At WomanACT, we are very concerned by the recent announcement by the Ontario Ministry of Education to repeal Ontario’s sexual health education curriculum in September. As an organization committed to women’s safety and gender equality, we believe that access to effective and relevant sex education is a key contributing factor to the health and well-being of children and young people.
Compromising children and young people’s access to information on consent and equitable relationships means putting people’s health, safety and rights at risk. Comprehensive sexual health education that is inclusive, rights-based and promotes gender equality has a role in preventing violence against women. Schools are well placed to shift social norms, attitudes and behaviours. To this end, the curriculum must reflect and respond to the lived realities of young people. Teaching children and young people about consent and healthy relationships is critical.
Just this month, the Canadian Femicide Conservatory released its mid-year report showing that in 2018 alone, 78 women and girls have died as a result of femicide in Canada. 41 of these women and girls were in Ontario. With such shocking numbers of women and girls dying as a result of dating violence, intimate-partner violence, we need to commit to learning and discussing safe, healthy and equitable relationships in our education system. With a rise in cyberbullying, the curriculum must cover how children and young people can protect themselves online and respect one another online. We need a curriculum that informs young people of their rights online.
Sexual health education is more than words written on a curriculum document; it is about promoting critical conversations in schools among young people; conversations about gender, sexuality, choice, boundaries and rights. We want the Government of Ontario to send the message that these are vital conversations that must be encouraged and fostered.
As per our open letter submitted to the Ministry of Education, our concerns are shared by a number of organizations and individuals. The open letter prepared by WomanACT has been endorsed and co-signed by a total of 13 Toronto Based organizations, 41 Organizations based in the province of Ontario, 18 Organizations working in other provinces of Canada, 4 Canada-wide organizations and eight individual experts.