That’s the message advocates outside of the Council of Confederation tried to deliver to provincial and territorial leaders in Saskatoon on Wednesday.
Launched by Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, the #SexEdSavesLives campaign calls on all levels of government to take urgent action, as the group argues sex ed in Canada is “sub-standard, inconsistent, and poorly implemented.”
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Darrah Teitel, campaigns officer with the group, said they’ve sent letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and premiers across the country asking them to take action and invest in sexuality education, implementing guidelines recently released by the Sex Education and Information Council of Canada in classrooms across the country.
“The evidence shows that investments in improving sexuality education is one of the smartest things that any government can do in order to ensure the health and wellness and well-being of people throughout their lives,” she said.
In Canada, Teitel said, sex education is under attack, as some politicians have started to target sex-ed curriculums in order to score points with a more conservative political base. She said this is politicians putting votes ahead of the welfare of children, noting the new guidelines, which she says will save lives, require a real political will and investment to implement.
“We’re making sure that the guidelines, the newly published guidelines that set these great standards for sexuality education across the country, don’t just sit and gather dust on a shelf,” she said.
“Because they’re out there now, but the government — neither the federal government nor the provincial governments or the territorial governments — have any plan to make sure that these actually get into the hands of teachers and they need to do that with real investments.”
The group claims there is no sex-ed curriculum in Canada that meets the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education or international human rights standards set by the United Nations.
CBC Saskatoon reached out to the Council of Federation to see if sex ed is something the premiers will be discussing as they meet in Saskatoon, or if representatives would be willing to meet with members from the group, but a response was not immediately received.
The push for better sex-education in Canada has the support of of the largest group of health professionals in the province, as leaders from the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) said sex ed is critical for preventing future health care issues and strains on the system.
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“When you have a robust sexual health education, kids start to understand their bodies; they start to understand consequences if they don’t treat themselves correctly,” said Tracy Zambory, the president of SUN, which represents roughly 10,000 nurses.
“If they’re able to talk openly about their own sexuality, they start to feel safe, they start to feel empowered, and then they become adults who don’t have to access the health-care system, whether it be through hospital or social services, because they’re living a healthy robust life.”
As part of Wednesday’s demonstration across the street from the Delta Bessborough hotel, people were asked to sign a banner which asked them: “What do you wish you learned in sex ed.” Some of the responses included answers like: “Consent and how to enjoy sex” with others explaining they wished they learned “that every body is beautiful and belongs to the individual.”
Daryl Malana was one of the people attending the event. He explained that during high school, sex education focused only on hetero-normative sex and had no information about gender and sex minorities. He said if political leaders continue endorsing this outdated sex-education curriculum, they’re failing future generations of Canadians.
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“They’re consenting to outdated sexual-health, sexual education and I need it to be updated,” he said. “For the people before me and after me I need them to learn more than I did.”
Action Canada had extended an invitation to all of the premiers to speak at Wednesday’s event. All of them declined.
Premiers will be meeting in Saskatoon until Thursday.