Ontario government launches sex-ed ad campaign

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Ontario Minister of Education Liz Sandals. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)

Ontario Minister of Education Liz Sandals. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)


Ontario’s controversial new sex-education curriculum has spawned a government advertising campaign.

“It’s a sign that we understand that there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said Tuesday. “This is a case where there’s enough misinformation out there that we believe that we actually need to get more accurate information into the public discussion.”

The government has budgeted about $1.8 million for the campaign — radio and print ads that run through July, and online search and social media ads through June.

“Parents play an integral role in their children’s education, and in order to ensure they have factual information on what is in the HPE (Health and Physical Education) curriculum, the government has developed these advertisements,” a ministry statement says. “They are designed to direct parents to resources and facts about what is in the curriculum, the learning expectations, and additional information on how HPE is more than just about ‘Sex-ed.’”

The new HPE curriculum — to be taught in all publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools this fall — has been met with protests by groups who argue the material is age-inappropriate and promotes values that conflict with family or religious beliefs.

Other organizations have expressed admiration for the curriculum, which begins in Grade 1 and introduces the topics of sexting and sexual consent.

Although supportive of the revised curriculum, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Liberal government failed to launch it in a thoughtful and well-planned way for Ontario families.

Instead, the government announced the curriculum during a scandalous Sudbury byelection because it served the party’s political need for a public distraction, she said.

“The government scrambled to get something out the door that was going to change the channel for them and sex, drugs and rock and roll are the three reliables,” Horwath said.

Progressive Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop said many parents have complained they were not properly consulted on the new curriculum.

“We’ve got certainly the right-wing religious groups, they solidly believe that,” Dunlop said.

Teachers in public elementary schools have refused to participate in professional development on the curriculum as part of a withdrawal of services in a collective bargaining dispute with the government.

“(Sandals) may be wise at this point to say we better postpone this (curriculum introduction) for a certain length of time, and in that period of time they could even do more consultation,” Dunlop said.

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