Two 13-year-old girls met with Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday to discuss adding the topic of consent to the sexual education curriculum across the province.
Tessa Hill and Lia Valente created a campaign called “We Give Consent” to lobby for the premier, as well as Education Minister Liz Sandals, to end the ‘culture of rape’ by having schools educate both boys and girls on consent.
“We want health education that teaches our peers ‘Yes means Yes’,” the petition states. “We want education that shows us that there are many ways to say no. That educates young people that silence is not consent and that ‘No means No’.”
“What they are talking about is exactly the kind of material that we want to have in the curriculum,” Wynne told the media after the meeting.
The premier, who announced earlier this month that she had told Sandals to add the subject of consent as well as education on healthy relationships to the Ministry of Education’s new sexual education curriculum, acknowledged the importance of addressing this issue in schools.
“We need to renew the curriculum to address issues that our students are facing every day,” Wynne said. “I want to make sure that we have a curriculum in place that gives young people the opportunity to learn about healthy relationships and I want students to understand what it means to say no and what it means to give active consent.”
She said that as a part of the new healthy relationships program, schools would begin to educate children starting from the primary and junior grades on active listening skills as well as how to understanding and interpret facial expressions and body language.
The girls argue that the current Ontario Health Curriculum, which has not been altered since 1998, in no way deals with the technology-based culture that currently exists and focuses on abstinence being the only option.
“We need curriculum that speaks to our lives and helps to make us safer,” the petition states.
Wynne said the updated curriculum will also deal with mental health, online safety and the risk of ‘sexting.’
“These are the issues that students like Lia and Tessa navigate every single day and we want to give them the resources that they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives,” she said.
The petition also calls for the 2015 Ontario Health curriculum to deals with consent given while a person is intoxicated as well as dealing with lack of consent and rape.
Wynne applauded the support gathered by the girl’s online petition.
“They were able to insert their voices into this whole discussion and now they’re more then 37,000 people who have signed the petition and I take that as a really strong endorsement,” she said.
The new curriculum will be introduced to classrooms in September.