3 Quebec school boards say they're ready to teach new sex-ed program

Three Montreal-area school boards say they're ready to teach Quebec's new sex-ed curriculum, but some teachers' unions say educators aren't prepared to implement it this school year.

French-language school boards in Laval and Montreal say new curriculum will be implemented this year

École Jules-Verne in Montreal North recently wrapped up a three-year pilot project to implement the province's new sex-ed curriculum. (Radio-Canada)

Three Montreal-area school boards say they're ready to teach Quebec's new sex-ed curriculum this school year, but some teachers' unions have expressed concerns about whether educators have received enough training to do it.

The Commission scolaire de Laval (CSDL), the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) and the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'Île (CSPÎ), which represents schools in Montreal's north and eastern boroughs, say they intend to implement the new program this school year.

That would fulfil a promise made by Philippe Couillard's Liberal government last year.

"It can worry some parents, but we want to remind people that these are the values being transmitted to the children: the notion of consent, respect and self-esteem," said CSDM President Catherine Harel-Bourdon.

The CSDM, Montreal's largest French-language school board, said it's partnering with the Lester B. Pearson School Board to provide teachers with the materials they need to bring the sex-ed curriculum to their schools.

A series of a dozen interactive videos are among those tools, the school boards said today, at a joint news conference at École Jules-Verne, a high school in Montreal North that hosted a three-year pilot project to implement the curriculum.

The videos — about 20 minutes each — will help teachers and parents better understand the curriculum, they said.

At schools belonging to the CSPΠand the CSDL​, the videos will be available in English, Arabic, Armenian, Spanish and Haitian Creole, in addition to French.

The CSDL said it has worked with the health and social services agency (CISSS) in Laval and the Fondation Marie-Vincent, which helps child sexual abuse victims, to share their expertise.

The CSPΠalso said it plans to hold 41 information sessions for educators throughout the school year.

Commission scolaire de Montréal President Catherine Harel-Bourdon says the sex-ed curriculum is age appropriate. (Radio-Canada)

Not enough training, unions say

Quebec schools have been without a structured, sex-ed curriculum for more than a decade.

But last year, Education Minister Sébastien Proulx announced that a new program would be ready by this September.

Teachers' unions have complained since that announcement, however, saying the government hasn't allocated enough money to properly train the teachers.

Instead of having a nurse, social worker or other specialist come into schools to teach the sex-ed classes, teachers of all disciplines are expected to share the program's content with their students.

"The ministry has a tendency to implement policies and programs, and then there's no money attached," said Heidi Yetman, the president of the Pearson Teachers Union, which represents teachers at the Lester B. Pearson School Board. 

Yetman told CBC News two training sessions were held for a select number of teachers at Lester B. Pearson schools over the summer.

Age-appropriate curriculum

On Tuesday, the school boards said they benefited greatly from the pilot project at Jules-Verne.

Among the lessons learned, the school said it was important to present the curriculum to parents first, provide support to teachers who may feel awkward about having to teach sex ed, and create a committee charged with making sure the project runs smoothly.

The boards also said they want to reassure parents that the curriculum is age appropriate.

It will include topics such as:

  • The notion of consent and how to recognize a situation of sexual assault.
  • First romantic relationships.
  • Teen sexual behaviour.
  • The myths and prejudices surrounding sexual assault.
  • Sexual and reproductive health.
  • The importance of using contraception.

With files from CBC's Simon Nakonechny