- Giving students skills to foster healthy relationships -

The Ontario government is investing nearly $875,000 to train high school coaches on prioritizing important conversations with young male athletes about youth dating- and gender-based violence, consent and healthy relationships, and building cultures free from violence. This will help support safer schools as Ontario implements restrictions on cellphones, removal of social media from school devices, and the banning of vaping.

Through this funding, Interval House of Hamilton will certify up to 23 violence against women (VAW) agencies across the province in the Coaching Boys into Men program. In turn, these agencies will work with local school boards to train up to 400 coaches/teachers to engage with students aged 12 and up through sports on healthy relationships, mental health practices and gender-based violence. The program will benefit students in approximately 200 high schools in Ontario.

This investment builds on Ontario’s plan to make schools and school settings safer, bring awareness to students about the dynamics of healthy relationships, consent, and new efforts to re-focus classrooms as places of learning and universal respect.

β€œIt is critical that boys and young men in this province learn how to build healthy relationships, prevent violence, and respect girls and women in schools and across our society,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. β€œThanks to the leadership of Jess Dixon, we are taking action to advance Ontario’s commitment to getting distractions out of the classroom and restoring focus and safety back in schools. These real-life skills will support students well beyond the classroom.”

Coaching Boys into Men is a 12-week, evidence-based violence-prevention program that trains high school coaches to engage with male athletes about healthy relationship skills and that violence is not a sign of strength. The program leverages sports to help:

β€’ Improve male students’ and coaches’ knowledge and understanding of gender-based violence, its impacts and how we can safely intervene when we witness or experience it
β€’ Translate the sports environment and its numerous benefits into an effective site for talking about these issues
β€’ Bolster and nurture athletes’ and coaches’ leadership skills to stand up for respect and positively impact their school cultures
β€’ Reduce incidences of bullying, hazing, harassment, violence and abuse among male student athletes and within their outside relationships
β€’ Increase positive bystander behaviours and likelihood of reaching out for support among youth

β€œAs a former Crown Attorney turned Member of Provincial Parliament, I entered public office in 2022 with a singular mission: to advocate for evidence-based crime-prevention initiatives on a provincewide scale. This allocation of nearly $875,000 toward the Coaching Boys into Men program represents a monumental stride in governmental backing for expansive, school-based prevention endeavours. It also has profound personal significance in my own political career, as this is a program that I personally identified and advocated for. Reducing gender-based violence among youth is something everyone in society can get behind, and I am so proud that Interval House of Hamilton will now be able to significantly expand this program across Ontario,” said Jess Dixon, MPP Kitchener Southβ€”Hespeler.
β€œWe will never succeed in combating gender-based violence if we fail to give young men and boys the tools they need to foster healthy relationships, challenge harmful behaviours and ultimately become allies of women. This program does exactly that, and I am immensely grateful for the unwavering support extended to this initiative by our Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, and for the trust he has placed in me as both a colleague and an advocate.”

This investment showcases Ontario’s commitment to proactively support healthy relationships and address violence in schools by offering resources that help students navigate challenges and build meaningful connections.

"Our government is working to build positive and safe sports cultures by equipping high school coaches with the training and skills to engage young male athletes in important conversations about healthy relationships and respectful behaviour. I am proud of our ongoing efforts to work with community partners like Interval House of Hamilton to develop athletes that lead by example both on and off of the field of play."
- Neil Lumsden, MPP for Hamilton Eastβ€”Stoney Creek

Quick Facts

β€’ Dating violence starts early and is more prevalent among young women. Dating violence can begin as early as grade school, with 29 per cent of young girls and women in Grades 7, 9, and 11 reporting experiencing dating violence, compared to 13 per cent of young boys and men.
β€’ According to the 2023 SafeSport survey conducted by the Coaches Association of Ontario (CAO), one in five coaches have heard offensive language (for example, sexist, racist, homophobic) in their organization or at competition within the past six months. While most coaches (85 per cent) say they are comfortable intervening when they hear offensive comments, 45 per cent of them indicate they are only somewhat comfortable speaking out or interrupting.
β€’ A national study looking at 3,000 Canadian youth found that in the past year, 12 per cent were physically hurt on purpose by someone they were dating, 18 per cent had a person they were dating use social media to hurt, embarrass, or monitor them, and 28 per cent reported a dating partner who tried to control them or emotionally hurt them.
β€’ For the 2023-24 school year, the Ministry of Education is providing $24 million to support initiatives and programs that help build a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students.
β€’ Ontario requires all school boards to have an anti-bullying policy in place to help foster more welcoming and supportive school communities.

SOURCE: Ontario Ministry of Education

* * *