Category Archives: Reports and Analysis

Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sex-Ed and Human Rights Obligations

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau P.C., M.P.

Prime Minister of Canada

Langevin Block

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as a result of the Government of Ontario’s decision to repeal the 2015 health curriculum and revert back to the outdated 1998 curriculum.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.

Sincerely,

Sandeep Prasad

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

What to Look for in Budget 2019

For Budget 2019, we’re asking the Canadian government for:

  • A global investment in sexual and reproductive rights
  • A public, universal, single payer Pharmacare strategy
  • A national affordable childcare strategy

Amidst a global climate of ongoing backlash against women’s rights and the lack of sound Pharmacare and childcare strategies at the national-level, Canada, now more than ever, needs to step up.

Canada needs to show its commitment to gender equality, and it starts with Budget 2019.

Click here to read our Budget 2019 Primer. 

Seeking Organizational Support on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

In hosting Women Deliver, Canada will bring together activists, organizations, and actors working towards gender equality and women’s empowerment from around the world. Canada has already invested heavily in efforts to bring a gendered perspective to law and policy making. As a global leader advancing gender equality and women’s rights, this conference is a significant moment for Canada to launch a legacy initiative that would empower women and girls to claim and exercise their rights.

As Canada prepares to host the Women Deliver conference, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, the Canadian Association of Midwives, the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, and Oxfam Canada have partnered to develop the 3 proposals below to drive progress on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada.

Together, we are in the process of meeting with relevant decision-makers to explore interest in the proposals. Widespread cross-movement support for these initiatives will have a significant impact on the success of the initiative and demonstrate unity around priority areas in the realm of sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality, and human rights in Canada.

We are therefore seeking organizational endorsements for this trilogy of proposals.

To endorse, complete this online form or write to [email protected], with the name of your organization and your logo.

Commit to universal cost coverage for contraceptives for all as part of a call for a national public drug plan that is universal, public and single-payer, comprehensive safe and effective, accessible and affordable. Such a plan would provide free access to contraceptive methods and over-the-counter emergency contraceptives for all people in Canada, including those who are non-insured. Millions of women across Canada will benefit from this program. Lower income, marginalized and younger women will gain the most. Click here to read the full proposal »

Invest in the growth and sustainability of Indigenous midwifery and therefore, to the return of birth to Indigenous communities across Canada. This is an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate to the world its response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, compliance to the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and commitment to improve the quality of health services delivered to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Peoples and to ensuring Indigenous Peoples have control over their health services and programs. Bringing birth back to a community has enormous cultural significance and positive effects in all areas of community health, including for women and their babies. Click here to read the full proposal »

Develop a national initiative to show support for equal access to high quality sex-ed, raise public awareness, and build capacity on the positive impact on individual health, public health and gender equality. This would inform the public of the crucial role sex-ed plays in advancing gender equality, preventing gender-based violence, preventing bullying, promoting health, and empowering youth. This upstream initiative would empower 5 million young people to claim their right to sex-ed. It would highlight the positive impacts of empowering all children and young people with information about their bodies, their health, consent, healthy relationships, teen and youth dating violence, media literacy, LGBT2QI inclusion, body positivity, and gender equality. It is critical to achieving Canada’s efforts towards preventing and addressing gender-based violence, empowering women and girls, achieving public health goals, addressing rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and supporting healthy relationships among young people and creating a culture of consent. Click here to read the full proposal »

UN Experts Gravely Concerned with Sex-Ed in Ontario

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.

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

Release of Guttmacher’s Just the Numbers on Canada’s Investment in Family Planning

The Guttmacher Institute has released a new ‘Just the Numbers’ report on Canada’s investment in family planning and the significant impacts associated with investment in comprehensive contraceptive care.

The report sheds light on the incredible return on investment associated with support for contraceptive care, a chronically underfunded and neglected area of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). According to Guttmacher, for every $1 spent on contraception, there is a cost savings of $2.20 in maternal and newborn health care due to declines in unintended pregnancies.

The Government of Canada has taken significant steps towards prioritizing SRHR globally, committing $650M over a three-year period. The report finds that the $42.6M (CAD) spent on family planning in 2017/2018 contributed to: 1.4 million women and couples receiving contraceptive services and supplies; 387,000 unintended pregnancies averted, including: 187,000 unplanned births; 147,000 induced abortions (108,000 of which would have been provided in unsafe conditions); and 1,100 maternal deaths averted. This data is critical to demonstrating not only the urgent need for increased investment in SRHR, but also the return on investment that occurs when SRHR is supported.

As part of the Future Planning Initiative (FPI), Action Canada calls on Canada to increase its commitment to a minimum $500M investment per year over 10 years in the most neglected areas of SRHR, with a view to increasing Canada’s commitment to $700M, as recommended by global and domestic leaders on SRHR at the FPI high-level retreat in June 2018. This scaled-up investment in a comprehensive SRHR agenda, with a focus on neglected areas (including advocacy for SRHR, comprehensive contraceptive care, safe abortion care, SRHR in emergencies and adolescent SRHR, including comprehensive sexuality education) is crucial to establishing sustained Canadian leadership on SRHR and safeguarding the gains that have been made from rollbacks and attacks.

* The Future Planning Initiative (FPI), a coalition of six organizations (Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health, Global Canada, Inter Pares, and Oxfam Canada) working to strengthen Canada’s global leadership on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Click here to read the report >>

 

Submission to Education Consultation in Ontario

In November 2018, the Government of Ontario launched a consultation on education. All are welcome to participate in the consultation.

One specific element of the consultation is “building a new age-appropriate Health and Physical Education curriculum that includes subjects like mental health, sexual health education and the legalization of cannabis.”

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights prepared a submission in response to the consultation, focusing on young people’s right to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), with some specific reference to the legal protections associated with CSE in the province of Ontario. We invite all those interested to use Action Canada’s submission in their own engagement with the consultation process. Please feel free to copy/paste content as helpful, sourcing Action Canada’s report. For any questions, please email: [email protected].

Click here to download our submission.

The deadline to participate in the consultation is December 15, 2018. For more information, visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/for-the-parents

Action Canada looks forward engaging in further CSE curriculum review in all Provinces and Territories towards the goal of ensuring consistent access to the highest quality sex-ed across jurisdictions.

Ontario CSE submission FINAL

Alternative Report on Canada’s review before the Committee Against Torture

Canada is being reviewed before the UN’s Committee Against Torture.

We prepared a report in partnership with Sexual Rights Initiative highlighting violations of human rights related to involuntary sterilizations of women in Canada and the lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education. 20181015 FINAL DRAFT CAT shadow report Canada

Download the PDF

Safe Abortion Care in Humanitarian Settings

More than 60 million people—that’s almost the population of the entire UK, of France or of Thailand—are living in crisis settings or are displaced due to conflict, natural disaster, or other human rights abuses.

Action Canada collaborated with Ipas to draft that policy brief on safe abortion care in humanitarian settings.

Download the PDF.

Ipas Action Canada_abortion on crisis settings brief_Sept 2018

 

Pharmacare Consensus Principles

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is proud to be among more than 70 health organizations across Canada to sign on to the Pharmacare Consensus Principals. Sexual and reproductive health and rights depend on every person’s equal right to access the prescription medications they require to lead their lives.

Canadians know that medicines are a key part of medical care – it makes no sense to treat them separately. We need a single blanket of coverage for all of Canada. Only a single-payer system will achieve the purchasing power and administrative efficiencies needed to save billions of Canadian health care dollars each year. Only a universal and accessible system will save the lives of thousands, and prevent the illness of tens of thousands, of people in Canada who fall ill and die every year because they cannot afford their medicines.

2018-09-24_Pharmacare Consensus Principles