Windsor-Essex transgender community pleased with court challenge for sex ed curriculum
Published Friday, January 11, 2019 9:54AM EST
The transgender community in Windsor-Essex is pleased that changes to Ontario’s sex-education curriculum are being challenged in court.
Both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario have taken on the legal fight over the Progressive Conservative government's repeal of an updated sex-ed curriculum.
Those 2015 updates made by the previous Liberal government included lessons warning about online bullying and sexting, but opponents, especially social conservatives, objected to parts addressing same-sex relationships and gender identity.
Jayce Carver, the executive director of Windsor Essex Trans Support Services, is grateful for the challenge.
“We have a suicide rate of 47 per cent and that would be considered a drastic number in any other community, and tonnes of resources would be thrown at that,” says Carver. “We would want to make sure youth attempting suicide or having suicidal thoughts are well supported. Well, we do that through education.”
The teachers allege the repeal is unconstitutional, putting children at risk by failing to be inclusive and meeting the needs of today's students.
But ETFO lawyer Howard Goldblatt said in court that there might not be a legal challenge if Premier Doug Ford hadn't also issued a warning to teachers who openly said they would continue to use the now-scrapped version of the curriculum.
In August, Ford said the government would not tolerate anyone using children "as pawns for grandstanding and political games."
Ford’s government also launched a website where parents can report such concerns, which critics have dubbed a "snitch line." And a public interest committee was announced to ensure "curriculum-based misconduct issues are fairly dealt with" by the Ontario College of Teachers.
Experts have said that interim curriculum largely still uses the vague language and broad topic outlines used in the 1998 document.
Lawyers for the Progressive Conservative government say in written arguments that the current curriculum is purposely general to give teachers flexibility to address topics not expressly referred to in the document.
The province has said it will be writing and testing a new curriculum through the spring, after looking at data from public consultations.
An overwhelming majority of roughly 1,600 submissions on the first day of consultations opposed the repeal of the modernized sex-ed curriculum, but Ford suggested "certain groups" flooded the process in its early stages.