After reading a U.S. version recap of sexual health in 2016, I felt it necessary to do one from a Canadian perspective—specifically one that is exclusive to Nova Scotia.
Thus, here’s a run down of the best and worst moments from the world of sexual health.
The abortion pill is approved for Canadians
After many years of waiting (and waiting) for Health Canada to approve the abortion pill, it finally happened. This year, Canadians should have access to medical abortions in addition to surgical options. Mifegymiso may be available this spring; stay tuned for more information on how to get it.
New app for trans folks and their allies
Want to know more about the law and trans specific issues like name changes, including here in Nova Scotia? There’s an app for that. JusticeTrans is free for everyone. It’s like having a lawyer in your pocket. Plus, its developer is originally from Nova Scotia.
Incoming government promises to uphold reproductive choice AND hold inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women
It’s vital to never count political chickens before they’re hatched, but Justin Trudeau is vocal about keeping his government pro-choice. Time will tell how this pans out, like all election promises. Will it mean forcing Prince Edward Island to offer abortions in the province? Will it mean increased access for people in remote areas? However, the inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women is a go. Let’s hope recommendations are put into place, otherwise it’s merely an empty promise.
Vital Statistics makes changing sex designation on birth certificates easier
A new process at Vital Statistics (the government department responsible for birth certificates) means trans people can change gender markers much more easily. It’s still a new process, and we haven’t heard of how easy it really is. (Maybe someday the fees will also disappear.)
Potential changes to Duty to Report amended
Many folks in Nova Scotia were worried an overhaul of Nova Scotia Child Protection legislation was going to alter the legal Duty to Report. The changes meant service providers would have to report harm to youth between the ages of 16 and 19. Currently, the age is anyone under 16. Youth who fall under the Duty to Report age must be reported to Child Protection if they have been harmed in any way, including in a sexual assault. Concerns were raised this would cut down on people seeking help. The law will not be changed, however. It will stand at 16, and service providers can continue to support those 16 and over with options that work for them.
New Sexual Assault Services available on the South Shore
Sexual Assault Services Lunenburg Queens is up and running. People can access sexual assault nurse examiners and mental health professionals 24/7 at the hospitals in Lunenburg, Bridgewater, and Liverpool. Folks can choose whether to report the assault or have the evidence stored anonymously for up to five years. Hopefully someday such services will be available in every hospital for victims and survivors of sexual assault.
Uproar over changes to the Ontario Sexual Health Curriculum
Although this happened in Ontario, the uproar over what is appropriate for sexual health curriculum was felt across the country. The unfortunate aspect of this uproar was twofold: one, many people did not understand what the outcomes actually were when they began protesting them; and two, they were not happy that schools were teaching positive views about the rainbow community. The good news is that Nova Scotia sex ed curriculum is already supporting a well-rounded view of healthy sexuality.
Stats indicate campuses do not report many sexual assaults
You’d think low sexual assault stats on campuses would be awesome. In a perfect world, this would be fantastic! However, we know this age group experiences a high number of sexual assaults. Thus, the low numbers indicate many people choose not report sexual assaults. Furthermore, many universities are not eager to share information about assaults on their campus. It’s important victims and survivors feel safe to come forward for support, and that doesn’t seem to be happening everywhere. Let’s change that so people can feel safe to report sexual assault.
More people are getting oral herpes
Unfortunately, it’s not common knowledge that sexually transmitted infections can be spread easily through oral sex. More people are getting infections like herpes orally. Any time infections increase, we dislike it. Let’s make it common knowledge that barriers are necessary for oral sex, not just vaginal or anal sex.
New legislation gets rid of the statute of limitations on sexual assault civil cases
Nova Scotia quashed the statute of limitations on civil cases involving sexual assault. This is good. Although we’d prefer a world without assault, and one in which the criminal justice system provides adequate justice, civil suits do provide a means to seeking justice in some cases (for example, if the perpetrator or someone responsible for the perpetrator has deep pockets). However, this only applies to future assault cases, not past ones. And if the perpetrator has no money, or the victim/survivor cannot access a lawyer, then it may not be helpful. A better solution is a criminal justice system that supports sexual assault survivors and victims.
Dal Dentistry scandal fizzles out
Despite the horror over this scandal, many of the folks involved are off living their lives including working as dentists. Although there was a lot of controversy at the time, and a report that found Dalhousie fostered an atmosphere of misogyny, the issue seems to have dropped off the radar. This is good and bad. One can only hope policies have changed or are in the process of changing, and lessons have been learned, not only by the individuals involved, but especially by the institutions.
Report into Rehtaeh Parsons’ tragedy highlights mistakes
A report cannot bring back lives lost. One can hope, though, that lessons have been learned. The Murray Segal report into the Rehtaeh Parsons tragedy surprised no one: the system failed her. Many recommendations for improving the system were made: let’s keep our fingers crossed that changes happen so that people do not have to end their lives. And let’s keep agitating for changes to the system!
Are there any events or news that you think should’ve made our list? Let us know.