One of the first things Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced as leader of the province was the repeal the Liberal’s recently updated sex-ed curriculum.
The Liberals' updated curriculum had been criticised by religious and conservative groups across the province, as well as families and parents arguing that “the birds and the bees” should be taught at home. Ontario’s ethnic and multicultural media reported often on the issue, following it during Ford's campaign and after the announcement.
Ford’s initial announcement meant the sex-ed curriculum would return to what it was 1998, but Education Minister Lisa Thompson later indicated an official decision hasn’t yet been made and that consultations will take place this summer before school starts in the Fall.
Ontario Premiers are not unfamiliar with the divisive response to these changes. In 2010, former Premier Dalton McGuinty faced so much backlash for adding same-sex relationships to the curriculum that it was dropped mere hours after his Education Minister fought for it in the legislature. It took until 2015 to eventually be added.
Following this issue in multicultural and multilingual media shines a valuable light on the topic.
The issue was a regular topic on Tamil radio station CMR FM 101.3 It covered the reaction of Charles McVety—the president of Canadian Christian College—who “lauded the premier for living up to his word to replace the lesson plan.” The station also covered Andrea Horwath’s criticism of Ford’s decision. Noting that Horwath called on Ford to keep the 2015 iteration of the curriculum brought in by the previous Liberal government, saying the 1998 version it was being temporarily replaced with was woefully out of date. "Doug Ford cares more about the favours that he owes to social conservatives than he does about keeping our young people safe," the radio show reported the NDP leader saying.
Chinese Canadian Times reported on the change saying it is being “applauded by the majority of Chinese parents and conservatives.” And another Chinese source from Ottawa, Ottawazine’s headline “Repealing Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum considered a victory for Chinese people” praised the decision.
CHIN FM 100.7 a Spanish talk show out of Toronto paid attention to the Ontario government “change[ing] its mind on sex-ed curriculum,” calling Thompson’s change a “flip-flop.”
Portuguese source Correio de Manhã covered Thompson’s change as well, noting that less than a week after the initial announcement Thompson told reporters at Queen’s Park that “students will continue to be taught about things like consent and gender identity this fall.”
Continuing their coverage on the issue, the host of Tamil Radio show CMR FM 101.3 said that the most harmful decision the Ontario PC government has made after coming to power in his opinion “was reverting to the former sex education curriculum.” The host said “the curriculum should take into account present-day technology and advancement of knowledge. Rather than temporarily reverting to the 1998 curriculum and then transitioning to another curriculum, it is better to continue with the present one and simultaneously work on modifying it. The reason for the PC government's decision to revert to the old curriculum in a haste is to prove that they are fulfilling their election promises.”
In contrast, an editorial from Punjabi source Khabarnama Punjabi Weekly called the step to repeal the Liberal’s curriculum “commendable.” Adding that “. Teaching language and math is more important for first graders than sex education, in which Ontario schools always have a very bad record.”
As well, the Canadian Punjabi Post said the decision shows “Ontario government prefers public sentiment.” Mentioning Brampton Community activist Jotvinder Sodhi’s praise for the decision. Noting Sodhi said “Premier Doug Ford has shown his sincerity by fulfilling his campaign pledge.
An editorial for multicultural source The Independent written by Raynier Maharaj took the other side, saying “There is no doubt that Doug Ford’s promise to repeal Ontario’s sex education curriculum is one of the reasons he was elected to become the province’s next Premier.”
The issue of sex education in schools was viewed by many through blinkers. They are too young to learn about sex, some said. I don’t want my kids knowing about gay sex, said others. It is anti-Christian/Muslim/”insert religion here” to teach sex to children. None of these arguments took into consideration the facts of life – that kids as young as 12 are having sex today, and not teaching them about how to do it safely is putting their lives in danger, literally. Ford’s decision to repeal the sex-ed curriculum, therefore, is a simple-minded approach to a very real issue that is not going to go away. Those who support him better have a plan to deal with the teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases that will abound in the very near future. Don’t complain then about the cost to our healthcare and social services when we have to care for these children and treat STDs in our hospitals. A simple education plan could have prevented all of this.”
These differing editorial and opinions stories show that the issue is controversial within the ethnic media as well, and highlights the diversity among multicultural and multilingual communities themselves, not just their contrast to mainstream Canadian media and opinion.
It will be interesting to see what results from Ford’s promises of the “biggest public consultation until now” on the topic of sex-ed curriculum, and how the issue continues to be discussed in Canada’s ethnic and mainstream media. MIREMS knows the value of listening to all communities and voices from the province of Ontario and works to continue to keep those voices accessible to decision makers.