On Sept. 21, parents, grandparents and other concerned Ontarians took part in a protest at Queen’s Park calling on Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne to rescind her controversial sex-ed curriculum and for Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown to step down as Progressive Conservative leader after flip-flopping on his opposition to the new lessons.
The Wednesday afternoon protest was organized by Canadian Families Alliance, a coalition of grassroots parental rights’ associations. Campaign Life Coalition’s Jack Fonseca told the audience there were 300-500 people in attendance, while the Toronto Sun reported there were 500 and the Toronto Star a mere 100. The crowd was smaller than previous turnouts at Queen’s Park for anti-sex ed protests. Organizers say numbers are down partly because many parents have abandoned state-run schools for private schools and homeschooling to escape the Wynne government’s radical sex-ed program.
The curriculum, now in its second year of being taught in Ontario, has been criticized by parental rights groups for being age-inappropriate, graphic, and contrary to the values of many families. In Grade 3, students are taught about homosexuality and gender theory (that gender is fluid and not tied to biology). In Grade 4, when students are nine years old, the topic of romantic dating is broached. In Grade 6, 11-year-olds will be taught about masturbation and in Grade 7 they will be taught about oral and anal sex.
MP and federal Conservative leadership contender Brad Trost compared the Ontario government’s attitude to how the federal government dealt with native parents in regards to residential schools, saying that the problem in both cases was that neither took the values and views of parents into consideration. “The ultimate underlying issue here is your civil rights,” said Trost. “It’s about the rights of parents to be able to decide what is right for their children.” He added, “when we have taken those rights from parents, we have had a disaster each and every time.”
Trost pointed out that education is a provincial matter, but “we have the responsibility at the federal level to protect people’s civil rights.”
When Trost was chastized by political opponents and media commentators, he explained that while the sex-ed curriculum is “not nearly the same level of seriousness” as the residential schools, “the underlying principle is the same.”
Scott Masson, a professor of English at Tyndale College and a status native of Mohawk descent, also compared imposition of the sex-ed curriculum to the state’s “overreach into the realm of the family” with residential schools. He said both attempted to “liberate” children from their parents and their traditions. “They’re our children,” he said, “they’re not the government’s children. We didn’t think we’d have to fight over this because it’s 2016, and this is Canada.”
Several representatives of parents groups critiqued various aspects of the sex-ed curriculum and the lack of consultation by the government. Tanya Granic Allen, president of Parents As First Educators, said, “News flash for the government: Most parents don’t want kids learning about masturbation alongside Canadian history. Most parents don’t want their kids indoctrinated by the state.” She called herself a “mama bear” and said, looking back at Queen’s Park, “poke a mama bear and we protect our cubs.”
Steve Tourloukis, a father of two from Hamilton, Ont., who is taking the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to court to uphold his parental rights after his children’s school would not provide him advance notice of lessons or permit him to withdraw his young children from classes with objectionable instruction. He warned that despite Wynne’s promise that parents could withdraw their children from classes, her government joined the board in fighting him in court. Some parents have chosen to pull their kids out of the public school system, which Tourloukis likens to “ethnic and religious cleansing” of the schools. “Instead of leaving the school system, I chose to fight the board in court.”
Guinevere Santaguida, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at a local high school, spoke on behalf of youth who are not pleased with a curriculum that “encourages casual relations and having a ‘sexual plan’ at the young age of 13.” While admitting that the curriculum does not directly tell students to have sex, “those are the implications of a ‘sexual plan’.” Santaguida also noted that “the word love is never mentioned once” in all the curriculum despite the government’s insistence that the instructions are about healthy relationships.
Santaguida reminded the crowd that it will be youth who will be effected by the curriculum and she warned that without lessons on “affection, selflessness, fidelity and again love” the “casual affairs” implied in the curriculum will “lead to jealousy, sadness, and depression.”
While previous protests have focused on Kathleen Wynne and former deputy minister of education Benjamin Levin, convicted on child pornography charges, speakers at the latest rally also condemned PC leader Patrick Brown. Fonseca and Charles McVety of the Institute of Canadian Values, both condemned Brown. Fonseca asked “How many people here are absolutely astonished that he got elected with your vote … then turned around and backstabbed you and betrayed your children?” Fonseca questioned. “We need him to step down. We need a leadership review.”
“We supported him,” said Charles McVety, who is also president of Canada Christian College. “I paid my 10 dollars, I voted for him, I brought many other people to do the same thing. I want my 10 dollars back because it was taken from me in a fraudulent manner.”
In August, Brown distributed a letter during the by-election campaign saying he would rescind the “controversial” elements of the curriculum and promised to listen to parental consultations, only to completely reverse himself within days.
Queenie Yu, an independent candidate in the by-election, ran against the sex-ed curriculum. She spoke at the Queen’s Park rally saying she wasn’t active in the cause until she became a candidate but vowed to join the protesters in their battle to get the curriculum scrapped. “It was an honour to represent your views in the Scarborough Rouge River by-election,” she told the cheering crowd, vowing “I’m not giving up until Kathleen Wynne’s sex-ed is repealed.”