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Court rules in favour of government on sex-ed curriculum challenges

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario and Canadian Civil Liberties Association had filed court motions

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

An Ontario court has rejected legal challenges in response to the Ontario government’s rollback of sex-ed curriculum last year.

The recently-released Divisional Court ruling said the Ford government’s decision to repeal the curriculum brought in place by Kathleen Wynne-led Liberals in 2015 did not violate Charter rights of teachers, students and parents

The 2015 curriculum was replaced by one issued in 2010, which includes lesson plans made in 1998.

Critics of the government’s move said students would no longer being learning about topics such as consent, gender identity and equality, and cyber bullying.

The challenges were brought forth by The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

In its challenge, the EFTO claimed the curriculum repeal, as well as statements made by elected officials and the developed of the website, which the union calls ‘snitch line,” “put a ‘chill’ on teachers” and their ability to teach in a way that is “positive, inclusive and respectful of diversity.”

The union and CCLA also stated teaching the 2010 curriculum would be particularly harmful on “vulnerable groups” such as LGBTQ, Indigenous youth, and those with HIV or AIDS.

Government lawyers argued teachers’ freedom expression has not been constrained as it is up to educators on how to teach the 2010 curriculum, and they are allowed to use the 2015 curriculum to be taught.

It was this argument Justices Bonnie Warkentin, Charles Hackland and Julie Thorburn largely pointed to in their ruling the government had not violated any Charter rights in its actions.

“There is nothing in the 2010 curriculum that prevents teachers from addressing the topics of consent, use of proper names to describe body parts, gender identity and sexual orientation, online behaviour and cyberbullying, and sexually transmitted diseases or infections, in the elementary school classroom,” the three wrote in their decision.

Despite the court’s ruling, ETFO president Sam Hammond said the case was a victory that “enshrines the professional judgement rights of educators to establish inclusive learning environments.”

“ETFO took a principled position to stop the unprecedented and unnecessary attack on kids and professional educators in Ontario,” Hammond said in a media release. “The government’s explicit concession on this point in court makes this case a victory for ETFO and others. I have no doubt such a concession would have never occurred without litigation.”

Hammond said ETFO and its legal counsel would continue to review the decision.
“ETFO has and will continue to vigorously defend members who use their professional judgement to ensure they are creating safe and healthy classrooms for all students.”