TORONTO — Questions about Patrick Brown's role in a sex-ed controversy resurfaced Friday as new information appeared to suggest the Progressive Conservative leader was aware of a promise his party would scrap the updated curriculum.
Brown's chief of staff, Nicolas Pappalardo, wrote in an email on the morning of Aug. 18 — more than a week before the leader has said he became aware of a letter making the same promise — that he had sent an anti-sex-ed group "the statement Patrick was prepared to make."
Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown speaks to media in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo: Peter Power/CP)
"The Wynne Liberal government has ignored parents and introduced a controversial sexual health education curriculum against the will of parents," read part of the statement in the email obtained by The Canadian Press. "If elected, a PC Government would introduce a new curriculum after thoughtful and full consultation with parents."
Brown's office would not comment Friday on the latest developments, but the PC leader has previously said he did not see a letter with a similar message before it was distributed in an east Toronto riding during a recent byelection, where the curriculum was unpopular.
That letter promised that a PC government would "scrap" the Liberal sex-ed curriculum. Brown has said he was "livid" when he first saw it because it did not reflect his opinion.
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Brown said in an op-ed that the local byelection campaign office had gone "too far," but a previous email obtained by The Canadian Press showed that Pappalardo had distributed the letter the day before it became public on Aug. 26.
Pappalardo's emails were to Queenie Yu, an independent candidate running on an anti-sex-ed platform, and said he had sent the Aug. 18 statement the day before to the head of Parents As First Educators (PAFE), a group that has campaigned against the Liberal sex-ed curriculum.
"Instead of a reply, I got the email blast this morning from PAFE," Pappalardo wrote. "I don't know how anyone can say in good conscience that he is backpedalling in this statement. Instead of a win for the cause, the bridge is being blown up. It's unfortunate she took such an all-or nothing approach."
PAFE's "email blast" endorsed Yu, saying Brown was going back on statements he made during the PC leadership race. Social conservatives have complained that Brown courted them to become leader and has since betrayed them.
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The candidate nomination period in the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection closed at 2 p.m. on Aug. 18. Yu has suggested the PC campaign felt she was taking votes away from their candidate.
The statement from Brown referenced in Pappalardo's email that day also said, "teachers should teach facts, not values."
Brown made the same statement while speaking at a February 2015 anti-sex-ed rally, but has never explained what parts of the curriculum he felt were values as opposed to facts. The only specific criticisms he has pointed out are with the consultation process.
The new curriculum included updates such as warnings about online bullying and sexting, but protesters have zeroed in on discussions of same-sex marriage, masturbation and gender identity.