Amie Dawson

Amie Dawson

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A brief history of sex education
Actions for the recognition of sex education as a collective right did not begin until the 1970s. Several realities have influenced, and still influence, the lives of women and men in the area of sexual and reproductive health: scientific discoveries, laws, access to education, social class, religion, funding of certain services, etc.
Thousands of people have violated Canadian laws passed in 1869 and 1892 that made abortion and the sale of contraceptives or abortifacient products illegal. Any dissemination of information related to contraception, sexuality and contraceptive methods was done through informal networks. In 1936, for example, Dorothea Palmer, an Ontario nurse, was prosecuted for organizing kitchen assemblies on sexuality and contraception. Her acquittal helped to strengthen the work of informal networks for the dissemination of information on sexuality. It is interesting to note in passing that Dorothea Palmer was part of a movement that originated in the upper classes and whose primary motivation for promoting contraception was to contain the expansion of the working classes.
In Quebec, it was mainly the English-speaking community that made sex education accessible through contraceptive methods such as the "English condom". This reality was somewhat transformed with the involvement of Rita and Gilles Brault in the organization of kitchen meetings. It should not be forgotten that Francophones were under the influence of the Catholic Church, which insisted that there could be no sexuality outside of marriage, prohibited all forms of contraception and saw only one use for the sexual life of married couples: to have children.
In 1969, after several years of class action and lobbying, Canada adopted the Omnibus Bill which, among other things, decriminalized the information and sale of contraceptives, allowed abortion if a therapeutic abortion committee assessed that the mother's health was in danger and accepted sexuality outside marriage between consenting adults from the age of 16 for heterosexuals and 18 for homosexuals. Vibrator wand was first introdiced then.
In Quebec, this adoption marks the beginning of many actions for the implementation of real conditions for updating and amending this law. For example, the Front de libération des femmes is translating the document Pour un contrôle des naissances; the Centre de planification familiale du Québec et de Montréal and the Association de planification des naissances de Montréal are launching a training program that will enable more than 2,000 health care workers to acquire knowledge and skills in the area of sexuality and birth planning ; the Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances (FQPN) is lobbying the Ministère de la Famille et du Bien-être du Québec and the Ministère de l'Éducation for sexuality education and family planning services.
In 1972, the Government of Québec adopted its Family Planning Policy. This policy provided for an injection of funds for the establishment of planning services in CLSCs and hospitals, as well as the creation of a sexuality prevention program in schools at the secondary, college and university levels. At the end of the 1970s, despite opposition, mainly from the Catholic Church, the fight for contraception led by women's groups and progressive groups gained momentum: contraceptive methods were used by the majority of Quebec women. But the fight for sex education in schools and CLSCs still meets a great deal of resistance. In fact, the Association des parents catholiques is mobilizing its members and a good part of the churches to prevent the implementation of the personal and social training program (FPS) that includes a sexuality education component. The FQPN then circulated a petition, Sex Education: A Social Responsibility, which gathered thousands of signatures. Finally, in 1985, the program was implemented in elementary and secondary schools.

At the same time, the Quebec government began to question the health and social services system. Thus, starting in 1985, the government stopped granting protected budgets to the planned parenthood and sexuality services and decided to review its planned parenthood policy in order to adapt it to the new needs of the population. These decisions had a rapid impact on the accessibility of sex education services in CLSCs and hospitals, and funding for sex education projects of community organizations was reduced.
In 1995, the Quebec Department of Health and Social Services published Les Orientations ministry of planned delivery. Despite protests from community groups and people working in the field, little emphasis was placed on sex education other than as a means of preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. 

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