07/12/2018 09:22 EDT | Updated 07/13/2018 11:27 EDT

Ontario’s Sex-Ed Curriculum Reversal Puts LGBTQ Children In Danger

Teachers, please do not let the premier deny children their rights or their safety; Christians, please practice love, not hate.

Ontario's Progressive Conservative government has announced that it plans to scrap the current sexual education curriculum. That material was vetted by about 4,000 parents, 2,400 educators, 700 students and 170 organizations, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association.

So any suggestion by opponents that there wasn't enough parental consultation is nonsense. The real objection to the new sex-ed curriculum — which was brought in because the old one was written before equal marriage and widespread internet access — is not parental rights, but human rights. Specifically, human rights for those who are LGBTQ.

In 2015, when the new curriculum was brought in, I was a member of provincial parliament (MPP), and my then-executive assistant, Andrea Houston, and I stood holding a Pride flag outside the Ontario legislature as a counter-demonstration to the hundreds of people on the legislature grounds who were protesting the new material. We saw their signs. Many were appallingly homo- and transphobic. Misogyny played a part as well. One incensed woman accused me of impersonating a priest because I was wearing my collar.

Cheri DiNovo/Facebook
Cheri DiNovo with Rev. Brent Hawkes at the Toronto Police Service headquarters, when the police chief apologized for the 1981 bathhouse raids, on June 22, 2016.

Charles McVety, organizer of the protest and a right-wing Christian, was often my nemesis around the time that I performed the first legalized same-sex marriage in Canada. He and I would be asked to debate the issue in mainstream media. He now has a government indebted to him and to all those who make a mockery of Christ's love. Our LGBTQ child suicide and homelessness rates are the costs of such actions and opinions. How can anyone call themselves a Christian who would deny children safety?

That's what denying them the names of their body parts, the knowledge that's it's fine to be LGBTQ, that marriages and families come in different forms and that consent is needed before sex, ultimately does. It denies our children their safety.

As education minister, Lisa Thompson insists that teachers imperil our children, teachers will resist. I know her and her riding of Huron-Bruce. It was where I spent two wonderful years when I was first ordained as a minister. I witnessed the LGBTQ children as adults come home and to church for Christmas and Easter. I led them in our large United Church youth group. I and their parents knew why so many left rural Ontario for the cities. They left for their safety. I had hoped that was all changing. I had hoped that through the power of education and communication, hatred for our children who are "different" had waned.

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A man holds a Pride flag near the stage in Toronto on June 22, 2018.

In fact, I believe that it has waned. I trust the parents and children of Huron-Bruce to stand up for their rights. They did when I was there. Sadly for Thompson, her appeasing the haters will allow hate to flourish.

One wonderful woman who was in my Bible study class in the early 1990s, then in her 80s, said it best: "How can folk take a book about love and turn it into a book of hate?"

Soon, I will be hand-delivering a letter to Premier Doug Ford or Deputy Premier Christine Elliott — a woman I admire and consider a friend — signed by dozens of United Church clergy, asking the premier to exercise compassion and justice on a number of issues, one of them being to protect our children by informing and educating them so that they can protect themselves.

We will be letting them know that Canada's largest Protestant denomination understands what Jesus was saying when he called on all of us to protect children — ignorance of our sexuality puts us all at risk. Ignorance of human rights proves our ignorance.

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Ontario has a law to protect transgender rights, one banning conversion therapy (trying to turn LGBTQ children straight), and one on parent equality — all bills I brought forward as an MPP. We also allow gay-straight alliances, and our country has legalized equal marriage. This is who we are as a province now.

Our children are the beneficiaries of thousands of hours of work by activists. Teachers, please do not let the premier deny children their rights or their safety. Christians, please practice love, not hate. Jesus loves us as LGBTQ. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.

This was first published in the UC Observer.

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