Ontario's sex-ed lessons need urgent overhaul, says coalition

A concerned coalition including parents, teachers and health experts gathered at Queen's Park Monday to hasten the overhaul of Ontario's 15-year-old physical and sexual health curriculum, which they say is the oldest in Canada.

Schools must update curriculum to properly educate tech-savvy students

Updating Ontario's sex ed

10 years ago
Duration 2:40
CBC''s Marivel Taruc looks into the renewed push for sex ed reform in Ontario

A concerned coalition including parents, teachers, and health experts gathered at Queen's Park on Monday to urge the overhaul of Ontario's 15-year-old physical and sexual health curriculum, a document they say is the oldest in Canada.

The umbrella group of several organizations – including the University of Toronto, Public Health Ontario and The Hospital for Sick Children – have released three reports pushing the province to update their lesson plans before increasingly tech-savvy students return to school in the fall.

"Ontario's curriculum is the oldest in Canada and the [Health and Physical Education] curriculum must be updated to bring us up to the national standard," Dr. James Mandigo, president of the Ontario Physical Health Education Association's Board of Directors, said in a statement.

"Ontario students have a right to an up-to-date, research-based curriculum that meets their needs in today's world."

The trio of reports released Monday reveal, among other things, that the majority of parents surveyed by Environics think lessons should include topics ranging from contraception to sexual orientation.

Nine in ten of the parents polled said they were comfortable with their child receiving sexual health information at school.

Most were "very uncomfortable" with the idea that students are getting most of their sexual health information from peers, movies, television and a plethora of internet sites.

The coalition also brought their message to social media using the Twitter hashtag #OurRightToLearn.

A public service announcement released in support of the campaign, which was posted to YouTube by the non-profit group Ophea, features a group of children calling for Ontario's curriculum to be reflective of their voices and the changing world they inhabit.

Although more robust lessons on sexual education are a keystone of the campaign, supporters also want more done in other areas like mental health and awareness of sexual diversity.

Changes thwarted in 2010

The renewed cries for change follow a thwarted attempt to overhaul the curriculum in 2010, when the Dalton McGuinty-led Liberals backed away from controversial changes.

Religious groups and other critics mounted a robust campaign against the revised lesson plans, which would have seen children in Grade 1 learning to identify genitalia using the correct words, like penis and vagina, and Grade 7 students learning how prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Lessons for older children would have also included discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The present-day call to revisit these reforms will likely attract opposition from those who pushed back three years ago.

"The kind of material they want to put in the public education system is bordering on pornography," Canada Christian College Vice President, Rondo Thomas, told CBC News. "It is completely age inappropriate."

Meatime, Ontario's education minister, Liz Sandals, says that the province does have a proposed updated curriculum, but wants to "check in with parents" before moving forward.