Thousands of angry parents gathered at Queen's Park on Tuesday asking Premier Kathleen Wynne to scrap Ontario's new sex-education curriculum.
Parents wanted to be included in the conversation, and do not believe that the Ontario Liberal government has given them a voice on how their children should be taught on the sensitive issue.
"We would like the government to pull back the implementation of the sex-ed curriculum," said one of the organizers of the event, Sam Sotiropoulos, who is an IT specialist and a former Toronto school trustee.
"We're going to show them that many parents across the province have an issue with this curriculum. We want them to step back and come back to table and deal with parents across the province in Ontario."
Groups from as far as London, Sudbury and Windsor came to Toronto to support the protest, and many ethnicities and religions were represented, including Sikhs, Chinese, Muslims, Arabs, Caucasians and Eastern Europeans.
Organizers led chants saying, "We say No!" and "My child, my voice!"
"Kathleen Wynne cannot ignore the tens and thousands of parents in Ontario who are concerned about the new curriculum that's coming out in September," said Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton, who gave a speech at the event.
"There's more concerns than just the opt-out clause. It's the fact that it's an argument about what's best for kids, and government control versus parental control."
Rev. Annie Yu, representing the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church community, maintained that "the provincial government failed to honour promises made in 2010 to engage people in the curriculum. She [Ms. Wynne] only consulted a selected group."
One of the protests organizers, Claudia Rulli, said about 4,000 parents were surveyed on a curriculum they never saw. The questions were vague and designed to give the results the Premier wanted, she said.
It's the government's second attempt to revise the sex-ed curriculum, which was last updated in 1998, before smartphones were ubiquitous or sexting had been invented.
Under the changes, Grade 3 students will learn about same-sex relationships, kids in Grades 4 and up will learn more about the dangers of online bullying, while the dangers of sexting will come in Grade 7.
Lessons about puberty will move from Grade 5 to Grade 4, while masturbation and "gender expression" are mentioned in the Grade 6 curriculum.
On Saturday, a new proposal was given to Ms. Wynne to alter the curriculum.
A website called The Well Informed Parent, which includes representatives such as educators, lawyers and medical professionals, went through the program and identified areas of concern when considering the risks of prematurely giving children heavily sexualized content, said Ghada Melek who is a senior manager at Deloitte.
An organization called Parents As First Educators started a petition in November called Stop Graphic Revisions to Ontario's Sex Education Curriculum. Before the sign-up form, a letter to Ms. Wynne says parents oppose the curriculum because it is graphic and not age-appropriate and does not align with the principles of many religious and cultural groups.
"We do not believe that prepubescent children should be overloaded with graphic information about sex. As parents, grandparents or other concerned Ontario voters, we want to preserve their innocence as long as possible."
About 56,100 people have signed the petition so far.
On a Facebook page called Parents & Students on strike: one week no school, parents are saying no to the new curriculum. All parents and students in Ontario are invited to participate from May 4 to 11. The strike has gathered quite a number of supporters; more than 300 people have liked one picture of the flyer on the page.
The protest was organized by a coalition of parental groups called My Child My Choice. After the first protest on Feb. 24, parents and organizations such as the Home Owners Welfare Association, the Coalition of Concerned Parents and the Well Informed Parent joined together to create a committee to organize the event.
With a report from The Canadian Press
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Sam Sotiropoulos's surname.