February 24, 2015 4:52 pm
Updated: February 24, 2015 5:21 pm

Sexual education compared across Canada

Most Canadian students are introduced to condom use in Grade 6 or 7.

Shaen Adey / Getty Images
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Ontario’s newly-revised sexual education curriculum introduces kids to the proper names for genitalia by Grade 1, the physical changes of puberty in Grade 4, and how to prevent sexually-transmitted infections in Grade 7.

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When you compare these milestones with those in other provinces, they stack up similarly.

We went through the curriculum for each province and examined when certain key concepts are first introduced to children. You’ll find our results below. Note that many curricula suggest strategies for introducing concepts at an age-appropriate level, for example: a discussion of sexual abuse in a kindergarten class would likely be about what inappropriate touching is and the importance of reporting it. And in many classrooms, concepts could be introduced earlier than required by the curriculum.

For more information on how a province describes a concept, you should look directly at the curriculum document.

And as an aside, while all provinces spend a lot of time talking about sex, only one guideline document specifically mentions love: Quebec’s.

The grade at which children are expected to know the names of all body parts:

  • Ontario: Grade 1
  • B.C.: Kindergarten
  • Alberta: Kindergarten
  • Saskatchewan: Grade 5 (possibly earlier)
  • Manitoba: Kindergarten
  • Quebec: By 5 years old
  • New Brunswick: Grade 6
  • PEI: Grade 6
  • Nova Scotia: Grade 3
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Grade 4

The grade at which children are introduced to the concept of sexual orientation:

  • Ontario: Grade 3
  • B.C.: Grade 6
  • Alberta: Unclear
  • Saskatchewan: Grade 3
  • Manitoba: Unclear
  • Quebec: By 5 years old
  • New Brunswick: Grade 8
  • PEI: Grade 8
  • Nova Scotia: Grade 3
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Grade 9 (may be mentioned earlier)

The grade at which children are introduced to the concept of gender identity:

  • Ontario: Grade 3
  • B.C.: Grade 6
  • Alberta: Unclear
  • Saskatchewan: Grade 1
  • Manitoba: Grade 5
  • Quebec: Between 8 and 11 years old
  • New Brunswick: Grade 6
  • PEI: Unclear
  • Nova Scotia: Grade 4
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Unclear

The grade at which children are told about STIs and their prevention:

  • Ontario: Grade 7
  • B.C.: Grade 6
  • Alberta: Grade 6
  • Saskatchewan: Grade 6
  • Manitoba: Grade 7
  • Quebec: Between 12-17 years old
  • New Brunswick: Grade 9 and 10
  • PEI: Grade 8 (expected to understand abstinence in Grade 7)
  • Nova Scotia: Between Grades 5 and 7: HIV/AIDS mentioned in Grade 5, consequences of sex in Grade 6, contraceptive methods in Grade 7
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Grade 7 (HIV/AIDS mentioned in Grade 5)

The grade at which children are told about Internet safety and/or sexting:

  • Ontario: Grade 4
  • B.C.: Grade 4
  • Alberta: Unclear
  • Saskatchewan: Grade 4
  • Manitoba: Unclear
  • Quebec: Unclear, but strong focus on safety/exploitation starting in kindergarten
  • New Brunswick: Unclear
  • PEI: Unclear
  • Nova Scotia: Grade 8
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Unclear

The grade at which children are told about birth control:

  • Ontario: Grade 7
  • B.C.: Grade 6 (unclear)
  • Alberta: Grade 8
  • Saskatchewan: Grade 9
  • Manitoba: Grade 7
  • Quebec: Between 12 and 17 years old
  • New Brunswick: Grade 9 and 10
  • PEI: Grade 8 (expected to understand abstinence in Grade 7)
  • Nova Scotia: Grade 7
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Grade 8

The grade at which children are expected to understand consent (healthy relationships in general are discussed earlier, or the two are blurred in many provinces):

  • Ontario: Grade 7 (some mention in Grade 2)
  • B.C.: Grade 8
  • Alberta: Grade 8
  • Saskatchewan: Grade 9
  • Manitoba: Grade 5
  • Quebec: Between 10-11 years old
  • New Brunswick: Grade 7, emphasized in Grade 9 and 10
  • PEI: Grade 9
  • Nova Scotia: Grade 7
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Grade 8

The grade at which children are told about sexual abuse:

  • Ontario: Grade 4
  • B.C.: Kindergarten
  • Alberta: Grade 8
  • Saskatchewan: Grade 3
  • Manitoba: Unclear
  • Quebec: By 5 years old
  • New Brunswick: Grade 8
  • PEI: Grade 8
  • Nova Scotia: Grade 5
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Grade 2

Note: Quebec does not have a formal dedicated sex ed curriculum, opting instead to integrate this instruction into other subjects. This approach has resulted in some criticism.

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