N.B. premier says he hasn’t seen sex education presentation he banned from schools

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N.B. premier voices concern over sexual education presentation
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has focused attention from across the country on his province's sexual education regime with a social media post critical of a recent presentation in some New Brunswick high schools. But as Silas Brown reports, students and researchers say teens need frank answers and reliable information about these sorts of topics – May 27, 2024

Premier Blaine Higgs says he saw only one slide of the sex education presentation that he banned from New Brunswick schools.

In a Friday evening statement on social media, Higgs called a presentation delivered to a dozen high schools “clearly inappropriate” and said the sex education group behind it would no longer be welcome in the province’s schools.

While responding to reporters’ questions at the New Brunswick legislature Tuesday, Higgs said he was sent a screenshot of the presentation slide that he shared to social media. “I’ve never seen the entire presentation,” he said. When asked if his decision to ban the presentation from schools was based solely off the screenshot he had viewed, Higgs replied: “Next question.”

That screenshot features the questions: “Do girls masturbate?” — “Does it hurt when you do it for the first time?” — “Is it good or bad to do anal?” — “Is it normal to watch porn like people watch TV series?” Higgs said “a lot of parents were shocked” to see those questions featured in a presentation aimed at high school students.

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N.B. premier bans non-profit sex-ed group from schools

When asked what was shocking about the slide, the premier said “it speaks for itself.”

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Teresa Norris, president of the Montreal-based organization HPV Global Action, which operates the sexual education group that made the presentation, says the slide contains the types of questions teenagers are asking sex educators. She said her group has been teaching in New Brunswick schools for years, and its material has been vetted by the province.

“The presentation is a full A to Z of how to have healthy relationships, consent, boundaries, learning about all kinds of sexually transmitted infections, how to be tested, pregnancy prevention,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “We cover a full gamut of issues that are all outlined on the New Brunswick curriculum.”

She said these topics are of particular importance in New Brunswick, where the teen pregnancy rate was seven births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2022, compared to the national average of about four births per 1,000 teenage girls.

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Higgs was asked Tuesday what should be done differently in sexual education to address the province’s high teenage pregnancy rate. He replied: “That’s a good question, and if somebody thinks that that presentation is going to make that sort of difference, I guess it’d be nice to understand that, if that was the case.”

Norris said hearing this remark made her smile, because preventing unplanned pregnancies is what access to high-quality sex education accomplishes.

“That’s exactly why we keep coming back. It’s because this presentation is making a difference in making people realize how much responsibility comes with being sexually active …. It’s why we keep getting invited back to schools across the country,” she said.

A 2019 report on sexual health education in the province published by University of New Brunswick researchers says youth in the province have a high incidence of sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancy, sexual violations and dating violence that is “suggestive of high-risk sexual behaviours and a lack of knowledge regarding sexual consent, personal safety, and understanding of healthy relationship characteristics.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2024.

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