Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Chief of Treaty #3, issued the following statement:
KENORA – “Last week I was deeply disturbed to learn that the Ford government was immediately scrapping the updated health and sexual education curriculum implemented by its predecessor in 2015, and reverting to a curriculum that is over 20 years old. Today’s apparent climb-down by the Minister of Education lends little clarity to the government’s approach or to that to be taken by educators in classrooms.
“The 1998 sex-ed curriculum was outdated for the last decade it was in use. It is silent on critical topics for our young people, such as consent and online and mobile safety. Moreover, the 1998 curriculum is also deficient in its coverage of LGBTQ and two-spirit identities and families – having been written before same-sex marriage was legal or any of the rights advances which followed were in place. These issues are modern realities, and our young people deserve the facts – not only to understand their own identities but to successfully navigate our society.
“The signal that the government is sending is deeply troubling. They appear to be engaging in dog-whistle politics about the suitability of some people and families in our communities for Ontario’s classrooms and are leaving our young people ill-equipped for challenges they will face in their development. It is negligent and harmful to our children.
“A robust and fact-based elementary school curriculum, in particular, is vitally important for youth from vulnerable groups, as it may be the only source of accurate health and sexual education information they receive. Despite ongoing efforts, many Indigenous young people have difficulty completing high school or accessing post-secondary education where further resources are available, and may not have access to the same guidance at home as their peers.
“One of our responsibilities in responding to crises like missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and youth mental health, self-harm, and suicide must be to provide Indigenous young people with information about healthy and safe relationships, sexual orientation and gender identity, and resources related to consent and gender-based violence. By putting in place antiquated sex-ed curriculum, the Ontario government is abdicating that responsibility and putting young people at risk.
“This goes hand in hand with the recent decision to abandon reconciliation initiatives related to school curriculum. I call on our MPP – who is the Minister of Indigenous Affairs – to bring these matters to the attention of the Ministry of Education as they craft their strategy to release an updated and inclusive sex-ed curriculum. We look forward to further engagement on this critical topic for all Treaty #3 young people.”