The Sexual Health Network of Quebec is an organization that envisions the accessibility of accurate information about healthy relationships and healthy sexuality for youth in our communities. We got to speak with Tanya D’Amours, Vice President, to find out more about what they do.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
The Sexual Health Network of Quebec takes leadership in advancing sexual health education across the province through public education and awareness campaigns, support for the delivery of programs and services in schools, and the promotion of sexual health education. We act as a liaison to local, regional, national, and international organizations and are affiliates of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Over the years the mission of the organization has changed to meet the community’s needs. Right now, we are focused on ensuring that youth have access to crucial knowledge that will help prepare them for healthy relationships, will prevent unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, and will give them more insight into the changes going on in their bodies. We are flexible in our approach and will meet with schools to answer their questions and make sure that we can provide materials or presentations that are appropriate for their students. As such, we are always developing new resources that can fill in the gaps that exist in sexual health education. For example, we currently offer a number of teacher toolboxes for elementary, secondary and special needs classrooms.
When did you start/join it?
I’ve been a member of this non-profit organization for just over 10 years, but the SHNQ has been around since 1964. It started off as the Family Planning Association and then evolved into Planned Parenthood before transitioning to the Sexual Health Network of Quebec that we know today.
What made you want to get involved?
The organization is close to my heart because I am passionate about empowering youth to make well-informed choices when it comes to their bodies and their relationships. Sexuality and gender can be complex, and youth are navigating these topics on top of everything else on their plates. This is why it is essential to provide them with non-judgemental, inclusive, and comprehensive information that they can use to make educated decisions. I was lucky enough to have sex-ed when I was in high school and it
was an amazing experience. I wanted to be able to provide that same level of knowledge, on a topic that is often not spoken about, to the next generation of youth.
What was the situation like when you started?
Over the decade I have been with the SHNQ, we have seen curriculum changes, we have heard the concerns and questions from teachers and school boards, and most recently we have lived through a global pandemic that has had significant impacts on the ways in which sexual health education could be provided in schools. The most significant change in our work came after the government of Quebec announced that sexual health education would be mandatory in 2018. We heard from a number of staff that they would appreciate additional resources and training to feel prepared and confident in meeting this new requirement. We listened and we responded by shifting our focus from in-class sessions to the development of toolboxes that conformed to the MEES curriculum. With a topic like sexual health, there are always obstacles to overcome, but to date, we have overcome them and we continue to see a need
for our work which keeps us motivated to continue doing what we love.
How has it changed since?
We continue to serve as a support to educators and school boards by providing training, workshops, a virtual sexual health portal and our various toolboxes that break down topics to be covered at each grade level. Within the context of the pandemic, we saw that educators had to adapt the ways in which they worked and taught. With schools shifting to virtual classrooms, we have created e-learning versions of our materials and toolboxes that have been useful even now that classes are back to being taught in person. As affiliates of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, we regularly collaborate with affiliates across the country which has really allowed us to step up our work and learn collectively from what is being done in other communities. Over the years, the connections that the SHNQ has made and the organizations we have learnt from and continue to collaborate with have really elevated the services
that we are able to offer.
What more needs to be done?
It is hard to know exactly what the future has in store, but one thing we do know is that we will be here at the SHNQ making sure youth across Quebec can have access to sexual health information and that their questions don’t go unanswered. We have an amazing interdisciplinary team who work hard to ensure that we stay in touch with the needs of our community so that we can adapt as needed and develop appropriate sexual health education materials and resources whatever those may be.
How can our readers help?
If you would like to help spread the word about the SHNQ and our work, please share our website with the educators in your lives! As a non-profit, we are always looking for donations and funding sources that will allow us to continue this important work. Donations can be made through our site here.
Do you have any events coming up?
We don’t currently have any events coming up, but we have had several in the past. We encourage people interested in supporting us to follow us on social media so that they will be the first to know what we’re up to.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
If you are interested in sexual health information and would like to see what our affiliates are up to, you can also check out Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.