29/04/10

Bipolar Canada flip-flops on sex ed

I’ve decided Canada is bipolar. In the couple of days that I was there this week, one province bottled and pulled the plug on a solid programme to educate school kids about sex and relationships that it had announced just days earlier. The government took contraception off the agenda at the G8, then said ok to talk of pills and coils, but no to abortion. And though drug injection in prison continues apace, and government agencies and others say prison prevention programmes work, there are still no clean needles behind bars.

Is any of this a big surprise? Not really. But it is very much at odds with Canada’s self-image as a sensible, compassionate nation, and what boy-scout-in-chief Prime Minister Stephen Harper promises the world. I made this point on CBC’s morning radio show in Edmonton on Tuesday. My interviewer, Ron Wilson, seemed genuinely perplexed that Canadian politicians might make decisions that are not always in the bests interests of drug injectors. Listen to the podcast here.

I was so surprised by his surprise that I went back and looked at what Harper says about evidence-based policy. Here it is:

“Leaders agreed to the following principles…[we will] Base our actions on the best available science and evidence-based decision-making.”

He was talking specifically about flu in that context, so perhaps he believes that flu is different from other viruses. Perhaps scientific evidence doesn’t apply to HIV, or indeed to other sexually-transmitted disorders such as unwanted pregnancy. But to me, it’s all evidence of policy schizophrenia.

More good reporting on needles in jails from my favourite Canadian paper, Xtra.

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This post was published on 29/04/10 in Ideology and HIV.

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2 comments

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  1. Comment by Caroline, 02/05/10, 02:02:

    Thanks for this – was incredibly excited when the program was first announced, only to be crushed a few days later.

    Unfortunately this generation of Canadian politicians is spineless and woefully ill-informed. As a Canadian, it’s embarrassing.

  2. Comment by Miriam in Vancouver, 07/05/10, 10:19:

    I love your appraisal of Canada’s mental health; I also very much enjoyed your response to Ron Wilson’s attempt at (speaking of spineless …) objectivity: “either they’re stupid or lacking compassion for injectors … you choose”. Yes, we are a bi-polar nation. We also have an inferiority complex and forget that we are one of the world’s most powerful imperialist nations – our “leaders” are not spineless or ill-informed, but have economic and political interests driving their every move. Hope you make your way to Vancouver again soon EP.

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