LGBT advocates, NDP target rollback of sex-ed curriculum at Toronto event

The battle over the Progressive Conservative's roll back of Ontario's modernized sexual education curriculum kicked off in Toronto on Friday.

'A race back in time will only put students at risk,' said NDP Leader and MPP Andrea Horwath

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and a group of advocates who support Ontario's modernized sex-ed curriculum blasted the PC government's plan to go back to an older version of the curriculum. (CBC)

The battle over the Progressive Conservative's roll back of Ontario's modernized sexual education curriculum kicked off in Toronto on Friday. 

LGBT and progressive advocates, health-care professionals, as well as representatives from the NDP and Liberals, held a news conference downtown to "discuss how this repeal ill-equips children and youth with the necessary tools they need to safely navigate the realities of our rapidly changing world."

A series of speakers took aim at the government's announcement that schools would temporarily revert to a 1998 version of the sex-ed curriculum rather than the updated version brought in three years ago by the Liberals.

In Thursday's throne speech, the Tories referred to the modernized curriculum as a "failed ideological" experiment.

MPP Lisa Thompson, minister of education, said the reversion to the 1998 curriculum will remain in place until a newly revised curriculum can be put together after consultations with parents. 

Roza Nozari, anti-violence initiatives co-ordinator at LGBT advocacy group The 519, said the Tories have sent a "clear message" to LGBT youth and families that they aren't accepted and don't matter.

"This [curriculum] predates the legalization of same-sex marriage, social media, and the addition of gender identity and expression as protected grounds in Ontario's human rights code," she added.

NDP Leader and MPP Andrea Horwath said the move will put "our children at risk.

"A race back in time will only put students at risk and deny young people the supports, dignity and the equality that they deserve," said Horwath. 

She went on to offer a message directly to Premier Doug Ford.

"Stop catering to your social conservative friends. Stop catering to your social conservative base. Stop trying to drag Ontario back to the 1990s," she said. 

The 519 also used the event to announce a new campaign that will promote "current and inclusive education."

"Across the province, Ontarians are united against the government's decision to repeal the updated health & physical education curriculum," the group said in a release.

"The last minute scrapping threatens the health and safety of Ontario's children and youth and puts them at an increased risk of negative physical, mental and sexual health outcomes."

The introduction of the updated curriculum by former premier Kathleen Wynne's government was met with fierce resistance from social conservatives. Critics often raised the objection that children were being exposed to concepts around same-sex marriage, masturbation, non-nuclear families and gender identity at too young an age. 

They also argue that the Liberals failed to appropriately consult with parents before implementing the revised program. 

Consultations for the modernization process began as early as 2007, and changes were originally scheduled to be introduced in 2010. Wynne's government defended the multiple rounds of public input as a comprehensive process that included thousands of parents, educators, health professionals and religious leaders. 

In a news release on Thursday, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said it would challenge the Tory government's promise. It said the move is discriminatory against LGBT people, "who are harmed by the stigmatization and degradation caused by the removal of education content" regarding LGBT issues.