Ontario sex-ed curriculum leads to protests but many are on board

Jeremy Appel
City Hall/Queen’s Park Reporter

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s introduction of a new sexual education curriculum for Grades 1 through 12 has caused raucous debate at Queen’s Park.

But most of the noise was confined to the lawn outside Ontario legislature. Social conservative groups, including the vehemently anti-abortion Campaign for Life Coalition (CLC), gathered there to protest the updated curriculum on Feb. 24.

Michele Choma, a Social Service Work instructor from Humber, says the changes are long overdue but questions their timing.

She finds it suspicious the new curriculum was unveiled in the midst of an Ontario police investigation into alleged bribery during the recent Sudbury by-election.

Choma said she thought changes to the sex-ed curriculum was something needed but there was limited consultation with parents.

“(It limits) the caliber of the document,” she said. “There’s also no attention given to how you explain this to children with learning difficulties (and) special needs.”

The Ministry of Education released a fact sheet for parents, outlining the changes being made by grade level.

Students will now learn to identify their genitalia in Grade 1 and respect the opposite sex in Grade 5. They will learn about combating homophobia in Grade 7 and preventing sexually transmitted infections in Grade 8.

Mike Schreiner, leader of Ontario’s Green party, agrees the updated curriculum is well overdue.

“I’m in favour of updating and modernizing the way sex education is taught to our children,” he said. “It follows the recommendations the Green party has supported, but more importantly it follows the recommendations that parents, educators, teachers and experts in the field have all recommended.”

He fears the Liberals will fold under pressure, as former premier Dalton McGuinty did in 2010, when the last attempt at an update was made.

Schreiner admits his position on the curriculum’s content is essentially identical to the government’s at this point.

“Every province in Canada has modernized its sex-ed curriculum with the exception of Ontario, so it’s about time we catch up with the other provinces,” he said.

Social conservative critics like Campaign Life Coalition project manager Jack Fonseca say the new curriculum serves to “sexualize children.”

“There’s a lot of really kooky stuff that is not science-based, not fact-based and is really just political,” he said.

Choma sees no merit in this claim.

“It doesn’t endorse sexuality at all. I really have to question the thoughts behind someone sexualizing (the curriculum),” she said.

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