In a concerning development, government officials in Alberta announced policies that will bar vulnerable young people from gender-affirming health care that is already extremely difficult to access, roll back safety measures in schools that have been in place for years to protect vulnerable students, and jeopardize access to health information in classrooms – raising alarm bells across the province and the country.
“Drumming up fear and worries about the safety of children when it comes to sex-ed and the kind of health care that a minority of families need for the wellbeing of their kids is not going to make anyone safer or healthier. We have seen the results of these American-style tactics playing out over the last year south of the border, leading to book banning, anti-science stances on sexual health education, and the closing down of crucial community health resources and health care programs,.” says Frederique Chabot, Action Canada’s Executive Director.
This is the latest example, following Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where governments are reversing education and healthcare programs that experts and science have carefully developed over the years for the benefit of all students, including the most vulnerable ones. The decision to ignore established best practices to make sex-ed opt-in for parents, rather than opt-out, paired with the mandatory approval of any sex-ed materials, will divide school teams and put the safety of all children at risk. This is a calculated distraction from chronic underfunding that has led to overcrowded classrooms, deteriorating facilities, staff turnover and a lack of counselling supports.
“Alberta’s public funding per student is the lowest in Canada. Schools are crumbling because they lack funding, not because trans youth exist. All over Canada, our governments should stop the distraction and take immediate action on what really makes a difference for families: addressing the cost-of-living crisis, housing costs, healthcare wait times, and the real issue in schools: underfunding,” says Chabot.
Amidst these developments, it is crucial to refocus our attention on the broader implications of comprehensive sex education and its pivotal role in creating a safer, healthier future for all youth. Action Canada works with experts all over the country and the world to ensure youth have access the information needed to understand consent, healthy relationships and how to stay healthy. Comprehensive sex-ed is central to preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies, and dating violence.
Part of that education is also to create safer schools for all youth, including people of diverse gender and sexualities. Access to information and health care should not depend on political opinions but on what experts have established as best practices.
When parents, youth, educators, doctors, nurses and everyone in our diverse communities come together, we can demand that our politicians focus on what will deliver better and safer lives for all.