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Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne (pictured) introduced the new provincial sex ed curriculum in Feb. 2015. Photo: CC, Jason Hargrove.

A look at the first five turbulent months of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum

Approximately five months ago a new elementary school year began in Ontario. With this new school year came new students, new teachers, new chewing gum stuck under desks and, for the first time since 1998, a new sexual education curriculum.

This curriculum was the first update to sexual education in Ontario since 1998, meaning that it had been almost two decades since it was last modified. The new curriculum, which can be read in full on the provincial government’s official website, teaches certain concepts at an earlier grade level than before, especially those concerning anatomy and puberty. It also includes updates on topics like sexual orientation, gender identity, consent, and online harassment.

Although it seems that the curriculum was well beyond its time for an update, especially with same-sex marriage being legal in Canada since 2005 and puberty starting earlier than ever before, many people are up in arms over the changes.

Protests began when the curriculum was first announced back in Feb. 2015, and haven’t really stopped since then. Even after the first day of the 2015-16 school year had long passed, parents continued to protest the fact that their kids are learning about natural biological functions.

Many of these protesters have cited religious reasons , especially those of the Islamic faith, with some even threatening to pull their children out of school completely.

However, as the National Post reported back in September, the major school boards in Ontario have not noticed any significant  “mass exodus” of children being pulled out of public schools or being homeschooled. Some smaller reports (like a recent article from The Mississauga News website) suggest that there has been an increase in homeschooling in the past year, while also pointing out that this number was on a steady incline before news of the new curriculum gained traction in the media.

Although protests did decrease after the fall, they did not stop completely.

During the federal election in Oct. of 2015, some Conservative party members used the new curriculum to attack Liberal candidates, even though this is a provincial issue and not a federal one.

Even more recently this month, protests continued to come from groups like the Concerned Parents of Peterborough. Many in this group work with the larger Campaign Life Coalition, a Toronto-based anti-abortion organization, who are mostly concerned with students learning more about homosexuality, gender identity, masturbation, and other topics that violate certain religious doctrines. There are some cases where parents can have their children opt-out of courses on these topics, even though many school boards are not allowing this to take place because they consider it an endorsement of discrimination.

Although many Canadians are in support of the new curriculum, or at least recognize that it was time for a much-needed update, it seems as if these protests will not slow down for the foreseeable future.

Only time will tell if the new sex ed curriculum will be as effective and enlightening as the Ontario government wants it to be, but when it comes to this issue one thing remains certain—the Helen Lovejoy defence is definitely making a serious comeback in 2016.