Proposed sex-ed changes a violation of charter rights, CCLA says

The changes to Ontario's curriculum are violation of Canadians’ charter rights and will do harm to students, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Canadian Civil Liberties Association says censoring topics 'will do real harm' to certain students and parents

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said reverting to the old curriculum will put women at 'further risk' of sexual assault and harassment, and also stigmatises LBGTQ students and their parents. (Shutterstock/Syda Productions)

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has added themselves to the long list of those strictly opposed to Ontario's sex-ed curriculum changes, saying reverting back to the province's 1998 version of the program violates charter rights.

In a detailed letter to Ontario's Minister of Education Lisa Thompson, the association said "censoring" certain topics — particularly regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and violence against women — will harm certain students and their families.

CCLA, a non-profit organization that promotes human rights, says the ministry has gone against the charter right to equality by repealing the current curriculum ahead of the PC's announced consultation, and making changes that will impinge on the rights of some students and their parents. 

CBC Toronto reached out to Thompson's office, asking for comment on the group's position.

"We look forward to hearing from parents from all across Ontario in our upcoming consultation. Anyone who wishes to participate in the process will be welcome," said Ben Menka, political advisor to Lisa Thompson, in a statement Monday. 

"We are working with our team and officials, and look forward to sharing details on the consultations in the near future."

The association is now urging the Ontario's Progressive Conservative government to keep the the 2015 curriculum in place amidst consultation of this decision. 

"The announced decision to stop addressing those issues leads to the conclusion that the government believes, and intends to convey through its decision, that there is something wrong or abnormal about those groups or their families," CCLA said in the letter.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson said students will be taught from the 2014 curriculum and insisted teachers are familiar with it while speaking to press for the first time on the topic last week. (CBC)

A number of school boards have demanded clarity since Thompson announced last month that the sex-ed curriculum taught to children in the coming school year would be an older, 1998 version of the program, which was one of Premier Doug Ford's campaign promises.

This version reverts changes made in 2015 by the province's then-liberal government, which included warnings about sexting and online bullying, and also discussed same-sex marriage, gender identity and masturbation.

But exactly what can and can't be taught this fall is still unclear, something the CCLA says is still a concern as the school year is fast approaching.

"This confusion should be eliminated as soon as possible," the letter reads.

Revamped curriculum puts women at 'further risk,' CCLA says 

CCLA says failing to discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community in the Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum is "deeply hurtful" and "stigmatising" to those students and their parents, and goes against the Human Rights Code that protects against discrimination of sexual orientation, gender and family status.

"To ease those groups and their issues from the HPE curriculum would be discriminatory and wrong," the letter says.  

They also say the curriculum falls short regarding the issue of consent and that students need to be equipped with knowledge on how to make and communicate sound decisions as allegations of sexual assault and harrassment are increasingly being made public.

The CCLA says taking that information out of the program leaves students, particularly women, more vulnerable to abuse and "puts them at further risk."  

Curriculum puts school boards in a conflict 

CCLA says school boards will also be caught in a conflict of whether to follow the ministry or follow obligations outlined in the Education Act.

The association cited a part of the act that requires school boards to "promote a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting of all students."

"The government's censoring of the 2015 sex education curriculum may make it impossible for school boards to effectively promote such a positive environment and comply with their other legal obligations."