New Ontario sex-ed curriculum will include consent awareness

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has told the province's Ministry of Education to include the subject of consent in its new sexual education curriculum.

Social media and internet safety part of update coming in fall, the 1st since 1998

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told the province's education minister to include 'healthy relationships and the topic of consent' in the new sex-ed curriculum, according to the ministry. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has told the province's Ministry of Education to include the subject of consent in its new sexual education curriculum. 

Wynne told Education Minister Liz Sandals to include "healthy relationships and the topic of consent" in the curriculum — which will debut this fall in Ontario schools — the ministry said Thursday in a statement. 

When Ontario tried to revamp its approach to sex ed five years ago, some parents and religious groups resisted, leading to a reversal by then premier Dalton McGuinty. 

This time, the province asked parents of elementary school students for feedback on the new health and physical education curriculum, which includes sex ed. 

The rise of social media and a "lack of awareness" about internet safety were among the concerns raised by parents, the ministry said. 

Welcomed by legal clinic

The curriculum has not been updated since 1998, long before the rise of social media and smartphones, and the ministry said it wants to teach students about healthy relationships "in this technology-driven world." 

A coalition of parents, teachers and health experts said two years ago Ontario's sex ed lessons needed an urgent overhaul to educate today's tech-savvy students. 

This week's move is getting a thumbs-up from a national women's legal organization that teaches older students about consent.

"It's extremely important for everyone to understand what their rights and responsibilities are under the law," said Kim Stanton, legal director of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, which runs workshops for high school and university students. "Students need to know what's OK and what's not. 

"The term 'no means no' gets used a lot, but actually the legal standard in Canada is 'only yes means yes,'" she added. 

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