Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Sexual and gender-based violence encompasses a wide variety of abuses that includes sexual threats, exploitation, humiliation, assaults, molestation, domestic violence, incest, trafficking, torture, insertion of objects into genital openings and attempted rape.

Budget 2018: 23 year old obligation met!

Canada takes long-overdue steps to meet commitments made in 1995 Beijing Declaration


Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights welcomes Canada’s first “gender sensitive budget.” We acknowledge the expertise and capacity that has gone into creating the Gender Results Framework and are pleased that the Budget will be accompanied by accountability measures, gender-sensitive data and Gender Based Analysis+ Legislation. In doing so, Canada is taking a strong step towards meeting its commitments from the 1995 UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. We look forward to the Government of Canada taking further steps to ensure all public spending promotes the equality of women and other marginalized peoples.

A “gender equality” budget without childcare is not a gender equal budget

Funding towards the creation of a national universal childcare strategy is missing from this self-described gender equality budget. While the framework of “take it or leave it” spousal parental leave supports shifting gender norms, we know from examples in other countries that this initiative does not go far enough to make a substantive dent in the gender wage gap or create environments in which individuals are supported to raise their families with full respect for their economic and social rights.

Safe, accessible, and affordable daycare facilitates a holistic approach to sexual and reproductive rights in that it seeks to address power structures to enable individuals (particularly marginalized individuals) with the ability to make decisions about their lives – including whether to have children, and when parenting, the ability to do so in healthy environments.[1] Universal childcare is also necessary for alleviating poverty and promoting gender equity. In developing further policies that seek to meet the needs and rights of individuals and families, further measures are required to enhance the eligibility criteria for Employment Insurance to ensure single and other marginalized parents will equally benefit from the proposed changes to parental leave policies.

Pay equity

There is mass evidence to support the need for proactive pay equity legislation. Wage inequality in the public sector has been proved in the Human Rights Tribunal and through two separate studies conducted by the federal government. We are pleased to see the government taking steps to implement concrete measures to ensure that all federally regulated workplaces will be required to demonstrate equal pay for equal value work. Efforts to address the pay gap must include an intersectional analysis, which recognizes the ways in which black, Indigenous, and people of colour experience disproportionately higher gaps in pay. Looking forward, we encourage the Government of Canada to actively engage private sector, provincial, territorial, and municipal workplaces to develop the same standards of wage equality.

Paid Leave for Domestic Violence

Action Canada congratulates our colleagues in the labour and anti-violence against women movements whose tireless advocacy has succeeded in achieving 5 days of paid work leave for survivors of domestic violence who work in the federal sector and investments in legal aid for people who experience sexual assault and harassment in their workplace. Efforts are still required to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence. We therefore call on the Federal Government to play a leadership role in engaging all provinces and territories towards legislative changes to ensure all workers are able to exercise their right to live and workfree from violence.

Universal Pharmacare

We are pleased to see the announcement of a National Advisory Council on the Implementation of Pharmacare, led by former Ontario Health Minister Dr. Hoskins. Alongside our health sector colleagues, Action Canada defines pharmacare as universal, accessible, and single payer cost-coverage for prescription medications. International law guarantees all people the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, which includes the delivery of accessible, available, acceptable, and quality sexual and reproductive health information and services. We are therefore encouraged by Dr. Hoskins repeated statements in support of universal pharmacare and take the word “implementation” as a promise that Canadian healthcare will soon include universal cost-coverage for medicines.

Action Canada knows first-hand that access to medications is often unaffordable for those who need it most, especially those suffering from intersecting marginalization and discrimination. The ability to manage your own fertility, have healthy pregnancies, affirm your own gender, and prevent, treat, or manage sexually transmitted infections should not be dependent on income, place of residence, or immigration status. People in Canada who require vaccines, medication, or contraceptive devices should not need to rely on insurance or personal savings to afford the resources needed to maintain or realize the best possible sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

Introducing the Department for Status of Women Canada!

Status of Women Canada will now be a freestanding department within the Government of Canada, supported an increase in modest funding, in part to support projects that promote equality for women. We are pleased to see Canada taking steps to recognize the importance of this mandate by elevating its status alongside other governmental departments. Looking forward, we expect to see concrete measures to ensure the department invests in initiatives that reflect core feminist priorities, processes, and principals.

Meeting international commitments: Canada’s role in the world

This Budget includes a badly needed, yet modest, investment in overall Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending: $2 billion over 5 years. While this is a significant investment, in real terms it amounts to only a 2% increase/year – barely ensuring ODA keeps up with inflation. This investment will keep Canada’s ODA at 0.26% ODA to GNI spending, well below the international target of 0.7% ODA/GNI agreed to by OECD countries in order to effectively fight discrimination, poverty, and inequality around the globe.

Within the ODA envelop, Budget 2018 does not include new money for global sexual and reproductive health and rights, despite this being one of the core policy areas of the Feminist International Assistance Policy (stated priorities of the Minister of International Development and areas in which Prime Minister Trudeau has committed to invest to address Canada’s past failings). While Canada’s 2017 commitment of $650 million over 3 years is a strong step in the right direction, with no new commitment of funding beyond 2020, it falls short in establishing Canada as a global leader on sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly in light of the $8 billion funding gap created by Trump’s Global Gag Rule. A meaningful commitment requires a sustained political and financial commitment to realize substantive change in the most neglected areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights – safe abortion care, comprehensive sexuality education, advocacy, and adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights. It requires the creation of an institutionalized approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights within our development agency (Global Affairs Canada) through a Canadian global sexual and reproductive health and rights policy that can’t be swept under the rug with a change in government. It requires modernizing government funding mechanisms so that grassroots feminist organizations working to achieve legal and policy gains are able to receive financial support.

An investment of $1.5 billion over 5 years was made to support “innovation” in Canada’s international assistance, including to expand innovative development financing options and a sovereign loans program. Action Canada encourages the government to find new and better ways of engaging new partners in development financing and strengthening existing mechanisms to facilitate collaboration with small and medium size organizations (ensuring less onerous and more inclusive mechanisms for grassroots partners), while ensuring feminist principles and human rights remain at the center of policy-making in this area. We are however concerned that this new funding will not only remove emphasis from the importance of official development assistance as a primary source of funding for development initiatives and global commitment, but also promote the leveraging of public/private partnerships. Governments must continue to be the duty bearers in meeting human rights obligations. If private corporations are to assume greater responsibly for the delivery of development assistance, we risk losing the ability of individuals to hold their governments accountable to its human rights obligations. We urge the government to heed historical experience, particularly related to the delivery of family planning programs and initiatives in the extractive industry. Action Canada will be monitoring this area, pushing for transparency and accountability.

[1] Sister Song: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice.

Annual Report 2016-2017

Whether it’s been campaigning for universal cost coverage of medical abortion, launching a cutting-edge resource for teaching sexuality education in schools, securing a major investment in global SRHR from the government Canada, offering thousands of people the health information they are looking for, or supporting sexual and reproductive rights defenders around the world to hold their governments accountable, we’ve been working tirelessly to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally.

Read our Annual Report to learn about the significant strides we made in 2016-2017 »

Having trouble reading the report? Click here to download in PDF

Striving towards equal rights for all. Not just some.

Action Canada’s Meghan Doherty lends her voice to CBC Canada 2017 to talk about sexual and reproductive rights and striving towards equal rights for all. Not just some.

Get Your Copy of Beyond the Basics Today!

Beyond the Basics is a resource for educators that offers the tools to teach young people about sexuality and sexual health from a sex positive, human rights perspective. Covering topics that range from anatomy to consent and healthy relationships, Beyond the Basics approaches sexuality education across all gender identities and sexual orientations with activities that help move students from receiving information to making decisions based on critical thinking skills and empowerment. Recognizing the time pressures educators face, Beyond the Basics is written to easily move in and out of chapters, modules, and activities that suit the particular age, maturity, and trust in each classroom.

Click here to purchase today!

Press Release: New Resource Teaches Sex-Ed as Human Rights

For immediate release

Toronto – What do you wish you’d learned in sex-ed? That’s a Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights has been asking throughout the preparation of the third edition of Beyond the Basics, a resource for educators teaching sexuality and sexual health.

From coast to coast to coast, everyone seems to have something to say and the answers are highly revealing. Sexuality education in Canada (when taught) remains highly varied between school to school, even teacher to teacher. And for the most part, it’s a couple of lessons on anatomy and risk.

“The sex-ed I received didn’t seek to break down problematic aspects of my school environment, where homophobic comments, body-shaming, and sexist jokes were commonplace, and where dominant and constricting notions of masculinity flourished,” says Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

Beyond the Basics takes an approach that is rooted in comprehensive sexuality education—seeking to move the bar beyond anatomy and risk, to ensure students are better prepared to lead empowered sexual lives where they feel comfortable in their own bodies, can exercise their right to bodily autonomy, and are equipped with the skills to challenge oppressive gender norms

“The teaching tools and activities in Beyond the Basics foster cultures of consent, respect for diversity, and critical thinking skills, some of the most valuable things that students can learn in school, which also happen to be some of the hardest things to teach,” adds Prasad.

Covering topics that range from anatomy to consent and healthy relationships, Beyond the Basics approaches sexuality education across all gender identities and sexual orientations with activities that help move students from receiving information to making decisions based on critical thinking skills and empowerment.

The foreword was written by family physician and sexual health advocate Dr. Danielle Martin, who has recently made headlines in the US for her support of universal health care.

“As a family doctor, I am deeply supportive of Beyond the Basics and the many educators who will use this book. As a mother, I am grateful for it,” writes Dr. Martin. Adding that “Whatever is being discussed in the schoolyards and the basements of the nation must be put into context by educators who have the resources and skills to communicate with young people at every age and stage.”

Beyond the Basics offers educators the tools to teach sex-ed that is comprehensive, evidence-based, and centred around each person’s right to live a healthy, empowered life.

– END –

Media Contact

Ani Colekessian
Communications Officer
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
613-241-4474 ext. 7
[email protected]


  • Mr. Prasad is available for media interviews.
  • Reporters are invited to attend the Toronto launch party of Beyond the Basics. Event details and free tickets are available at: Please identify yourself as a reporter upon registration.
  • Copies of the resource will be sold during the event for 85.00 CAD and available for purchase online at as of September 28th.



ACTION CANADA FOR SEXUAL HEALTH & RIGHTS is a progressive, pro-choice charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health in Canada and globally.

Press advisory: Action Canada launching new book and campaign that support human rights based sex-ed

Thursday, 28 September 2017 7PM-10PM
Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto

The research is clear, young people want guidance on more than just “the birds and the bees” or how to put on a condom (Rick Weissbourd, Harvard) and many educators are nervous and hesitant to teach these topics because of what they perceive to be their own lack of knowledge, skills, confidence, and comfort (Jacqueline Cohen, Sandra Byers and Heather Sears, University of New Brunswick). That is why Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is thrilled to be launching a new resource for educators on sexuality and sexual health called Beyond the Basics as well as a comprehensive sexuality education campaign.

Beyond the Basics addresses the gaps in existing sex-ed by offering the tools to teach young people about sexuality and sexual health from a sex positive, human rights perspective. Covering topics that range from anatomy to consent and healthy relationships, Beyond the Basics approaches sexuality education across all gender identities and sexual orientations with activities that help move students from receiving information to making decisions based on critical thinking skills and empowerment.

A range of sexual health and education stakeholders will be “toasting” the launch with short speeches, including: Nadine Thornhill (Ed.D – Sexuality Educator), Karen B. K. Chan (Sexuality Educator), Kaleigh Trace (Author), Dr. Danielle Martin (Family Doctor and national media commentator), Beck Hood (Educator and Community Developer), and Sandeep Prasad (ED Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights).

Media Inquiries: Ani Colekessian [email protected]  +1 613 241-4474 x7




You’re invited! Sex-Ed Beyond the Basics Launch Party!

It’s back to school time, let’s talk about Sex…ED!

Come celebrate the launch of Beyond the Basics and join us in speaking up for quality sex-ed!

It’s been a labour of love, working with sexual health experts from across the country to develop Beyond the Basics, a sex-ed resource that addresses the gaps we keep hearing about! From consent to LGBTQ+ inclusive sex-ed, join the conversation to help bring comprehensive sex-ed into classrooms across Canada!

What? Where? When?

Launch Party: Sex-Ed Beyond the Basics
Thursday September 28th
7:00PM – 10:00PM
Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West, Toronto

Click here to register for your free ticket!

What can you expect?

A night of toasts, interactive booths, audience Q&A, and small bites on us! (cash bar)

Who will be toasting the event?

Nadine Thornhill, Ed.D – Sexuality Educator
Karen B. K. Chan, Sexuality Educator
Kaleigh Trace, Author
Dr. Danielle Martin, Family Doctor and national media commentator
Sandeep Prasad, ED Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

Can’t make the event?

Click here to receive notifications about Beyond the Basics!

What’s Beyond the Basics?

Beyond the Basics is a resource for educators that offers the tools to teach young people about sexuality and sexual health from a sex positive, human rights perspective. Covering topics that range from anatomy to consent and healthy relationships, Beyond the Basics approaches sexuality education across all gender identities and sexual orientations with activities that help move students from receiving information to making decisions based on critical thinking skills and empowerment. Recognizing the time pressures educators face, Beyond the Basics is written to easily move in and out of chapters, modules, and activities that suit the particular age, maturity, and trust in each classroom.

Canadian advocates celebrate passage of transgender rights bill

Source: Helen Parshall | Washington Blade

With the receipt of royal assent, the Canadian government has passed an unprecedented nondiscrimination law protecting both gender identity and gender expression.

Advocates across Canada have praised Bill C-16, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, which adds gender identity and gender identity to the country’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws. They describe it as an important step towards protecting the transgender and gender non-conforming communities across the country.

“Basically what this law does is say that trans people and gender non-conforming people are a protected class in Canada,” said Rachel Lauren Clark, a Canadian trans activist.

“C-16 puts this air of protection around trans people, and I feel like I’m a part of Canadian society and that I’m protected,” continued Clark.

“The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that everyone can live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose,“ said Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in a statement released after C-16 passed in the Canadian Senate on June 15.

Wilson-Raybould sponsored the bill.

“It is about what’s best for children and people to live and grow up happy and healthy,” said Melissa Schaettgen, an advocate whose 10-year-old daughter Warner is trans. “ We knew what we had to do for our child to help her grow up safely.”

Schaettgen spoke as a witness on behalf of her daughter at the Senate hearings on C-16. Their entire family attended many of them, as Schaettgen said, to “have them see our faces once they heard our story.”

“Imagine you’re a parent, and you’re sitting there with your children in these debates where people are discussing how trans people aren’t real women,” she said. “It was emotionally devastating, and some days we left in tears.”

The bill was over a decade in the making, stalling several times in the Canadian political process. For a bill to become law in Canada it must be read three times in both the House of Commons and the Senate and then put forward for royal assent.

The first version of C-16 was introduced in 2005, but it did not move past its first reading.

“All of the bills on gender identity and expression leading up to C-16 were private members’ bills (PMBs,” said Alexander Xavier, an LGBTI coordinator for Amnesty International Canada. “[PMBs] get less floor time, are lower on the order paper and rarely pass.”

Amnesty International Canada is one organization under the umbrella of the Trans Equality Canada Coalition, a group dedicated to advancing the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people.

“The coalition has been part of a shift away from seeing [C-16] as a ‘trans issue’ and towards seeing it as a ‘human rights issue’ and a ‘Canadian issue,’” said Xavier. “There have been a lot of factors in that shift and a lot of work done to educate people and shift public opinion that made C-16 possible.”

In explicitly differentiating between gender identity and gender expression, C-16 is unique in the protections it provides. While gender identity is internally focused, expression refers to the ways that a person externally looks and is perceived.

“The language opens the door up to all gender expression, and not just strictly trans-identified gender expression,” said Cara Tierney, an artist and part-time professor. “Ideologically, it is a system to have everyone’s gender expression be protected and be theirs.”

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not released a formal statement, he tweeted in celebration of the bill’s passage and said, “Great news: Bill C-16 has passed the Senate – making it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity or expression. #LoveisLove.”

“Trans folks are the victims of a disproportionate amount of physical violence and abuse,” said Darrah Teitel of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. “C-16 is not only about establishing protections from discrimination but also protecting from hate crimes and violence inflicted on the streets based on gender identity and expression.”

Advocates say that their next step is education.

“There’s so much more work to do, whether it’s having pronouns respected by an employer or access to housing,” said Beck Hood, an LGBT public educator. “There are so many children entering into a world that isn’t what it was before, but there are still pieces that need to shift.”

“I see the rest of my career and life being educating the people around me,” added Tierney. “There’s a major uphill battle still ahead of us in many ways, but the piece of legality is so important.”

Melissa Schaettgen and her daughter have become advocates for raising the visibility of trans youth in Ottawa and around Canada.

“Warner and I view C-16 as our launching point. She told me that it feels like ‘having a superpower that I can defend myself with,’” said Schaettgen.

“We get strength from speaking out and hoping to change things,” she added. “As a mom, if I can make the world even a sliver better for her future, then it’s worth doing.”

Sexual Rights at the 27th UN Universal Periodic Review

The 27th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva from 1-12 May 2017. Eleven countries were reviewed during UPR27: Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Finland, United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Philippines, Algeria, Poland, Netherlands, and South Africa.

Click here for sexual rights related recommendations at UPR27

Now is The Time To Decriminalize Sex Work

Originally published in the Huffington Post

The Trudeau government has tackled several key pieces of its criminal law reform strategy but it’s long past time to decriminalize sex work.

Being elected to lead our country involves more than easy victories, politically expedient “people-pleasing” issues. The Trudeau government has a moral obligation to address the public health and safety of all its citizen. The weight of the Liberal majority needs to be put behind the health and safety of all people, including sex workers.

In Canada, in 2017, sex workers continue to live and work in unsafe conditions, to face predatory and state violence, immigration raids, deportation, surveillance and arrest as well as see their human rights violated. The failure to address it so far suggests that this human rights issue is intentionally being left off the legislative agenda, which is a serious concern.

Meaningful sex work law reform in Canada is long due. Among those concerned, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health has condemned the criminalization, full or asymmetrical, of sex work as a violation of the right to health by creating barriers to sex worker’s access to health services.

Governments have an obligation to show due diligence in the protection of sex workers’ human rights, including their right to health and to freedom from violence. Laws and policies must be evidence-based and address the intersecting and layered systems of oppression impacting sex workers’ experiences. This can only start with our government taking the necessary steps toward the decriminalization of sex work in Canada.

In December 2013, a victory was almost within reach. The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously struck down harmful laws that stood in the way of effectively protecting sex workers and the broader community.

The move toward decriminalization was backed by thousands of pages of evidence and expert testimony as well as decades of government sponsored commission reports and research, topped with relentless activism from grassroots organizations.

The Supreme Court’s Bedford decision marked a huge step in recognizing sex workers’ rights specifically, and human rights in Canada more generally. For more than thirty years, sex workers had been calling on Canada to repeal laws that target them, their clients and the people they work with, pointing to the harm in criminalizing elements of sex work and the inability of criminal prostitution laws to protect them from violence. Many lives were lost waiting for this victory.

Almost immediately, the Harper government communicated their intention to introduce new laws. A shift toward a discourse that conflated sex work and human trafficking soon kicked into high gear and introduced the idea of sex workers as victims to justify the continued aggressive regulation of sex work and sex workers. In December 2014, bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, became law.

Like the laws struck down in 2013, this new regulatory regime fails to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the requirements outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada in its Bedford decision.
This turn of events dealt a serious blow to those directly impacted by the criminalization of sex work, some of whom had spent decades fighting for their rights and were being told to wait once more. The social science evidence from Canada and throughout the world clearly indicates that criminalization of the sex industry – whether clients, third parties or sex workers – continues to send the sex industry into the shadows, restrict sex workers’ access to important safety mechanisms and has significant and profound negative consequences on sex workers’ health, security, equality and human rights.

The Liberal Party of Canada, then an opposition party, clearly denounced the new law. They took a clear stance and expressed serious concerns about the new legislation failing to adequately protect the health and safety of vulnerable people, particularly women.

During the electoral campaign in 2015, then-Liberal health critic Hedy Fry told an all-candidates women’s equality forum that her party maintained its staunch opposition to Bill C-36 and planned to scrap it. When the Liberal party won its majority government, they pledged real change and branded Canada’s new prime minister as a feminist. Where’s the change?
Once elected, the Trudeau government took the unprecedented step of publicly releasing all ministerial mandate letters. These documents provide a framework for what Ministers are expected to accomplish, including specific policy objectives and challenges to be addressed. The public mandate letter received by newly minted Attorney General of Canada and Justice Minister, the Honorable Jody Wilson-Raybould, did not mention sex work; a timeline to address the criminalization of sex work was not included.

The Trudeau government has touted itself as one that promotes, respects and fights for Charter rights; yet, their response to sex workers’ Charter rights is dismal to date – a year and a half later, we wait.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould needs to promptly begin a process of sex work law reform that culminates in the decriminalization of sex work as part of this government’s criminal law reform strategy. The time is now. In fact, the time was long ago.