“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
The roots of the Centre for Sexuality are in education. In fact, just six months after CBCA’s work began in the early 70’s, the founders identified the need for education in the community. They knew that providing non-judgmental and accurate information was essential for individuals to be able to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
Fifty years later, education is still our keystone. From educating tens of thousands of Alberta students in schools, to providing community workshops and training, to our WiseGuyz and Girls Program, education is the basis of our mission. We know that it is the most impactful way to create change in communities.
Our current Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) program, provided by trained professional educators, goes far beyond basic “sex ed” and helps youth explore conversations about healthy relationships, consent, decision-making and communication, sexual orientation and gender identity, human rights, and so much more.
We are proud that our education programs have positively impacted generations of youth. We remain deeply committed to this work as we know that education is the foundation for individuals to achieve sexual well-being and live in healthy relationships throughout their lives.
President & CEO
Centre for Sexuality
Our Roots in Education
As the Calgary Birth Control Association evolved from a group of volunteers with a singular mission to becoming a registered charity, they also began to understand the needs of the community in a broader sense.
The founders recognized that while abortion referrals and counselling were still critical, there was also an enormous gap in quality, non-judgmental education in the community. In 1973, just a year after they incorporated, they received funding from the Family Planning Division of the Department of Health and Welfare, and the Family Planning Federation of Canada. With this funding, CBCA collaborated with the Calgary Board of Education to develop an education curriculum around sexuality and birth control as part of the Family Life Education Programme.
Educators Christene Gordon (left) and Val Barr (right) in the late 1980s.
The program had a slow start. It was particularly difficult to obtain a positive response from schools. However, as soon as the CBCA started giving lectures in different rural areas around Calgary, its success took hold and by the end of the summer, they had so many requests that they had to turn many down. To meet the demand, they obtained a funding extension from the federal government. By the end of 1973, education programs were nearly half the total of CBCA contacts.
As the counselling program was established using a volunteer model, appropriate training was a top priority. What started out as the development of a robust volunteer training program in collaboration with Continuing Education at the University of Calgary, CBCA developed and created a 10-week training course. It became quite successful, and by 1977 two courses were taught quite regularly: “Living with our Reproductive System” and “400 Eggs and 10 Billion Sperm”. These were open to all who wanted to learn more about sexuality and reproduction, and featured many different speakers over the weeks.
While our education in schools and the community, for youth and adults, has always included topics such as anatomy, birth control and STI’s, the curriculum has also evolved to remain relevant and impactful. After over twenty years of providing sexual health education in Calgary schools, in 1996, Calgary Board of Education (CBE) teachers began talking to our staff about the need to address homophobia in classrooms. They wanted to find ways to support 2SLGBTQ+ youth, and also saw a need to create allies among peers.
Teachers asked us to build a workshop for students to address homophobia. In 1997, with the aid of Pat Boyle, former CBCA Board Member, CBE Trustee and then Advisor to CBE on Gender Issues, CBCA added anti-homophobia programming in high schools. The goal was to create a climate of respect for 2SLGBTQ+ youth in response to a growing awareness that this population of youth often struggled with their identity, faced bullying and discrimination, and did not feel safe at school. The anti-homophobia program was very successful and was embraced by schools. It became a standard part of the curriculum, and it has evolved to include broader conversations about inclusion, allyship and intersectionality.
These are just a few examples of the evolution of education at the Centre. From 1970 when our founders first got together until today, we have been relentless in our commitment to education. It is the very fabric of who we are.