Ontario Premier Doug Ford is suggesting the results of an online consultation on sex education were skewed by “certain groups” in the early stages of the process.
The premier was asked Tuesday whether the province would respect the outcome of the consultation after documents obtained by The Canadian Press showed an overwhelming majority of those who weighed in on the first day opposed his repeal of a modernized sex-ed curriculum introduced by the previous Liberal government.
Out of roughly 1,600 submissions to the ForTheParents.ca website obtained through a freedom of information request, roughly two dozen supported the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to repeal the document and temporarily replace it with one based on the 1998 curriculum.
“Did certain groups flood it right at the beginning? (They) did,” he said, though he did not elaborate on the nature of those groups. “We’re going to run through the 35,000 responses … and make a decision.”
The government launched the submissions website in August after Ford pledged to conduct what he called the largest consultations in the province’s history to create a new lesson plan.
At the time, the premier said teachers who used the repealed curriculum would face consequences, prompting critics to dub the website a “snitch line.”
The 1998 curriculum that temporarily replaced the scrapped document was panned by critics who said it didn’t address themes like gender identity, consent and cyber-safety.
The government later announced it had come up with an interim lesson plan that addressed those issues but experts said it contains only passing mention of modern concepts such as the internet and cellphones.
The 2015 curriculum brought in by the Liberals covered topics such as online bullying and sexting, as well as others – such as same-sex relationships, gender identity and masturbation – that opponents objected to.
The official Opposition said they expect the rest of the submissions will follow the same lines as the initial wave in expressing support for the modernized lesson plan.
“I think what this tells us is that if the government continues to move backward on the sex-ed curriculum, it’s going to be because the premier is listening to a very small number of his friends,” NDP legislator Marit Stiles said.
Some online submissions said Ford’s repeal of the modernized curriculum was putting children at risk while others said they were worried students were not receiving lessons on acceptance and understanding.
Many also questioned the expense and necessity of the submissions website after the previous Liberal government spent months consulting parents and experts to create their lesson plan.
The government has said it will be looking at the consultation data in January and writing and testing a new curriculum through the spring. The education minister has said the new document will be introduced in time for the new school year in the fall.