As reported in a number of news outlets yesterday (see here) a letter outlining Ontario Progressive Conservative (OPC) leader Patrick Brown’s views on the Ontario sex education curriculum has been circulating in Toronto. The letter coincides with the provincial by-election in the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Rouge River. In the letter, Mr. Brown wrote “a PC government would scrap the controversial changes to sex-ed introduced by Premier (Kathleen) Wynne and develop a new curriculum after thoughtful and full consultation with parents.”
LGBTory Canada supports the broad principles of the Wynne government’s new sex education curriculum (which you can read here). We are pleased that the document, the first update in the curriculum since 1998, addresses issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and other topics of concern to LGBT students. We accept that there is room for debate on the timing and implementation of these topics in Ontario schools, but we believe the curriculum offers teachers, students, and families a reasonable and balanced program of sex education.
We spoke today with Patrick Brown to seek clarification on his comments. He later provided us with a statement outlining his position:
I am determined to lead a PC Party that is modern, inclusive, pragmatic, and that reflects the diversity of our province. I strongly support an updated curriculum that takes into account the changing attitudes and world in which children now dwell. Children have to cope with challenges completely unknown to their parents. As we do this, I insist that parents be thoroughly consulted. I’ve been perfectly consistent on this point and make no apologies for it. Consultation is never wrong. The Wynne Liberals simply have not done this. I will. That’s the difference. And that’s the issue.
Incidentally, this is substantially similar to the Ontario NDP’s position in 2010 when leader Andrea Horwath criticized the government of Premier McGuinty when it unsuccessfully attempted to change the sex education curriculum (see here). She said:
The current curriculum is out-of-date and needs to be modified. Unfortunately Dalton McGuinty failed to engage, consult and prepare parents for the changes, and parents objected. It is critical that the government consult not only on the content but on most appropriate age for the introduction of the content.
Mr. Brown assured us that inclusion and diversity continue to be priorities for him, and that LGBT issues will be a focus in the Ontario school curriculum. He said he is committed to consulting parents on changes to the sex education curriculum but that the curriculum will continue to ensure that LGBT students and their families are supported and treated with sensitivity.
We have worked closely over the past year with Patrick Brown to provide input to him and his party on LGBT issues and to help with OPC outreach to the LGBT community in Ontario. He has provided us with invaluable support in our campaign to change the Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) marriage policy and to use his influence to remove obstacles to the CPC’s recognition of same-sex marriage. We consider him an ally on LGBT issues and question the raising of this matter in the middle of a hotly-contested by-election campaign. We believe he deserves more recognition for his outreach to the LGBT community in Canada and that partisan politics have obscured the progress he and the OPC have made in this area.
We have explained our concerns about the curriculum in detail to Patrick Brown, and his response to us has reassured us that he does not intend to remove pro-LGBT elements from the document. We will continue to work with him and the OPC to make sure this happens.