Ontario will move forward with an updated, progressive sexual education curriculum to be rolled out in Ontario schools starting in September 2015, Premiere Kathleen Wynne announced Feb. 19.
Wynne and Education Minister Liz Sandals say parents should be able to view the proposed changes to the curriculum online within the next few weeks.
This new curriculum is expected to differ very little from the revamped curriculum originally posed in January 2010.
This 2010 curriculum was scrapped by then-Premiere Dalton McGuinty a few months after its announcement due to considerable backlash from conservative and religious leaders, as well as parents concerned about the content.
Issues surrounding social media, online relationships, and consent are totally missing from the current curriculum, developed in 1998. Wynne says it must be updated to match the needs of a new, digital generation.
The timeline below gives an overview of how the debate over sex education in Ontario has progressed over the past years.
What About Parents?
Leaders from Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party and outspoken religious leaders have criticized the ministry’s process, saying that parents must be more involved in deciding what children are taught.
College professor Nathan Mallett has two children in Ontario schools and says his “opinion is not being sought” in regards to his children’s sex education.
Nicole Blanchett Neheli, whose 12 year-old daughter attends Catholic school in Oakville, feels that the “Catholic-Values” sex education her daughter is receiving is inadequate.
“The more information that kids have, and the more comfortable you are speaking with them or they are coming to talk to you, the better,”she says.
Blanchett Neheli does not identify as Catholic and is perhaps more liberal than many other parents, but she feels that schools should not be able to opt-out of provincially-mandated sexual education curriculum based on religious or cultural grounds.
“They should not be able to decide that they want to take only the parts that are convenient for them.” She feels that the curriculum is designed to teach kids what they need to know in order to be safe and healthy.
Balancing adequate sex education and respect for religious and cultural differences is a difficult line for the government to walk.
“There are people who resist the story that needs to be told,” says Mallett. He supports the implementation of new curriculum, citing birth control and same-sex relationships as examples of content that he believes should be taught to his children in school.
Not everyone agrees
Organizations like the Canada Christian College, Campaign Life Coalition, and Institute for Canadian Values, among others, take issue with much of the proposed curriculum.
Some of their identified problem areas can be seen in the infographic below: (click to enlarge)
Photo Courtesy: Nathan Dennett: The Canadian Press