Civil liberties association, parent suing Ontario over sex-ed curriculum

By News Staff

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the parent of a Toronto student are suing the Ontario government over changes to the province’s sex-ed curriculum.

In a news conference Thursday outside the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on University Avenue, the CCLA announced it had filed a legal challenge on the repeal of the 2015 curriculum.

“The (CCLA) and a courageous family are doing everything legally possible to keep our classrooms free of censorship, discrimination, stigma, degradation,” said Executive Director Michael Bryant.

“This directive is a discriminatory misuse of government power — a ham-fisted dog whistle of bigotry, of homophobia, dressed up as a consultation fix.”

Lawyer Stuart Svonkin, who is working with the CCLA on the case, said there are three main legal grounds for the challenge.

He said reverting the 1998 curriculum violates equality rights and security of person under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; it is discriminatory, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code; and it contravenes the Education Act, which requires the province to create an inclusive and positive school environment for all.

Bryant said the other applicant in the case, Becky McFarlane, has a 10-year-old daughter who will be entering Grade 6 at a Toronto school in September.

Their family is the only one at that school that identifies as queer.

“So, it’s critically important to her, she says, to have the rest of the school and the rest of the public educated as to what that means and all that comes with sexual orientation rights, knowledge, information, as well as gender identity,” Bryant said.

“By pulling out all that information, obviously it leaves the student and the family feeling like others. They’re being treated like others.”

Education Minister Lisa Thompson was not available to comment on the suit, but a spokeswoman said the government is “committed to delivering an education system that puts the rights of parents first.”

“During the course of the 2018-19 school year we fully expect teachers to use the revised curriculum released yesterday,” Kayla Iafelice said in an email. “This includes the 2014 Health and Physical Education curriculum.

“Our government will continue to move forward with our promise to engage parents and educators in province-wide public consultations.”

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford warned teachers who use the repealed curriculum that they will face consequences.

He invited parents to anonymously report their concerns using a website critics dubbed a “snitch line.”

Ford also announced broad consultations on the education reforms will be launched in September.

Earlier this month, about a half dozen Ontario families launched a separate human rights challenge over the sex-ed rollback, saying the 1998 curriculum doesn’t teach gender identity.

With files from The Canadian Press

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