On the first day of school, the Ontario elementary teacher’s union filed a court challenge over Premier Doug Ford’s changes to sex education curriculum. Throughout Canada, health education varies significantly. In Ontario, the new Conservative government has implemented a revised interim health education curriculum, with some sections being reverted to the 1998 version, which is to be used while a province-wide consultation is underway to create new curriculum. The interim curriculum replaces material from 2015 that included information about sexting, consent and same-sex marriage.
Opponents of the Liberal’s 2015 curriculum argue that it teaches “too much too soon,” as Farina Siddiqui, a Peel mother who home-schooled two of her daughters when the curriculum was introduced, stated. Other parties, like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, a non-profit human rights organization, oppose the Conservative’s recent changes for “censoring” certain topics – such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and online bullying – and are concerned these changes will harm certain students and their families. “Responsible sex ed has, as its first obligation, to respect parents [and . . .] to Do No Harm,” states Barbara Kay, a National Post columnist. But what defines “doing no harm” and respecting the parental role in a child’s education is being strongly debated throughout the province.
Premier Ford expects adherence to the revised curriculum: “We will not tolerate anybody using our children as pawns for grandstanding and political games,” he said. “If we find somebody failing to do their job, we will act.” Any parent who believes a teacher is “jeopardizing their child’s education by deliberately ignoring Ontario’s curriculum” can file a complaint on a “Snitch Line,” as provided by the Conservative’s Ontario Newsroom website.
“This is a blatant attack on the professionalism and judgement of teachers,” Sam Hammond, President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said in a tweet. He also said that the government is “manufacturing a crisis” by misrepresenting how sex education is being taught.
Consent, one of the issues not included in the interim curriculum, is an important topic on which both sides might find common ground, suggests Mary Lou Rasmussen, a professor of sociology at Australian National University.
The court case determining which curriculum teachers can use will go before a panel of three judges on Sept. 24. The union has also asked that the “snitch” line be shut down.
View the current interim Curriculum at edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum.
Provide curriculum feedback at ontario.ca/page/for-the-parents.
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