Montreal

Quebec groups call for more sex ed

A coalition of Quebec women's groups and health professionals say they are witnessing an explosion of sexually transmitted diseases among young people, and the coalition says the provincial government's education reform is to blame.

A coalition of Quebec women's groups and health professionals say they are witnessing an explosion of sexually transmitted diseases among young people, and the coalition says the provincial government's education reform is to blame.

The groups are calling on the government to implement a program dedicated solely to teaching sex ed in Quebec schools.

Among the groups calling for the change are community group Head and Hands, the Quebec Women's Federation, and the women's condition committees for several unions representing nurses and teachers.

The province's school system scrapped dedicated sex-ed classes in 2001, and replaced them with informal chats with teenagers about sexuality in all classes.

In a written press release, the coalition said Wednesday that according to the province's Health Ministry's statistics, the number of women who contracted gonorrhea between 2004 and 2008 was five times higher in the 15-24 age group, for example.

"Unfortunately, the reform has effectively eliminated sex education from our schools," said Marlo Turner-Ritchie, executive director of Head and Hands. "We think it's unacceptable."

Head and Hands runs its own sex-ed workshops and has set up a program that gives sessions to 850 young people in eight Montreal-area schools, both during school hours and on the students' own time.

Turner-Ritchie said smaller initiatives from community groups is not enough.

Alexa Conradi, president of the Quebec Women's Federation, said research shows that teenagers respond more readily when given the time to think critically about important issues.

"[School] is one of the places where we have access to all young people, so why not do it in school?" said Conradi.

"It's a bit uncomfortable to ask math teachers and phys-ed teachers to [teach] sex ed, when they haven't been trained to offer these courses," continued Conradi.

A spokesperson for Quebec's Education Minister said the department  is aware that it needs to improve sexual education in Quebec's schools.

Amélie Légaré said Minister Line Beauchamp will consult with school boards across Quebec and the groups calling for better sex ed in the coming weeks.

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