Thousands protest Ontario sex-ed curriculum

Education Minister Liz Sandals says the issue has become a ‘Conservative, political issue’

Liz Sandals (CP Photo)

Liz Sandals (CP Photo)

TORONTO — Opposition to Ontario’s new sex-education curriculum has morphed into a “Conservative, political issue,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said Tuesday as thousands of people protested on the lawn of the provincial legislature.

The protesters were holding signs calling the revised curriculum irresponsible and complaining parents were not properly consulted on the changes.

Progressive Conservative MPPs Monte McNaughton and Jack MacLaren spoke at the protest, but leadership candidate Patrick Brown did not, despite being listed as a “tentative” speaker.

Related: Liz Sandals in the hot seat: A Q&A with the Education Minister 

Sandals said at first the opposition to the curriculum came from parents who “might have been misinformed about the details of the curriculum, but who were genuinely concerned.” Now the messaging has turned into Conservative criticism of the Liberal curriculum, she said.

There were many more protesters outside on Tuesday than a previous rally this winter, and the parents’ concerns ranged from material that was being taught too early to saying children should not be taught about same-sex relationships.

After the first protest, Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is openly gay, said some of the opposition was motivated by homophobia.

Protesters called on Wynne to face them, but the premier was attending a climate change meeting in Quebec.

Asked if she would address the protesters, Sandals said, “If I were to walk into a crowd of 3,000 people the OPP security people would flip out.”

Related: Why we need to get in bed with modern sex ed (Emma Teitel) 

It’s the government’s second attempt to revise the sex-ed curriculum, which was last updated in 1998, before smartphones were ubiquitous or sexting had been invented.

Under the changes, Grade 3 students will learn about same-sex relationships, kids in Grades 4 and up will learn more about the dangers of online bullying, while the dangers of sexting will come in Grade 7.

Lessons about puberty will move from Grade 5 to Grade 4, while masturbation and “gender expression” are mentioned in the Grade 6 curriculum.

Related: Here’s the craziest fact about Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum 

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