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Outrage After Tories Scrap Updated Sex-Ed Curriculum

A London agency that supports victims of sexual violence is expressing both concern and anger over the new Progressive Conservative government’s decision to bring back the province’s old sex-ed curriculum.

Anova, formerly Women’s Community House and Sexual Assault Centre of London, expressed its outrage in a single tweet Wednesday. The social media post included an image that stated, “I support consent-based sex-ed. Our human rights code, the research and rape crisis centres all support consent-based sex-ed. The Ontario government should too.” The tweet also contained the hashtag #SexEdSavesLives.

It was a response to Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson confirmation that school boards are being told to scrap the updated and controversial program introduced by the previous Liberal government and instead teach the sex-ed curriculum from 1998.

“In 1998, which is what we are reverting back to in terms of the sex-ed curriculum, there was no mention of same-sex relationships, there was no mention of gender identity so anything related to trans issues, there was no mention of sexting,” said AnnaLise Trudell, Anova manager of education, training, and research. “So what angers me is what youth are facing right now are all of those issues… those are conversations that are not going to be happening now.”

Trudell said seeing the PCs move forward with their campaign promise to shelve the updated curriculum has left her “incredibly angry.”

“The research body is so heavy and so clear that supports that knowledge actually prevents harm,” said Trudell. “If you do not teach sex-ed through a consent lens and all you’re saying is that sex is anatomy and here is how it works – that is not helpful on any level and we will see an increase in sexual harms.”

When introduced by the Liberals in 2015, the updated sex-ed curriculum was met with sharp opposition from religious groups and social conservatives. The Liberals billed the revised curriculum as leading the way in teaching consent concepts, but opponents focused on the addition of topics such as same-sex marriage and masturbation. The Tories accused the Liberals of not consulting enough parents before making the changes.

“The Liberal government did quite an extensive job at consultations. I think they did more consultations then they have ever done for any other curriculum piece and that is what is really important to recognize here. We have gone to content experts and researchers,” said Trudell. “We would never go to the layperson and say ‘how do you teach science’, we would go to people who have studied that.”

The newly formed Ontario government plans to go back to parents to consult on how the sex-ed curriculum should be updated, according to Thompson. Details surrounding that process have not yet been announced.

In the meantime, the local president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario is reassuring parents who are concerned that their children will now not be taught how to navigate the sometimes dangerous world of social media.

“The reality is that teachers work in these environments too and so are sensitive to the changes that are going on with the kids that they teach,” said Craig Smith. “So I imagine in absence of the curricular pieces there will be conversations that still happen that are appropriate both to technology and to age.”