Quebec's mandatory sex education prompts praise, backlash

The province's plan to integrate sex education as a mandatory subject in every grade by September 2018 is prompting mixed reactions from teaching unions and sexologists across Quebec.

Province's plan is to pepper content throughout regular courses in elementary and high schools

Teachers in both the private and public systems will have to integrate sex ed content by September 2018. (Radio-Canada)

The province's plan to integrate sex education as a mandatory subject in every grade by September 2018 is prompting mixed reactions across Quebec.

Nathalie Legault, the president of Ordre des sexologues du Québec, praised the decision, saying it was a step in the right direction.

"We have to give the project a chance to unfold before we criticize it too much," she told Radio-Canada.

The program will be based on the pilot project the Education Ministry launched two years ago, which urged all teachers to integrate sex ed content into their courses throughout the school year.

About a million students will have access to age-appropriate information on sexuality, anatomy, body image, social roles, sexual assault, sexual relations, stereotypes and sexually transmitted diseases, among other topics.

Nathalie Legault, the president of the province's order of sexologists, believes mandatory sexual education classes is a step forward in the right direction. (Radio-Canada)

The move comes nearly a decade after the Quebec government dropped sexual education from its curriculum.

Quebec's new curriculum falls in line with the ones that exist, or will soon be implemented, in British Columbia and Alberta, as well as in Ontario.

Under the program, elementary schools will have to devote five hours per year of class time for sexual education, while high schools will have to devote at least 15 hours annually.

Legault said it was good news because it was a move from "from nothing to something."

An 'improvised' plan?

The program hasn't been as well received by teachers and their unions. Many of them have criticized the lack of training provided to educators in order to teach the soon-to-be mandatory content.

The president of a Syndicat de l'enseignement de la région de Québec, the teacher's union in the Quebec City region, called the province's plan "improvised."

"In principle, I thinking offering sexual education courses is important, but this is being done a bit too fast," said Denis Simard.

There is also the issue that teachers weren't consulted, he added. There are concerns that educators will not be able to integrate sexual education courses into an already-packed curriculum, he said.

"At one point, it doesn't work," he said. "It doesn't fit in with the schedule."

Legault, however, said that integrating the material in regular classes is the best way to go.

"Integrating learning within courses is what is currently recommended when it comes to sexual education material," she said.

With files from Radio-Canada and Angelica Montgomery