Even the media acknowledged the “thousands” of protesters at Queen’s Park on April 14 as a large multicultural crowd heard speakers, displayed signs, and chanted that they would never accept the planned new sex-ed curriculum being foisted upon Ontario students by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.
Organizers estimate that half the people at the protest were Muslims, most of them women, while there were also large contingents of Sikhs and Russian Orthodox. One attendee told The Interim he did not hear another participant speak English except when they were chanting “we say no” to the sex-ed curriculum.
Among the speakers were two members of the provincial legislature, Progressive Conservative MPPs Jack MacLaren (Carleton-Mississippi Mills) and Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex). MacLaren accused the Liberals of failing to consult with parents. “The government is going to ram something down your throats that you haven’t even been asked about. And if you had have been asked, what would you have said,” MacLaren asked. The crowd responded with a loud “no!” McNaughton urged the protesters to keep up the fight because the battle is far from over. Also, Patrick Brown, a federal Conservative MP from Barrie, who is running for the provincial PC leadership, sent greetings that were read by organizers. He was part of the federal delegation greeting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was visiting Canada that week.
Rev. Charles McVety of Canada Christian College also addressed the protest, which the Toronto Star labelled, “one of the biggest” the Liberals had faced during their 11 years in power. McVety said, “we don’t send our kids to school to be taught masturbation.” He also criticized teaching six gender theory to elementary school students saying it was better left to postgraduate studies.
Also speaking were former Toronto school board trustee Sam Sotiropolous of My Child My Choice, Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Coalition, Teresa Pierre of Parents as First Educators, and numerous parents including Jotvinder Sohi, who has organized protest meetings in Brampton, and Dr. Eusthathios (Steve) Tourloukis, who is suing the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board over its failure to inform him that his young children would be learning sexually explicit lessons in class.
Wynne has also faced protests at various speaking engagements in the Greater Toronto Area, including within her own riding. She dismissed opposition to the sex-ed curriculum as a political ploy by the federal Conservatives. Calling it “despicable” she charged the federal Tories will egging on various communities against her agenda in an effort to link the provincial and federal Liberals before the Oct. 19 federal election. She told the Toronto Star that the “protests may be politically motivated – orchestrated by federal Conservative activists profiting from parents’ fears in order to boost their own partisan ambitions in a ‘despicable’ way.”
The Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin said a week later that federal Liberals blame the provincial sex-ed curriculum for their the decline in their recent polling numbers in Toronto and the surrounding suburbs. Martin says an unidentified “top strategist” told him Wynne’s sex-ed plans are the “biggest drag” on the federal Liberal numbers because “it’s hurting the brand badly in certain ethnic communities, especially in the west 905.”
Meanwhile an Environics Research provincial poll found that the Liberals have fallen to second behind the NDP in Toronto and second behind the Tories in the GTA. The polling company did not speculate why, but Jim Hughes of Campaign Life Coalition said it is doubtless due to traditionally Liberal ethnic voters turned off of the government’s sex-ed curriculum. He told The Interim, “many new Canadians are disgusted by what they see in the curriculum and have turned against the Liberals for trying to corrupt the innocence of their children.”
After the February protest at Queen’s Park and following criticism of the government’s lack of consultation, Wynne, who is Canada’s first openly lesbian premier, accused opponents, including then Tory leadership hopeful Monte McNaughton, of homophobia. McNaughton told The Interim Wynne should not be allowed to get away with using her self-identified sexual orientation as a shield against any criticism of the curriculum.
Meanwhile parent-rights and religious groups vow to continue fighting against the early sex-ed curriculum which includes lessons on same-sex relationships in Grade 3 and masturbation and gender theory in Grade 6. Opponents say the material is not age-appropriate and violates the rights of parents to teach sensitive material with a moral dimension when they feel their children are ready for such instruction.
Education Minister Liz Sandals maintains that parents who are opposed to the curriculum material can withdraw their children from class. But former educator and current Interim business board chair Dan Di Rocco said that with an integrated curriculum in which topics are carried over into several subjects, it would be impossible to protect children from objectionable material. He also told The Interim that there is no ministry policy that requires teachers inform parents when sensitive material is being taught, thus leaving the decision to teachers and principals.
Tourloukis, who is suing his local school board, told the April 14 protest that even though Sandals insists parents have the right to remove children from classes they deem objectionable, the Hamilton-Wentworth board has blocked his efforts to be the primary educator of his children on matters of sexuality morality.