Toronto teens file human rights claim against Ontario on sex-ed repeal
Two Toronto high school students have filed a human rights complaint against the provincial government’s decision to repeal the sex-ed curriculum.
The application, which was filed at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on Friday, argues that the curriculum change discriminates against LGBTQ2S+ youth and will play a role in creating a hostile environment for students.
The applicants, whose surnames are being withheld to protect their identity, specifically said the repealed curriculum discriminates against them as transgender youth.
Ryan, who also identifies as bisexual and lives with a disability, argues in the application that the curriculum change, along with the government’s statements and website ForTheParents.ca, is discriminatory on the grounds of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and disability.
“When the government first announced the repeal of the 2015 curriculum, reverting it back to the 1998 one, I was disgusted by that decision,” Ryan told CTV News Toronto. “My biggest concern is that children are not going to be educated in an inclusive and diverse environment, and that causes them to form ignorant opinions about who I am and who a bunch of my friends are in the LGBTQ community.”
Ryan said that when younger students who are educated using the 1998 curriculum enter his high school they may have homophobic, transphobic or hold “simply ignorant opinions” of who he is.
“And that makes me feel unsafe,” he said.
Noah, the second complainant, claims discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and expression.
Noah’s primary concern about the sex-ed repeal is that transgender kids in middle school and elementary school may be educated in a “negative and toxic environment.” Noah added that Premier Doug Ford, who is responsible for the repeal of the curriculum, should be focusing on pushing the province forward instead of going backwards.
“I pity him because he honestly, just based off of what he says, he seems worried about how Ontario is progressing and change is tough, but he needs to get his act together and be okay with LGBTQ people in Ontario,” Noah told CTV News Toronto.
The Progressive Conservative government repealed the most current sex-ed curriculum in July, saying that the former Liberal government had updated the course without consulting parents.
Issues not addressed in the curriculum that the province revered to include gender expression, body part terminology and consent. The government has previously indicated that it will allow teachers to discuss gender identity, sexual orientation and homophobia, but those topics are not mandatory.
The province also set up a website so that parents can lodge complaints against teachers.
Ryan and Noah are asking for the 2015 curriculum to be reinstated and for any future changes to the curriculum to comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Andrea Luey, a staff lawyer at Justice for Children and Youth, said that she is “optimistic” about her clients’ chances of winning the human rights complaint because the repealed curriculum may communicate to students that their identity “doesn’t exist or is too shameful to be taught.”
“The 1998 curriculum does not contain any mandatory content that relates to queer and trans identities. It does not provide students with information that would allow peers to form opinions that are inclusive and educated and not based on prejudice and assumptions,” she said.
The claim is the first legal challenge to the curriculum repeal made on behalf of high school students.
-With files from CTV News Toronto's Janice Golding