PC sex-ed repeal 'silenced' LGBT youth, says mom filing human rights challenge

A Sudbury mother of three children, one of whom is transgender, is among a group of parents launching a human rights challenge to the Progressive Conservative government's repeal of the Ontario sex-ed curriculum — a move she believes silences LGBT youth.

Sylvie Liard is among 6 families represented by lawyers using Ontario Human Rights Code to prove harm

Sylvie Liard, whose child is gender non-conforming, is one of six parents who have filed a human rights complain against the PC government because of its decision to scrap the 2015 sex-ed curriculum. (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

A Sudbury mother of three children, one of whom is gender non-conforming, is among a group of parents launching a human rights challenge to the Progressive Conservative government's repeal of the modernized Ontario sex-ed curriculum — a move she believes will isolate LGBT youth. 

"My child is now silenced," Sylvie Liard told CBC Toronto outside Queen's Park on Thursday. 

"The message there is there's something wrong with you, you're not part of the fabric of society, you're not part of our community."  

Liard is among six families at the heart of a legal challenge against the PC government's plan to revert to an older sex-ed curriculum that they say doesn't address issues like gender identity or sexual orientation, along with an array of other key topics, in a meaningful way.  

While government officials have said some aspects of the modernized curriculum — rolled out by the Liberal government in 2015 — will be taught this September, educators say it's unclear what aspects they will be allowed to teach and what punishment they would risk by teaching the latest curriculum.

The human rights lawyers representing Liard's child intend to use a section of the Ontario Human Rights Code that bars discrimination based on "gender expression, identification, sexual orientation and gender," explained Marcus McCann, a human rights lawyer representing the parents. 

Mika Imai, a human rights lawyer, speaks at a press conference at Queen's Park with the parents she is representing who have launched a human rights case over the sex-ed curriculum rollback. From left to right: Sylvia Liard, Marcus McCann (lawyer), Mika Imai, j wallace skelton (parent) and Jake Somerville (parent). (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

Teaching old curriculum will have a 'deep impact,' says Liard

Liard said she's worried rolling back the latest curriculum will have a "deep impact" on how her child experiences school. 

"Maybe my child might be safe in the four walls of the classroom, but as soon as there's recess, as soon as there's a group activity, as soon as we leave the safety of those four walls, what do we have?" she said. 

"We're left with a disjointed program that doesn't have specific resources."

Liard is especially troubled by Deputy Premier Christine Elliot's comments that teachers can discuss issues not included in the province's sex-education curriculum with students in private, but not in front of the classroom.

Liard said if teachers don't lead discussions about gender identity as part of a normal class discussion, it will "stigmatize and isolate" her child — who, she says, has only been in the classroom since the 2015 curriculum was introduced.

While Education Minister Lisa Thompson is conducting consultations with parents next month, Liard wonders how long it will take. The scrapped curriculum, she points out, took years of "extensive" preparations to create.

Failing to address these issues affects the health and well-being of all children, not just LGBT students, Laird said.

"If it is a form of discrimination," she said.

With files from Farrah Merali

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