Healthy Relationships Newsletter

The Making of this Curriculum

The impetus to develop the Healthy Relationships curriculum traces its roots to that dark day in Canadian history--the Montreal Massacre--when 14 engineering students at Ecole Polytechnique were singled out and killed because they were female.

One of many responses to that outrageous act was the formation of Men For Change, which coalesced as a group of men in Halifax took to heart the implications of what had occurred. Looking for the story behind the "isolated-act-of-a-madman" theory, we began to probe the power imbalance between the genders that contributes to so much systemic and interpersonal violence. After much study, reflection, and discussion, we began to look for proactive ways to take responsibility for ending male violence, and to contribute towards the evolution of a violence-free society.

Men For Change has hosted open houses, co-sponsored a film series on Violence with the National Film Board, shown videos at public meetings, lobbied to reinstate funding for a counseling/intervention program for men who abuse women, and written letters to the editors of Nova Scotia newspapers to protest male violence against women, children, and other men.

The idea to develop Healthy Relationships arose at a Men For Change meeting in early 1992. Since our numbers were small (about 12 active members), we decided not to spread ourselves too thin by trying to tackle the full range of issues that had presented themselves--from violent pornography to gun control. Having spoken at many of the metro-area junior high schools, we felt a strong connection with teens. We decided to concentrate on developing a violence-prevention curriculum that would provide the gender analysis that seemed to be missing from existing skill-based programs.

Three Men For Change members committed themselves to the project: Peter Davison, who was teaching grade six at the time; Roger Davies, a teacher who had previously developed a program for young offenders, and was coordinating adult basic upgrading at two Halifax libraries; and Andrew Safer, a freelance journalist/communications consultant. (Note: Peter is now working as a Training Officer with the Nova Scotia Family Violence Prevention Initiative.)

HRC co-developers: Andrew Safer, Roger Davies and Peter Davison

Healthy Relationships Curriculum co-developers: Andrew Safer, Roger Davies and Peter Davison

Through the Community Health Promotion Fund, the Nova Scotia Department of Health approved seed funding of $5,000 on the condition that a school board support the initiative at the outset. What followed was a public-private partnership with the Halifax County-Bedford District School Board, which capitalized on the strengths of each partner while minimizing costs.

Health and Physical Education Supervisor Mike Law took charge of the project on the school board's behalf. He asked Health Teacher Helen Castonguay from Graham Creighton Junior High to serve as the school board's liaison. Helen's input was particularly valuable when it came time to vet the first draft, and, after incorporating her recommendations, we presented it to the Nova Scotia Department of Education for approval. We printed 50 copies in the spring of 1993 in time for an in-service with teachers in the school district, and a more polished Second Edition was published in April, 1994. In October, 1994, the Department announced its endorsement and the curriculum was included on the Authorized List of Learning Materials early in 1995.

Peter has conducted numerous in-services and training workshops around the province, as well as in British Columbia, Ontario, and Newfoundland. Peter, Roger, and Andrew have also made brief presentations to in-services in Gander, Newfoundland in absentia, via telephone conference call.

The Healthy Relationships curriculum is being used in Health, Family Studies, Home Economics, and French Immersion courses (although it has yet to be translated into French!)--and probably other courses we don't know about--as well as by guidance counsellors. Outside the school setting, it is being used by transition houses, youth centres, organizations that support sexual assault victims, conflict resolution consultants, community education centres, and young offender institutions.


  1. Curriculum Selected for Three-Year Evaluation
    Update February 1997
    "Our research assistants are excited and challenged by what is going on in the classroom, and we are very pleased with the response we're getting from school administrators and teachers."

  2. A Challenge for Educators
    "On the basis of time alone...the entertainment industry is the first curriculum in young peoples' lives."

  3. The Making of this Curriculum
    "We began to look for proactive ways to take responsibility for male violence, and to contribute towards the evolution of a violence free society."

  4. In Ontario, Gender Analysis is Key
    "HRC looks at stereotyping of both men and women as victims of socialization. It's not one half of the population that's at fault."

  5. Educating for Change
    Recommended Materials on Violence Against Women and Children.

  6. Gender Reactions Differ in B.C.
    "From her vantage point, Hill has noticed different gender-based reactions to some of the material she's presented."

  7. Public Health Nurse Uses Healthy Relationships Curriculum
    "I'm going to start a project in junior high schools on awareness, violence, and bullying..."

  8. Multiple Applications in Edmonton
    "This material provides a way to stimulate discussion and to develop strategies for intergenerational connections."

  9. Breaking New Ground With Youth Corrections Programming
    "It's been a real plus for us to be able to go to something that's already out there, and to be able to use it as a source of strength."

  10. Students Promote Zero Tolerance for Violence
    "The $64,000 question remains: Is the curriculum actually making a difference in the students' attitudes and behaviours? MacNeil says it is."

  11. Going to the Heart of the Matter in Dade County, Florida
    "The reason your curriculum is so good is because it touches the soul. It goes to the heart of the matter. It is not superficial."

  12. A Foundation for Other Programs
    "Sometimes Healthy Relationships is not used overtly in program delivery. Instead, it's used behind the scenes."

  13. Children's Aid Uses Healthy Relationships
    "The boys have had problems in relation to sexuality...We have found (HRC) a very useful reference and resource."

  14. Curriculum Supplement: Gender Justice
    Some suggestions which expand this unit of the Grade 9 curriculum.

  15. Organizations that have ordered Healthy Relationships
    Update December 1997

To receive a printed copy of the latest Healthy Relationships Newsletter, please e-mail your name, name of your organization, and full address to: --or use our online request form


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