Gwen Landolt, founder of REAL Women of Canada (left) and Mary Ellen Douglas, the national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition (right) Register file photos

Group seeks more consultation on Ontario sex ed curriculum

By 
  • December 12, 2014

TORONTO- Concerns that there was insufficient parental consultation during the reform of Ontario's sexual education curriculum were formally voiced by a newly formed Toronto citizens' group Dec. 12.

And some in the group went further, predicting that much of what was shelved four years ago when the Liberal government tried to bring changes to the curriculum will be brought back, and they expressed concerns that an alleged child pornographer's hands are all over the development of that curriculum.

“What we are trying to do now is to make sure that the consultation will let all parents express their views,” said Peter Chen, co-ordinator of Citizens for Good Education, which hosted a press conference in Toronto to voice its concerns. “We would like transparency and democracy in this consultation.”

Citizens for Good Education is an umbrella group that represents more than 200 faith and ethnic groups, including the Catholic Civil Rights League, REAL Women of Canada and the Toronto Chinese Catholic Task-force.

In the days following Nov. 28 when the consultation process conducted by the Minister of Education closed, more and more of the groups came forward expressing concerns that surveying 4,000 citizens (one parent from each elementary school in the province) over two weeks in a province with four fully funded school systems and a population of 13.5 million was insufficient.

Chen said the group is seeking to defer the proposed September 2015 implementation of the new curriculum to allow for further consultation.

“We want to make sure the timing and the contents are appropriate for our children age-wise,” said Chen.

Gwen Landolt, founder of REAL Women of Canada, also criticized November's consultation as an online survey which “is not parent input,” and said it contained “loaded questions all leading in one direction.”

The government believes its recent consultation was sufficient and intends to involve parents again before the finalizing the document.

“In recognizing that parents have a strong interest in how this information is provided to their children, the province committed to consult with parents before the document is finalized," said Ministry of Education spokesperson Derek Luk.  

Luk said this new information will be used in conjunction with that gathered between 2007 and 2010, extensive consultations with those directly involved at all levels of education and expert advice.

Beyond the lack of consultation, Mary-Ellen Douglas, national co-ordinator for Campaign Life, is concerned with former deputy education minister Benjamin Levin's role in developing the reformed curriculum four years ago, which was pulled by the Liberal government at the last minute. She feels that much of the new curriculum, considering the tight timeline of the current reform process, will mirror that program.

Levin is facing charges of making and distributing child pornography, counselling to commit an indictable offence and an arrangement to commit a sexual offence against a child under the age of 16. Since the original charges were laid, Levin had five additional child pornography related charges laid against him.

“He is an alleged child pornographer and he is up on these charges and this is the man who wrote the program,” she said. “If convicted the man should be in jail and stay there for the rest of his life. This is a man who wants to exploit our children through the school system.”

Jack Fonseca, a Campaign Life spokesperson, also expressed concern over Levin's potential contributions.

“In 2010, parents first learned of this Grades 1 to 7 curriculum sex ed lessons that were too graphic at too young an age and made them feel uncomfortable,” he said. “Now that we know it was written under the direction of an alleged child pornographer... parents are even less comfortable. Levin’s hand in an explicit program that seems to sexualize kids has only heightened concerns, including my own, as the father of a kindergartner.”

Luk said Levin was simply one cog in the development of the previous curriculum.

“No single individual writes curriculum policy,” he said. “Review or development of all curricula is based on research, evidence and extensive consultation.”
Following the press conference, Chen said Citizens for Good Education would be bringing its message to Queen's Park.

“We will be launching petitions online, or on paper, formed by our member organizations and plan to collect signatures and present them to Queen's Park,” said Chen.

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