As Canadians, we pride ourselves on our universal health care system. But the reality is that it isn't reaching everyone. Unless we work together to build the relationships that foster good health, people and communities across Canada will continue to be left out of the "universal" health care system. So here is what we are doing about it.
I look at my boy and see a sweet... empathetic kid and sometimes think to myself, "You're going overboard. He's only 11. Look at him, he would never participate, stand by or condone sexual aggression." And then I think of all the parents who probably thought the same... and I push on with the conversation.
When the right of a tax-funded separate Catholic school system was put into the constitution back in 1867, it was a way of protecting the religious, cultural and language rights of the minority French (who were predominantly Catholic) from the majority English (who were predominantly Protestant) at a time when all schooling was church-run. We now live in a multicultural country based on equality and yet somehow in three provinces it's still considered kosher that one religious group gets tax-funded schooling but not Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Hindus, etc. It's the dictionary definition of privilege.
I had to accept that my children will get exposed to information about sex much earlier then I might want them to. If related words were being flashed and chanted around in the presence of young children by even these parents -- who were arguing that the curriculum is age-inappropriate -- then what were the chances that my child won't be introduced to these subjects sooner than later?
The backlash against Ontario's new health curriculum has left many people confused. Is it radical? Are fundamental parental and religious rights being undermined? All parents want to protect their children, but opponents of sex education are inadvertently doing the opposite. Denying children accurate and inclusive information about their bodies, human relationships and sexuality is not protective; it is irresponsible. Without such information, children are unable to care for themselves and grow into healthy and responsible adults.
I need you to raise boys who know what real women look like. Boys who know that women have body hair and curvy thighs or small breasts. Boys who understand the difference between actual consent and inebriated/coerced consent. Boys who value strength of mind, body and spirit over physical appearance. Boys who look for a partnership, not a hook up.
The curriculum is aimed at preparing kids to navigate the complicated interpersonal and sexual situations in today's hyper-sexualized world. But opponents have latched on to a number of provisions. It should be clearly understood that the new curriculum is not a "How to Manual" and that the state is not promoting a particular relationship structure. Ultimately, the government must do a better job of convincing some parents that it is responding to the changing realities. All stakeholders must feel that at least some of their concerns are heard and validated.
The new, modernized Physical Education and Health curriculum is supported by the overwhelming majority of Ontario parents. However, there remains a small, yet vocal few, who strongly oppose any changes. Although I currently serve as a School Board Trustee, it's as a parent that I wish to engage in this debate. There is rarely a week at home when my kids don't speak of things I never would have touched at their age. As a father, raising my children in these times, I'm happy to be able to count on the support of professional educators who can complement what my kids learn and discuss at home.
Ten-year-old Hannah used to love going to school but now the Ontario fourth grader is too scared to return and her mother Nicola can't blame her. On Monday, Hannah experienced the second of two incidents of bullying with a disturbingly sexual tone. Hannah's mother spoke to the school principal, and although the boy admitted to the incident, as far as she knows no further action was taken by the school. As of Wednesday, Nicola's calls to the superintendent and her school trustee had not been returned, and the principal did not respond to a request for comment for this post.
While I have some reservations about the fairness and wisdom of ramming the new sex education curriculum down the throats of unwilling parents, I am still scratching my head over the strength of this parental protest. Why are parents more upset about the somewhat-flawed new sex education curriculum than the known-to-be-very-flawed math and language arts curriculum already in place? Nor do the problems with the Ontario curriculum end with math and language arts. What about its music curriculum that doesn't teach kids how to sight read or sing in tune? Why aren't students taught cursive writing?
The new Ontario health and physical education curriculum, which has been the topic of much anger and debate, has the health and safety of all of our children as one of its primary goals. While I agree that children are in need of protection, I would like someone to explain how refusing to educate children could in any way protect them. Certain adults are keeping their children home to protest the new curriculum that will be introduced this coming fall. What will happen if we divide our students into two groups -- those who receive sex education and those who are being "protected" from it?