Education Minister Liz Sandals unveiled the new curriculum at a news conference Monday, saying the government won't back down in the face of criticism as it did in 2010 when religious groups complained about proposed revisions.
|Ontario Education Minister Sandals|
"This will be the curriculum that is taught in Ontario schools in September 2015," Sandals said, noting training for teachers has already been scheduled.
Sandals said many aspects of the curriculum, like telling children they have the right to say no to unwanted touching, remains the same. However, due to public health data that shows children are experiencing puberty earlier, some topics are being introduced at earlier ages.
"We need to deal with the fact that our kids are starting to go through puberty much younger than they used to," said Sandals.
The new curriculum, which marks the first time sex education courses in Ontario have been updated since 1998, also includes more information about the role technology plays in youth sexuality.
Sandals said she hopes frank discussions about the risks of sharing explicit content online will cut down on the inappropriate material children are sharing online.
Children have questions about sex: experts
Many people who work in the sexual education field praised the changes on Monday.
Lyba Spring, who has worked as a sex educator with Toronto Public Health for some 30 years, said Ontario’s curriculum is the oldest in Canada and 16 years out of date.
Spring said the number 1 issue the curriculum needs to address is consent.
Currently, she said, "there’s no encouragement to really think through what one is willing to do."
|Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne|
This should be dealt with much earlier. Pedophiles don't wait til children reach puberty before they sexually abuse them. It often starts at age 5 or 6. Children in grade one, if not kindergarten, should be able to know when inappropriate touching is occurring, what to do to stop it, who to talk to about it, and be able to articulate what has happened to them.
Ms Sandals should research 'Erin's Law' in the US. I consider it to be the best child sex abuse prevention program in the world. Perhaps she is not aware of the extent of the problem of child sex abuse.
And, Spring said, teachers should be ready to answer questions.
"They're exposed to everything on the internet … but they want to hear it from a teacher," Spring said.
Dr. Miriam Kaufman, the head of adolescent medicine at SickKids Hospital, said it's natural for children and youth to have questions about sex.
"Kids start asking about things very, very early in terms of their own sexuality," said Kaufman. Most of those early questions do not need, nor should they have a detailed, graphic response.
Those questions shouldn’t be left for parents to answer, she said.
"The parent role is essential … but as parents we're not all that good," Kaufman said, noting that while she's written books on the topic and taught classes, she wasn't good at speaking with her own children about sex.
In principal, I agree with her on this, but I'm very concerned about potential applications of such an attitude. Will religious parents have the right to withdraw their children from certain classes, ie gender-related; or will the 'government knows best' attitude overrule parent's rights to teach their children Biblical ethics.
This report from CBC makes no mention of teaching on gender which is bound to be a contentious issue with religious parents. Credibility could be a problem for them - The premier of the province, Kathleen Wynne, while a very capable Premier, is a lesbian; and Ms Sandal's predecessor, Professor Benjamin Levin, will plead guilty to possession of child pornography. Levin will "be pleading guilty on March 3  to three of seven charges, namely one count of possession of child pornography, one count of making written child pornography, and one count of counselling a sexual assault."
|Dr Benjamin Levin|
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of a "quick facts" guide for parents that outlines some of the changes, including many that relate to technology.
The guide says students in Grades 1, 2 and 3 will learn initial searching skills and strategies for safe internet use, including "how to get help for themselves or others if harassment or abuse happens either face-to-face or online."
The primary grade students will also learn the difference between real and fictional violence, in the media or with online games, and "respectful communications" in the gym, classroom and school yard.
Even some elementary school students have sent sexually explicit pictures of themselves to someone online, while 11 per cent of Grade 10 students and about 14 per cent of those in Grade 11 say they have sent a sext, according to a 2015 study, Young Canadians in a Wired World.
"As students get older, they are more likely to sext," the guide warns parents. "Many students are unaware of the potential effects and consequences of sexting."