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Building the Field of Teen Healthy Relationships Programming in Canada

Welcome to Building the Field of Teen Healthy Relationships, a unique national collective action initiative bringing together young people, community programs, academics, policy-makers, and funders to share successes and challenges, as well as to discuss the future of teen healthy relationships programming.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation has received funding from Public Health Agency of Canada, as part of Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence to undertake a five-year initiative (April 2019 to March 2024). This is the next phase of the Building the Field of Teen Healthy Relationships national collective action strategy that the Canadian Women’s Foundation embarked on from 2015-2018 with three years of funding from the Department of Women and Gender Equality.

The goal of these five years is to support programs that help youth learn strategies to develop and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships to prevent gender-based violence and to avoid its immediate and long term impacts on individuals, communities and Canadian society.


  • 2019-2024 Project Overview (Phase 2)

    Gender-based violence—including violence against people based on their gender expression, gender identity, or perceived gender—is a significant cause of harm and a preventable barrier to gender equality.

    There is a growing body of evidence that shows that collaborative approaches to addressing complex social problems, such as gender-based violence, achieve greater and more lasting success than isolated efforts. Through this project, the Canadian Women’s Foundation aims to enhance communication and collaboration amongst young people, youth serving agencies, funders, policy makers, school boards, researchers, and other professionals and communities working to prevent and address teen and youth dating violence.

    The focus of this initiative is to increase and strengthen links and relationships between these stakeholders and establish greater coordination, alignment, communication and knowledge sharing.

    This will be achieved through the convening of:

    • First Nations, Métis and Inuit National Hub
    • Regional Hubs in Québec and the Atlantic
    • Youth Connectors
    • National Teen Healthy Relationships Knowledge Centre
      • National Network on Teen Healthy Relationships

        Values and Principles of the Field

        • Centering youth voice, which involves having youth representation at all the steps of the project. This could involve more focus groups with youth or consultations, hiring youth representatives to work in key roles in the national network, involving youth in program development, and engaging with youth in advisory committees or youth councils.
        • Intersectionality and inclusion, which includes centering marginalized voices and perspectives within the field, as well as ensuring that programs are tailored to specific communities, such as 2SLGBTQI+ and First Nations, Métis and Inuit identified youth and those identified as Hard to Reach.
        • Developing a shared framework that is anti-colonial, intersectional, feminist, and committed to amplifying the leadership of youth alongside adult stakeholders. This is also related to the need for developing a shared vocabulary across the field, with agreement on basic principles for the work of Teen Healthy Relationships programs.
        • Taking a wide and holistic lens towards healthy relationships, which means maintaining a wide focus of programs to include personal/mental health, romantic and dating relationships, but also relationships with family, friends, community, and the environment.
        • Focusing both on prevention and intervention, which means developing programs both to prevent unhealthy relationships, as well as programs that respond to violence within relationships by providing support and care.

        Key Priorities for the Strengthening the Field

        1. Supporting the work of Teen Healthy Relationships Program Providers, by identifying core skills, basic training and evaluations programs.
        2. Involving Parents, Caregivers & Other Support Systems within Teen Healthy Relationships programming for a more holistic approach involving families and communities beyond school.
        3. Building a National Leadership and Network, for engaging and advocating with government, building relationships with funding agencies, and sharing knowledge throughout the field.
        4. First Nations, Métis and Inuit Programming from a strengths-based perspective to better address the needs, histories, and perspectives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth.
        5. Community Program Settings, that reach youth populations in such as rural communities, especially through programs that are offered in out of school settings.
        6. Access & Engagement for Youth Not in School, including youth who may be in treatment, in care, in custody, or being home-schooled.
        7. Online & Digital Programming, which highlights the possibilities of using digital media and new media technologies to reach youth online.
        8. Youth Voice & Gender Diverse Youth provide the overarching core principles for all action areas. Centering these voices will become a guiding principle of all the work in Teen Healthy Relationships programming.

        Leadership Round-table

        The Leadership Roundtable is a national advisory committee that guides and collaborates on national priorities, and supports the regional hubs. The Leadership Roundtable is designed to represent different sectors that make up the field, as well as representatives of different contexts in which these programs take place.

        Past Leadership Round-table Activities

        1. Creating a national database of stakeholders across all four sectors: non-profit service providers, researchers and academics, funders and philanthropists, and government policy makers.
        2. Conducting exploratory consultations with 15 stakeholders from each of the identified sectors to gather preliminary insights on the trends and challenges, influential actors, and opportunities for strengthening the field.
        3. Developing and distributing a national survey, to better understand who makes up the Field of Teen Healthy Relationships, what the priorities, challenges, and gaps are, how the field currently interacts and collaborates, and what opportunities exist to strengthen and support the field as a whole.
        4. Organizing the 2017 and 2018 National Forums

        Working Group

        Issue specific national working groups working groups aim to consolidate resources, conduct research, and develop actionable projects to strengthen their specific priority area.

        Past Working Groups:

        1. First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Programming: This group focused on improving programming to take a strengths-based approach and better include the perspectives and needs of Indigenous communities in Canada
        2. Equipping and Engaging Adults: This group aimed to both empower and strengthen program providers, as well as better engage parents and caregivers in order to improve the efficacy of healthy relationships programs.
        3. Community Program Settings and Hard to Reach Youth: This group focused on programming in community settings, particularly programs that serve youth who are not in school, such as youth in custody, in care, homeless youth and youth who are homeschooled.
        4. National Leadership: The primary goal of this working group was to create a national strategy, national network, and knowledge sharing hub for Teen Healthy Relationships in Canada.

        Mapping the Field of Teen Healthy Relationships

        To develop a preliminary ‘picture’ of the people, organizations and work/initiatives that currently make up the “Teen Healthy Relationships Field” throughout Canada, in 2016 we launched a national survey in order to:

        • Create a map of all the individuals, organizations, projects, and initiatives currently underway across different contexts, sectors and geographies in Canada
        • Learn about the goals and objectives of each stakeholder, as well as the kinds of challenges and barriers they may face in achieving them
        • Identify areas for improvement and intervention in order to overcome challenges and strengthen the field of Teen Healthy Relationships

        National Forums for Building the Field of Teen Healthy Relationships

        2017 National Forum – Toronto

        The first national forum brought together approximately 70 stakeholders from different sectors and regions throughout Canada to understand, discuss, and connect with others in the field of Teen Healthy Relationships.

        The purpose was to build relationships between champions and key stakeholders operating in the Teen Healthy Relationships field, to develop a shared understanding of the current state of the field through sharing the Mapping the Field results, and to develop 4 – 6 preliminary action plans, supported by working groups, to address opportunities for building and strengthening the field.

        View the agenda and materials.

        2018 National Forum – Winnipeg

        The second national forum brought together approximately 70 stakeholders from different sectors and regions throughout Canada to understand, discuss, and connect with others in the field of Teen Healthy Relationships.

        This meeting was intended to build relationships for further collaboration across sectors and regions, share learnings on identified priority action areas for strengthening the field by the working group activity results, understand the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action for the field, and develop further recommendations to build and enhance the field nationally, including next steps for the field building work.

        View the agenda and materials.
        • National Hub on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Young People

          Key Activities

          • Deepen Mapping – Enhance the existing ‘picture’ of the people, organizations and work/initiatives that currently make up the “Teen Healthy Relationships Field” nationally that focus on First Nations, Métis and Inuit led and serving programs.
          • National Convening – Hold regular in-person and online meetings to bring partners together to collaborate on strategies and host meaningful exchange opportunities. Hold three national forums in 2019, 2021, and 2023.
          • Resource Knowledge Centre – Research, survey, and compile key shareable resources for the sector, identify gaps in these resources.
          • Skills-based Training Sessions and Kits – Create and deliver tools collectively that will help fill identified gaps, up to four tools – one in each year 2019-2024.
          •  Implement Action – Develop a regional action plan, with co-created goals and four-year timeline, starting in fall 2019 and ending by March 2023.

          Current Partners

          We are proud to be partnering with organizations already very active in the field and we are constantly adding to this group.

    Building the Field of Teen Healthy Relationships is funded by Public Health Agency of Canada, as part of Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence.