About 200 protesters demonstrated against Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson on a chilly February weekday, calling for her to resign because she has not fulfilled Doug Ford’s leadership and election campaign to scrap Kathleen Wynne’s sex-ed curriculum.
When Ford ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership last winter, he initially said he would review the curriculum and have more consultations. But when Tanya Granic Allen forcefully put sex-ed at the center of the leadership after launching her own bid to replace Patrick Brown as the head of the PCs, Ford said he, too, would repeal Wynne’s sex-ed program. More than eight in ten of Granic Allen’s supporters in the leadership race gave Ford their second-place vote on the preferential ballot, putting him narrowly over-the-top against three-time leadership contender Christine Elliott.
Many of those voters and many concerned Ontario parents voted for Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in the Ontario general election in June based on his promise to rescind the sex-ed curriculum with its graphic content in early elementary school and its unscientific gender theory in Grade 3, when children are eight years old.
Last summer, the Ford government announced the curriculum was repealed and the government would carry out a new round of consultations. But his Education Minister Lisa Thompson has repeatedly undermined his promise by saying that the supposedly repealed Wynne curriculum could be used as a resource for teachers.
Considering, at best, the lack of clarity from the Education Minister and, at worst, a deliberate attempt to undermine the promise to repeal the Wynne curriculum, the Canadian Family Alliance held a protest on Feb. 20 at Queen’s Park calling on Thompson to resign.
Abdul Rahuf Jangda of the Thorncliffe Parents Association, representing the mostly Muslim opposition to the sex-ed curriculum in Wynne’s own riding of Don Valley East, told the crowd that immigrants “find Canada a good place to raise their families,” but want to “protect their innocence” from the sort of material taught in Ontario schools. During the initial sex-ed fight in 2016, 750 children were reportedly kept out of school by families from the Thorncliffe Parents Association to both protest the curriculum and prevent morally objectionable material from being taught to their children. Jangda said that some parents sent their children to private schools but for too many families that was an impossibly expensive option and they have returned their children to the public schools. But, Jangda added, many thought their kids would be safe from “sexual experimentation” encouraged by the curriculum because Ford vowed to get rid of the sex-ed curriculum.
He said the media focuses on “radical activists pretending to speak for parents” who support the Wynne sex-ed, but that most families are concerned about the content of the curriculum. That’s why the Thorncliffe Parents Association and the Canadian Family Alliance, an umbrella group representing 200,000 Ontarians, will “not accept any deviation from the promise that Doug Ford made to us: full repeal.”
Jangda said his group “wants to work with Doug Ford to protect children” but that it can no longer trust Lisa Thompson, who told school boards and teachers that they “can continue to teach the unscientific gender theory” – which states that gender has nothing to do with biology – to students. Thompson, he said, “must resign.”
His comments were followed by chants of “Lisa Thompson must resign.”
Granic Allen, who returned to her job as executive director of Parents as First Educators following last year’s leadership race, told parents that the “one voice that matters most is the parents” and “Lisa Thompson has failed to respect the voice of parents.”
Granic Allen said Thompson “betrayed Doug Ford and his commitment to Ontario families” by repeatedly undermining the claim the curriculum was repealed by stating that it can continue to be taught in schools. Thompson said that in Question Period when asked by the opposition, she informed school boards of that when they complained about implementing the previous curriculum used as recently as 2015, and her ministry’s lawyers insisted that nothing has changed since the announcement that the curriculum was repealed because teachers can continue to use it as the basis of their instruction or class preparations. “Despite the many promises, absolutely nothing has been repealed. Nothing.” said Granic Allen.
Granic Allen reminded the crowd that Ford called the Wynne curriculum “liberal ideology” when he was campaigning for leader, and inveighed against the Education Minister for allowing “this liberal ideology to be taught to children at any age.”
Campaign Life Coalition’s Jack Fonseca said that Thompson “sabotaged the Premier’s repeal agenda” by repeatedly stating that the curriculum could still be used in the classroom. Fonseca noted that Thompson’s education ministry revised the 2015 curriculum that the government returned to while consultations were being carried out and a new curriculum written, but that the revisions included eight references to gender ideology, indicating that some of the most problematic aspects of the repealed curriculum were being instructed to be taught by Thompson’s department.
Fonseca also described the parental consultation process as a betrayal. Ford promised “we would have physical, in-person consultation meetings in every riding in the province, but what we got instead was an easy-to-cheat, online mechanism which appears to be have been designed so that it could be easily hijacked by activists and teachers unions.”
Fonseca, like the other speakers called on Thompson to resign. He also called upon Ford to use the notwithstanding clause if the government loses the court challenge against the sex-ed repeal, and to abolish the Human Rights Tribunal, to render any politically motivated decisions against his government moot.
There is both a court challenge and human rights complaint against the province over its supposed repeal of the sex-ed curriculum. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association are challenging Ford’s sex-ed repeal in Divisional Court while the family of a self-identified transgender preteen complained with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that repealing the sex-ed discriminates against LGBTQ persons and causes the child harm.
Jennifer Lee of Durham Concerned Parents said parents want schools to be “free of indoctrination.” Lee added: “Using diversity, inclusiveness and equity as an excuse to change societies’ views on sexuality by targeting the younger generation is a principal of Marxism.” Lee also noted that the sex-ed curriculum excludes “the virtue of love, commitment, self-control, faithfulness and marriage.”
Queenie Yu, founder of the Stop the Radical Sex-Ed Party, also spoke. She said that people told her the issue of the sex-ed curriculum was a lost cause, but pointed out that Granic Allen and Ford forced the issue back onto the political agenda during the leadership race. Yu said Granic Allen’s strong showing is proof that the issue still resonates. Noting that 83 per cent of Granic Allen’s supporters also backed Ford on the preferential ballot, Yu said “Thanks to the thousands of parents and supporters who joined the PC Party and voted in the PC leadership, we elected a leader who promised to repeal and replace the Wynne sex-ed.” She insisted Ford should follow through on his commitment to those who voted for him.
Yu said Thompson “has been in her job of Education Minister for seven months and she hasn’t done her job repealing sex-ed.”
The boisterous crowd repeatedly broke into chants of “Hey hey! Ho ho! Lisa Thompson’s got to go,” and “Lisa Thompson, hear my voice! It’s my child and my choice.”
The curriculum introduces the topic of homosexuality in Grade 3, masturbation in Grade 6, and oral and anal sex in Grade 7.
Organizers said parents from as far away as Elliott Lake, Owen Sound, Windsor, London, Woodstock, and Ottawa attended the protest.
Jeff Gunnarson, president of Campaign Life Coalition, said the demonstration sends a message “to our core supporters, to embolden them to continue the fight and that we have the backs of parents as they fight to protect their children from the radical sex-ed curriculum.”