Catholic groups led by the Archbishop of Toronto have vowed to work co-operatively with the Ontario Education Ministry on a new sex-education curriculum for children in Grades 1 to 8.
Premier Dalton McGuinty's office issued a statement from the groups on Wednesday night, amid controversy over whether all publicly funded schools in the province were in fact planning to follow the same sex-ed curriculum.
"We want to be clear: Ontario's Catholic schools teach the provincial curriculum from a Catholic perspective and have done so successfully," said the statement signed by Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, along with Paula Peroni, President of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association and James Ryan, President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association.
The Globe and Mail has reported that Catholic officials were developing their own sex-ed program that deviates significantly from the provincial one. The Institute for Catholic Education had informed bureaucrats in the Education Ministry that they were not prepared to introduce children as early as Grade 3 to such topics as homosexuality, Sister Joan Cronin, the institute's executive director, said in an interview earlier this week.
The institute was working with ministry officials to tailor the province's now-shelved sex-ed curriculum to separate schools, Sister Joan said. It had completed a first draft for Grade 1 to Grade 7, containing revisions to its long-standing family life program known as Fully Alive.
Mr. McGuinty told reporters Wednesday that this was news to him and said all schools in Ontario that are publicly funded must follow the provincial curriculum.
"God love Sister Joan," he said. "I don't distinguish between two school systems when it comes to our curriculum. We have a single curriculum when it comes to mathematics, when it comes to history, when it comes to world studies and when it comes to sex education."
The now shelved sex-ed curriculum would have introduced the topic of same-sex marriage to Grade 3 students and a mention of anal intercourse in Grade 7. Sister Joan said the Catholic version of the curriculum would not have taught children in separate schools about gender identity until Grade 7.
Mr. McGuinty said he was in the dark about his government's revamped curriculum until last week, when a Christian group led by evangelist Charles McVety complained about it. But he took the blame for the fact that it has been derailed. He read the chapter on sex-ed only last Thursday, the same day he pulled the plug on the document.
His government now plans to roll out the new health and physical education curriculum to elementary schools this fall - minus the contentious portion covering what children in Grade 1 to Grade 8 would have been taught about sex.