PV Ontario Bureau
During the provincial election, Doug Ford declared repeatedly that he would scrap Ontario’s updated sexual education curriculum. On July 12, he announced in his Throne Speech that the curriculum would be replaced with one from 1998.
The response from educators, students, LGBTQ and allies has been fast and furious. Within four days of the Throne Speech, Education Minister Lisa Thompson began to flip flop, stating that some elements of the updated curriculum – including gender identity and consent – would remain. It remains completely unclear what students will be taught when school resumes in September.
What is very clear, however, is that supporters of the inclusive curriculum are in motion.
On July 21, over 1000 people converged on Queen’s Park as part of the March for Education. The rally was organized by high school students, supported by education unions, LGBTQ organizations, parents, social service workers, and health care workers.
Joy Lachica, President of Elementary Teachers of Toronto representing 11,000 teachers, warned that educators are prepared to defy the government to teach what needs to be taught. “We will teach healthy relationships! We will teach anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying! We will foster safe and caring classrooms and school communities for all forever. Will we be moved? No, we will not be moved!”
March organizer Rayne Fisher-Quann, a grade 11 student, delivered a stirring “Open Letter to Doug Ford”:
“You’re planning to go back to a curriculum that doesn’t teach kids about gender identity, same-sex marriage, online safety, or consent, AND you’re planning to scrap the few steps our province has made towards Truth and Reconciliation with our Indigenous population. As a young woman growing up in the province that you don’t seem to care about, let me explain to you why that’s a bad idea…
“My sister needed that curriculum when kids spent two years bullying her for her sexuality. They grew up thinking that being gay was wrong, and our school board never taught them otherwise.
“I can’t even count the number of nonbinary and trans friends who needed that curriculum so they could have given a name to what they were feeling so much earlier – so that they wouldn’t have felt alone and confused and scared for so many years of their lives…
“I can name 2 more people who needed that curriculum. That’s the number of grade 7 girls I’ve seen walk into middle school pregnant. Grade 7. Can you even imagine what that must have been like? Grade 7. Mr. Ford, you want to move us back to a curriculum that barely teaches grade 7 girls what their vagina is called. Can you imagine what an education in consent might have done for those girls? Even a single lesson on the reproductive system? Those girls needed that curriculum, and they needed it early, and you’re taking it away…
“So sure, Doug Ford, scrap our curriculum. Go back to an education plan created before gay marriage was even legal. But just know that if you do, you can throw any pretense you still have of being “for the people” out the window. You can look my sister, my younger self, my friends, my family, 275,000 bullied children, and those 11 year old girls in the eye and tell them that you don’t care about them.
“Your policies aren’t for me. They aren’t for our indigenous population. They aren’t for the LGBTQ2 community, and they aren’t for anybody here.
“Give us back our education. We are the people, and we deserve it.”
(Speech excerpts used with permission)