hate rhetoric targeting women and 2SLGBTQIA people in Canada and around the world is a matter of national and global security.   

Despite this reality, the very welcomed National Action Plan to Combat Hate does not recognize comprehensive sexuality education as an essential, evidence-based preventative intervention. There is no recognition in the budget of the vital role that comprehensive sexuality education could play in combating misinformation and disinformation that limits access to health, fuels anti-racism, and undermines women and gender-diverse people's ability to live their lives free from violence.  

How We Will Move Forward Together To Advance Sexual and Reproductive Rights  

Federal budgets provide valuable insight into how civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are interrelated and interdependent. With piecemeal measures to address challenges that require broader systemic transformations, Budget 2023 underscores the need for a more comprehensive approach. Even when economic resources are scarce, we must always ensure that everyone in Canada can realize the full range of human rights.    

A comprehensive approach involves a deeper analysis of the root causes of poverty, discrimination, and exclusion. It takes positive measures to enhance access to education, health, housing and social protection for all. This approach means looking at non-carceral upstream interventions such as comprehensive sexuality education as a means to combat hate, end sexual and gender-based violence, and promote greater social cohesion.    

The realization of sexual and reproductive rights is directly connected to the full range of the social determinants of health. While Action Canada celebrates funding allocations that will enable some sectors to continue their essential work, we also join the calls of our colleagues, Indigenous organizations, and communities across Canada for more significant investments in social infrastructure that recognizes people as human beings and not just for their economic value. For everyone to thrive in Canada, there must be action on the right to housing, the promised mental health transfers, improving the working conditions and pay for care workers, protecting the rights of migrants, and moving forward on status for all, among many other areas.    

Budget 2023 investments in sexual and reproductive rights demonstrate the power of collective advocacy and a commitment by the government to uphold these rights. Action Canada is committed to working with our partners to continue to advocate for policies, programs, and funding that support and protect abortion access, universal contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and the services and infrastructure for all people to be able to make real, meaningful choices around their sexual and reproductive health and have their human rights respected, protected, and fulfilled. We know a thriving, healthy and equitable Canada is only possible when we all work together.  


Posted on 2023-04-03
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