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Saturday 10 October 2015

Ontario's sex education wars

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 30th August 2015

When it comes to what we may encounter further down the LGBT legislative reform, Canada is usually a fairly good indication on most fronts. So, what is the situation with Ontario's new comprehensive sexuality education programme?

Ontario's out lesbian Premier, Kathleen Wynne
Before I begin with this exploration of Ontario's provincial sex education policies, the issue hasn't exactly been sidelined in past New Zealand social policy debates. In the late seventies, New Zealand had the misfortune to have Merv Wellington, a Muldoon sycophant, as our Minister of Education. At a critical juncture when contemporary attitudes toward sexuality were being set within the Ministry of Education, Wellington disregarded mainstream expertise on sex education and made the subject non-compulsory and the subject of school choice. Which was all very well if one chose the reputable and mainstream Family Planning Association to deliver its sex education curriculum component, but some school management had been hijacked by local religious social conservative activists and its students were unable to receive proper, evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education. Even within mainstream secular state schools, the integrity and content of FPA programmes were under attack by the (now defunct) Concerned Parents Association and Family Education Network and (today) Family First. Needless to say, the "sources" of Christian Right 'substitute" programmes were usually 'fear-based" "abstinence" curricula, which exaggerated and lied about the risk of sexual behaviour but didn't give youth and teenagers the negotiation skills to postpone their way out of undesired first sexual encounters. Today, Family First is still up to its old tricks, treating Dr Miriam Goldman as a credible and independent source- which she isn't. She's an Orthodox Jewish religious social conservative and ally to the fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Catholics that dominate the US Christian Right and its satellites.

In Canada and the United Kingdom, the debate is now about the appropriate amount of information about gay sexuality and gender identity to deliver within successive stages of an inclusive comprehensive physical and sexuality education. Obviously, no-one is talking about providing graphic details to small children. When teenagers become potentially sexually active however, they need to have concrete facts about physiology and concrete psychological skills to able to act with requisite self-esteem when it comes to either accepting or refusing first sexual encounters. Predictably, the Canadian Christian Right wants them to postpone their first sexual experience until and unless their (straight) wedding night. Just as inevitably, there is considerable venom expended against the idea that lesbian and gay sexuality and transgender identity might be included within a modern comprehensive curriculum.

In Ontario, the culprit is the so-called "Canadian Families Alliance." The ringleaders of this interfaith religious social conservative coalition include the extremist REAL Women of Canada antifeminist group and Campaign Life Canada, an anti-abortion group. However, as well as these usual culprits and various religious social conservative "Parents Association" front groups, there are also religious social conservatives from other faith traditions than conservative Christianity- the Muslim Moms Empowerment Network, United Hindu Congress of Canada, Russian Congress of Canada, Russian Orthodox Metropolis of Canada, Greek Orthodox Christians of Canada, Islamic Centre of Toronto, the African Family Revival Organisation and Georgian Community of Canada. This may well be interfaith or multiculturalist garnishing of a primarily conservative Christian dominated political agenda, or it may represent genuine pluralist cultural outreach from formerly ardently sectarian conservative Christians. One particular target is Ontario's out lesbian Premier, Kathleen Wynne. CFA argues that the curriculum's content conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Criminal Code.

Some disturbing questions occurred to me as I read the CFA propaganda. Why shouldn't eight year olds learn about sexual consent as an important principle of sexuality? Sadly, it may already be too late for some small children who may already have become victims of child sexual abuse and who are bewildered and frightened at what is happening to them? With such knowledge, they can approach trustworthy adults to disclose the horror that is happening in their lives and the guilty parties can be apprehended and punished for their predatory, despicable acts. Predictably, the Christian Right's anti-transgender ideological dogma is then mentioned. What isn't mentioned is that the anti-transgender ideology itself was only sanctioned by John Paul II's Vatican twelve years ago. What right do conservative Catholics have to force a sectarian philosophy of gender ideology through their misrepresentation of mainstream evidence-based medical information about gender dysphoria and identity? The same applies to objections to same-sex-led families and self-pleasure. The curriculum also includes references to oral and anal sex. It is probably not intended that the latter is acted upon at the age of twelve, or any time before the Canadian age of consent at sixteen, and moreover, it is somewhat despicable to refer to HIV/AIDS statistics without referring to the parallel instance of teenage pregnancy and STIs from unprotected straight sexual activity. But all to no avail, because, predictably, CFA don't want Ontario's comprehensive sexuality education curriculum to refer to condoms because artificial contraception such as condoms is "against Catholic natural law" philosophy related to sexuality.

Another extremist opponent of the curriculum, Charles McVety of the "Canadian Family Action Council" and a Canadian televangelist, was rebuked for alleging that "gays and lesbians prey on children" by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (broadcast regulator) in 2013 and making similar disparaging remarks about Wynne's sexual orientation. Using links to the actual documentation itself, mainstream Ontario parent Karyn Pickles has created a rebuttal blog that counters the accusations made against the new curriculum by CFA, REAL Women, Canadian Family Action Council and other pressure groups.

Might this happen in New Zealand? We already know that Family First has World Congress of Families connections with the likes of REAL Women of Canada, so it is probably around the corner. Fortunately, Ontario's Premier Wynne is keeping on track and there is every prospect that the obscurantist federal Harper administration in Ottawa will be defeated in October 2015. In Ontario itself, the provincial Conservatives are playing it safe as well. Cyberbullying and sexting exist and teenagers need to learn how to counter them. Ontario's voters won't tolerate the sort of rampant homophobia and transphobia that exist in this propaganda.

There are some sinister undertones to this propaganda and we should not hesitate to oppose it if it surfaces in New Zealand.

Not Recommended:

Canadian Families Alliance: http://www.

REAL Women of Canada:


Xtra Canada: http://www.

Martin Cohn: "Times have changed for sex ed protestors" Toronto Star: 23.02.2015:

Editorial: "Ontario's Sex Education Curriculum Teaches Society's Values and That's Good" Globe and Mail: 05.05.2015:

Karyn Pickles: The Sky is (Not Actually) Falling: Highlights of the Ontario 2015 Sex Ed Curriculum" Pickles Inc: 23.02.2015: http:// the-sky-is-not-actually-falling-highlights-of-the-2015-ontario-sex-ed-curriculum

Craig Young - 30th August 2015

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