UN Experts Gravely Concerned with Sex-Ed in Ontario

A fist holding a pencil in front of the United Nations logo.

The United Nations is calling on Canada to uphold young people’s right to quality sex-ed in Ontario. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is thrilled that our plea to the UN has been met with support.

Immediately after the Ontario government announced its plan to cancel the 2015 health curriculum and revert back to the outdated 1998 curriculum, Action Canada, in collaboration with The 519 and SHORE Centre, submitted an urgent appeal to the UN’s  Special Procedures to draw attention to the human rights violations occurring as a result.

On 19 December 2018, Canada received an official communication endorsed by UN human rights experts[1] demanding Canada take immediate steps to ensure compliance with human rights obligations.

The message to Canada is clear: federal and provincial governments have an obligation to ensure all young people are provided with sexuality education and failure to ensure access to sexuality education is a violation of human rights.

The communication from the UN Special Procedures demands that Canada explain and account for the serious breach of human rights that occurred when the government of Ontario chose to regress to the 1998 sex-ed curriculum, which excludes lessons on LGBTQ+ identities and sexualities, consent, media literacy, gender equality, inclusivity of persons with disabilities, and take interim measures to prevent the re-occurrence of human rights violations.

Makeda Zook as a child at a march.

The Government of Canada must now take two immediate actions: (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 also asked for accountability regarding any threatened consequences for teachers reported for teaching the 2015 curriculum. Educators have the obligation and the right to teach the best possible curriculum to their students and must not be punished for upholding the standards of their profession. The communication further establishes the role of the federal government in ensuring provincial jurisdictions comply with human rights violation obligations.

Action Canada along with our allies demand that Canada engage in immediate dialogue 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 denial of rights to non-discrimination, health and education is unacceptable.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must engage with Ontario Premier Doug Ford in an effort to immediately reinstate the 2015 sex-ed curriculum.

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.

The federal government, as signatory to international human rights law, is responsible for realizing human rights, particularly for marginalized people that include queer and trans youth.

[1] Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; the Special Rapporteur on the right to education; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice

Posted on 2019-01-09
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