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Some Chinese parents in Toronto protested against the revised sex education curriculum in Ontario, Canada, which will impel this September. They said it’s “too early and too much” for elementary students to learn about body parts, oral and anal sex, and homosexuality.
Earlier this week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the first lesbian premier in the country, announced to unveil the first update of the provincial sex education curriculum since 1998, an effort to move sex education into the digital age with discussions of sexting (sex texting) and the dangers of sharing intimate images online.
On Wednesday, over 200 protesters including some Chinese parents quickly arrived in Toronto’s Queen’s Park, the site of Ontario Legislative Assembly, in minus 20 degrees Celsius temperatures to denounce the new sex education, calling for teachers to “Teach mathematics, NOT masturbation.”
2014 was a disturbing year for Toronto and its sex education program. Events in the media raised the lid for a look into what Ontario’s 2,015,423 students needed to know about sex and how to protect and govern themselves in these intimate encounters. Encounters once held as the realm of the adult.
That led to a fast overhaul on all things sex circa 2015. It had been 17 years since the program had been updated and the results were bringing spectacular outrage. Many Chinese parents considered this long waited update to be a Scarlet letter of smut. It was deemed indecent and pornographic and to incite already hormonal children into acts of perversity and lewdness.
Specifically the update addresses, students in Grades 4 to 6 will learn about the risks of posting sexual images or information online, while children in Grade 7 will discuss sexting. The curriculum update also includes learning the proper names for body parts in Grade 1, teaching about sexual orientation in Grade 3, how to combat homophobia and other forms of discrimination in Grade 6. Masturbation is included as a “teacher prompt” in this section. “Exploring one’s body by touching or masturbating is something that many people do and find pleasurable,” the teacher prompt says. Further extensive discussions on gender identity to be discussed in Grade 8. Grade 9, sexual orientation and Grade 12, dealing with harassment and abuse.
Gender identity in Canada is a complex issue, outside most Chinese Canadian citizen’s purview. Canada’s Bill C-279 is calling for inclusions of such phrases “gender identity” and “gender expression to include” trans, transgender, transsexual or intersex. As parents waited to protest outside, it’s inside the provincial assembly where heated words prompted Chinese parents to verbally fight back.
London-area MPP Monte McNaughton attacked the curriculum. “This government is disrespecting parents,” he told reporters. “Parents are looking for a voice. I am going to be a voice in this debate.” For many Chinese parents the material was deemed inappropriate for their 9 year old children. York Region District School Board Tan Guocheng said, “Parents generally believe this information should wait until the students enter high school in the ninth grade. At 14 years old they can have a talk about sex education and the sex education curriculum.”
PC leadership contender MP Patrick Brown said, “Teachers should teach facts about sex education, not values. Parents teach values.”
The Chinese parents that were present stated they opposed topics on homosexuality, and on anal and oral sex. They believe that the new sex education curriculum will teach children too early a variety of sexual behavior as a whole that leads to HIV infection. A Richmond Hill resident and a Hong Kong immigrant, Mr. Wang said, “Nowadays young people are promiscuous, the course will encourage sexual activities. Parents should guide sex education. He agreed in principal as Chinese parents talk less about sex with their children that the provincial government should encourage parents to teach their own children. Other demonstrators, whose children are grown up, attended in protest as place holders for the next generation.
About 10 young people attended supporting the new version of the sex education curriculum. Students should learn gay issues, to avoid discrimination against homosexual students by students, reducing the rate of gay student suicides, they said.
The demonstrators were a who’s who of activists. From an anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition to the Catholic Community Parents Association and members of several religious communities be it Christian or Muslim.
But before September, experts are recommending a better balance between elucidating the risks and teaching that other thorny concept for parents, teachers and administrators– that “sexuality and sexual expression within relationships is a positive part of the human experience,” said Alex McKay, executive director of the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. “As long as that’s being acknowledged throughout the curriculum in a developmentally appropriate way, then students and young people, as they grow into adults, have much more of a sense of being empowered around their sexuality and taking action to promote their own health.”
In the Canadian province of British Columbia on the west coast, “We teach from a sex positive perspective, which includes discussions of pleasure,” insists Kristen Gilbert, director of education for the Vancouver-based sexual health agency Options for Sexual Health. “As an educator you won’t hear me say to students, the only reason why people have sex is to make babies.”
While it doesn’t devote much ink to what precisely constitutes a healthy sexual relationship, the new curriculum does a strong job of dovetailing classroom teachings with conversations meant to happen at home in its new “parent guides,” experts say. Advocates say the public often misunderstands the roles of parents and schools in “having the talk”: One isn’t intended to usurp the other. “The school’s role is to complement what the parents have been communicating around values and behavioural expectations with the factual types of information that in most cases, the parents simply don’t have: biological information, information about sexually transmitted infections, risky behaviour and how to reduce risk,” McKay said.
Cristoph De Caermichael
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