The Centre for Sexuality strongly condemns the changes proposed at the recent announcement by the Government of Alberta. These changes will affect the most vulnerable in our community and negatively impact all youth across Alberta.

The Centre has provided comprehensive sexual health education programs for over 50 years in Alberta schools, reaching over 10,000 youth annually. We use a comprehensive approach that has proven to create safer spaces for all students, including 2SLGBTQ+ youth. The proposed changes to sexual health education are unrealistic and will lead to poor sexual health outcomes in our province.

Currently, there is an opt-out clause for sex education; any parent can sign an opt-out form to keep their child or teenager from attending sex ed classes. As the vast majority of parents see the benefits of evidence-based sexual health education, very few choose to opt out. In fact, parents often comment that they wish they had our program when they were young. The proposed change to an opt-in system for every single mention of human sexuality will create a chilling effect whereby youth receive no information about an essential part of growth and development.

The Centre supports members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities every day, including youth. One of the first questions we are consistently asked when supporting queer youth is: How do I come out to my parents? It isn’t that they don’t want to; sometimes it isn’t safe and they may face consequences at home for simply being who they are. A safe peer, teacher, school or outside resource is key in the process. Taking this away in school environments is unacceptable – even cruel – and will surely intensify the already disproportionate numbers of 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges.

Our work goes beyond the facts of sexual health and creates safer environments for all. When one population of students feels safer, it leads to safer schools overall. We support 2SLGBTQ+ students while also creating active allies. We also acknowledge and nurture the essential role of parents in their child’s sexual health education. Parents are one of the most important sex educators in their child’s life and we reinforce that through workshops specifically for parents. From our work counseling gender and sexually diverse youth, we know that youth who do not have accepting and affirming parents experience poor mental health outcomes, suicidal thoughts, homelessness and self harm.

No matter what, the Centre for Sexuality will be here for youth, parents and families as we have for over 50 years, providing fact-based evidence and support to sustain healthy bodies, healthy relationships and healthy communities.