TORONTO—Ontario Premier Doug Ford reiterated on July 6 that his government plans to launch a largescale consultation process before deciding what the province’s sex education curriculum should encompass.
“We travelled around Ontario, we consulted with thousands and tens of thousands of parents, we consulted with hundreds of teachers, and not one single person came up to me and said they were consulted,” Ford said during question period in response to comments by NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
Horwath said Ford’s plan is to “drag Ontario back to 1998,” referencing the government’s plan to revert to the sex-ed curriculum in place from 1998 until 2015, when the previous Liberal government under Kathleen Wynne introduced a new curriculum. That curriculum was criticized by several parent groups who deemed the contents age-inappropriate.
“[The premier’s decision] is not about doing what’s right for students, nor about listening to parents. It’s about doing favours for social conservatives,” Howarth said.
Ford said the Liberals consulted only 1,638 parents. For a province of 14 million people, that’s a very negligible number, he noted.
“We take the approach that the best teachers are the parents, not special interest groups,” he said. “We’re going to do the largest consultation in Ontario’s history when it comes to the sex education.”
Scrapping the Liberal government’s sex education curriculum was one of Ford’s campaign promises, which he fulfilled shortly after taking office.
Education minister Lisa Thompson announced last week that schools will be going back to the old curriculum starting in September.
“Contrary to all the spinning and what was reported last week, the premier, myself, and entire colleagues in the PC government stand with students and the fact that they need to be prepared for 2018 realities,” Thompson said during the new government’s first question period on July 5.
“That includes consent, that includes texting, sexting, that includes even new elements like luring, catfishing, and we need to look at that and open up the consultation to make sure that every person who wants to share their perspective has an opportunity to do so.”
Several media articles hinted that this was a backtrack on the government’s original position regarding the curriculum. However, Thompson’s main point remained that the government is “committed to a consultation that will absolutely ring true across this province.”
Later in the day, Thompson issued a statement saying the PC’s campaigned on a promise to completely replace the Liberals’ controversial sex education curriculum with “an age-appropriate one that is based on real consultation with parents.”
“When Ontario voters chose their new government, they did so knowing that this was our intended course of action.”
She added that no decision has yet been made on what the new curriculum would look like.
“The final decision on the scope of the new curriculum will be based on what we hear from Ontario parents.”
Mary Ellen Douglas, a national organizer with Campaign Life Coalition, one of the groups opposed to the Liberals’ curriculum, praised the government’s decision to consult parents.
She said the previous government only consulted with one parent from some schools, and the parent was chosen by the principal.
“People have strong feelings about this. They should have the opportunity to say what should be in the program and whether they accept it or not,” said Douglas, who was a school trustee in Kingston for five years.
Any new curriculum should reflect the views of all parents, Douglas added, not just the views of those who want the curriculum to include certain elements that some parents would find “absolutely abhorrent.” Any parents wishing their children to learn about certain issues can teach them about those concepts at home, she said.
“That’s their right. My right is not to have that imposed on [children] in school. I’m the parent, I have a say in what the child learns in that area.”