Activists urge shutdown of Ontario sex-ed curriculum in legal challenge

January 10, 2019
Article Source
The Globe and Mail

A civil liberties group, a teachers union and a queer mother asked a court Wednesday to shut down Ontario’' new sex-education curriculum, in a legal challenge with no direct precedent in Canada.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, joined by Becky McFarlane and her daughter, who is in Grade 6 in Toronto, say that Ontario's Doug Ford government is discriminating against same-sex parents and their children by "erasing" them from a curriculum put in place last summer.

The government directed school boards in August to scrap a 2015 sex-ed curriculum for Grades 1 to 8, developed by the previous Liberal government and containing references to same-sex families, and replace it with a 1998 curriculum that did not include those references.

That directive, a CCLA lawyer said, sent a discriminatory message: "Members of the LGBTQ+ community are not entitled to equal treatment; they have been erased," Stuart Svonkin told three judges of the Ontario Divisional Court.

Under Canada's 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, courts have the power to review government policy – but rarely do they venture into policy matters such as what an appropriate sex-education program is. And the Ontario government argues that they shouldn't, because courts lack the expertise.

Reflecting on how far courts should be prepared to go, Justice Julie Thorburn asked Mr. Svonkin whether, in effect, Canadian constitutional law requires government to improve the world. "There are all sorts of things you could teach to make the world a better place," she said, and asked if there had ever been a Canadian case where something that wasn't done constituted a violation of the Charter of Rights.

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