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Attack on sex ed is an attempt to reinforce oppression

Carolyn Egan

August 23, 2018

A province-wide campaign opposing the Ford government’s attack on the progressive sex education curriculum has been gathering momentum. School boards are speaking out, and very importantly, teachers’ unions such as the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Association (OSSTF) have taken strong stands against the changes. They are vowing to defend any teacher who refuses to implement the new curriculum. ETFO held a large demonstration at Queens Park, concretely showing its members’ commitment to this fight and pledging that it will bring it into the workplaces.

A community coalition has also been meeting that includes LGBTQ organizations, women’s groups, students and unions. It was involved in organizing the student led demonstration that took place at the provincial legislature, which highlighted what’s at stake if these changes are allowed to take place. Young women, queer, trans and students of colour spoke about the risks they face and how the 2015 curriculum made a real difference in their lives.

Assault and harassment are unfortunately a part of everyday life for so many. Systemic violence is embedded in capitalism and manifests itself in our communities through agencies of the state such as the police, immigration control, border security etc. We are seeing the rise of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia. Far-right groups are showing themselves more and more in our public spaces and attacks on communities of colour and LGBTQ people are on the rise.

The Me Too Movement was long overdue and has brought to the fore what women and others have been facing for years. The fact that so many have been subjected to domestic violence, sexual assault and lack of consent is now out in the open and is giving confidence to continue to build a movement for change.

The sex ed curriculum that the Tories are trying to roll back took on many of these issues in an attempt to educate, and create safe spaces so that students can grow and develop in a supportive and secure environment. Bigotry unfortunately is being fueled by governments and right-wing movements everywhere.

We have seen this in Trump’s America and Doug Ford’s pandering to the homophobia and misogyny of the evangelical backers who helped him win the leadership of the Conservative Party is aiding and abetting this as well. They have announced a bare bones consultation process and are urging parents to report teachers who are “jeopardizing their children’s education by deliberately ignoring Ontario’s curriculum.”

This is an outright attack on teachers in an attempt to reinforce conservative values. Far-right candidates are also running for mayor in cities such as Toronto and Hamilton, emboldened by these policies. They want to create a world that reinforces the exploitation and oppressions that so many of us have spent our lives fighting.

But the campaign is growing. Faith groups such as the United Church are mobilizing  across Ontario. Over one hundred organizations have signed on to a province-wide network. The HIV Aids Legal Clinic and Justice for Children and Youth are filing a human rights complaint. Mobilization kits have been developed, and students are planning school walkouts to protest this attack, as well as a provincial day of teach-ins working in conjunction with the unions. This will bring the strength of the organized labour movement to this struggle.

The Ford Tories are attacking fast and furiously on a whole range of issues. It is critical that the campaign around the sex ed curriculum link with other movements such as the Fight for $15 and Fairness so that there is an integrated fightback that takes on this right-wing government hell bent on turning back all the gains that we have made.


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