TORONTO -Students in Ontario will still be taught about concepts like consent, cyber safety and gender identity this fall despite a plan to scrap the province’s modernized sex-ed curriculum, the education minister said Monday.
In an apparent retreat from her earlier position, Lisa Thompson said the portion of the curriculum being replaced by the newly elected Progressive Conservatives deals with “developing sexual relations,” and certain elements of the document last updated by the previous Liberal government will remain in place.
“We know they need to learn about consent,” Thompson said at the legislature. “We know they need to learn about cyber safety, we know they need to learn about gender identity and appreciation. But we also know that the former Liberal government’s consultation process was completely flawed.”
Thompson’s comments during the first day of a rare summer sitting of the legislature appeared to contradict her statement last week that teachers will use a 1998 version of the sex-ed curriculum this fall as consultations are carried out to create a new document.
Critics have said the 20-year-old old version of the curriculum did not include many modern themes that children need to keep themselves safe online and did not address things like same sex marriage.
When asked to clarify the government’s position on Monday, Thompson said only a portion of the curriculum will be rolled back, not the entire document.
“What we’ll be looking at is the developing sexual relations,” she said.” That’s the part in the curriculum that we’ll be taking a look at.”
Premier Doug Ford repeatedly promised to repeal and replace the sex-ed curriculum during his run for the Tory leadership earlier this year and during the spring election, saying parents had not been adequately consulted on the document that was updated in 2015.
The modernized curriculum includes warnings about online bullying and sexting that were not in the previous version, and also discussed same-sex marriage, gender identity and masturbation.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday’s developments make it clear the Tory government does not know what it’s doing on the sex-ed file.
“September is coming pretty quick,” she said. “It’s reprehensible and irresponsible that this government has left everything in such a disarray that educators in our province aren’t even aware of what’s going to happen come September.”
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said the change in course from the government calls into question why they’ve repealed a curriculum that has been taught in classrooms across the province for three years.
“It’s irresponsible to cancel that curriculum,” he said. “It’s there to protect our children.”