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Ontario salvages reworked curriculum, minus the sex part

The Ontario government will roll out its revamped health and physical education curriculum to elementary classrooms this fall - minus the controversial sections dealing with sex.

The contentious portion covering what children in Grade 1 to Grade 8 would have been taught about sex makes up only one-twelfth of the 208-page document, Premier Dalton McGuinty said on Tuesday.

"Eleven areas don't appear to be controversial in any way," he said. "I think we've done a lot of work that we can in fact build on. I think we can find a way to introduce that into the curriculum this September."

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Mr. McGuinty moved swiftly to salvage much of the new curriculum as opposition members accused him of flip-flopping for pulling the plug on the document after a Christian group led by evangelist Charles McVety expressed outrage last week. Mr. McGuinty also sought to distance government officials from the document by pointing out that it was bureaucrats in the Ministry of Education who developed the new curriculum.

"Every once in a while, the process, which is independent of government, comes up a little short," Mr. McGuinty told reporters.

The updated health and physical education curriculum was posted on the Education Ministry's website last January, after more than two years of consultation with experts, school boards and parents.

But Mr. McGuinty said it has become apparent that bureaucrats did not do nearly enough work to ensure that the sections on sex ed were in keeping with the "sensitivities and the desires" of parents.

"I'm quite confident we didn't get it right," he said. "So we're going to reinsert ourselves into the process and make sure we find a way to properly engage Ontarians, especially parents."

Mr. McGuinty was not briefed on the new sex-ed curriculum, sources said, and was unaware of its contents until last week, when Mr. McVety's group complained.

Until Mr. McGuinty announced last Thursday that he was shelving the new curriculum, it was set to come into effect in September, introducing the topic of same-sex marriage to Grade 3 students and a mention of anal intercourse in Grade 7.

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Annie Kidder of the parent group People for Education said her organization sent information on the new curriculum to 5,000 parents in Ontario. She said Mr. McVety's group does not represent the feedback she got from parents, many of whom viewed the curriculum as adapting sex ed to the 21st century.

"All the people that were part of the consultation could feel that their voices don't count," she said.

Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky acknowledged on Tuesday that parent opposition was not widespread.

"We're not hearing that," she told reporters. "But I think that the Premier has made it very clear we want to do a better job engaging parents and that includes most definitely having them understand what's in the document, having them read the document."

However, the Education Ministry pulled the document from its website last Thursday.

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About the Authors

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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