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With cases of sexual harassment and sexual violence in the spotlight, Wynne directed the Ministry of Education to include things such as healthy relationships and consent in the new learning documents, which will be used in schools across the province this fall.
Wynne has asked Education Minister Liz Sandals “to finalize a new health and physical education curriculum that gets at some of the root causes of gender inequality, and starts at the very earliest stages to develop an understanding of healthy relationships and consent.”
The new curriculum is expected to be released in the next two months.
Chris Markham, executive director of Ophea — a group that advises on curriculum and offers support to phys-ed and health teachers — was pleased to learn of the change “because we were asking for the ministry to look at consent as part of the revision process.”
Ophea has been pushing the government to implement the new curriculum, given the one currently in use is from the 1990s and the most outdated in the country which does not make mention of the Internet, cyberbullying or sexting and little mention of mental health, forcing teachers to find materials from out-of-province to address students’ questions.
Markham said the broader concept of consent could be added early on by talking to younger students “about respectful relationships and boundaries around their bodies,” and as they get older “every grade builds upon what’s been taught in the prior grade.”
The updated version was first released in 2010, but shelved after complaints from a few religious groups about children learning about homosexuality in Grade 3, discussions of puberty in Grade 6 and, in Grade 7, talk of preventing sexually transmitted diseases and possible discussion about oral or anal sex.
“The use of social media and smartphones have also had a significant impact on the understanding of how youth perceive healthy relationships,” she said. “Our government is committed to moving forward and developing this component of the curriculum in order to uphold the safety of our students and provide them with accurate information about healthy relationships in this technology-driven world.”
Wynne made her comments about consent in the curriculum in December, while announcing training and other initiatives to address sexual violence and harassment after high-profile scandals including Jian Ghomeshi and others came to light.