TORONTO — Toronto Jewish day schools are mostly tight-lipped when it comes to discussing Ontario’s proposed sex education curriculum or their own teachings on the subject.
Many elementary schools contacted by The CJN did not return calls or emails seeking comment on the new Ontario health curriculum or what, to date, has been taught on the subject of human reproduction.
Starting next fall, Ontario’s revamped sex education curriculum will see children as young as six learn about sexual consent, while eight-year-olds will be taught about same-sex relationships.
The Canadian Jewish News
by Danica Samuel (@DanicaSamuel) in Toronto
Over half the population of international students in Ontario are deciding to stay put after graduating, and it’s for a good reason.
A recent study titled International Students in the Ontario Postsecondary System and Beyond, which was funded by Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and presented at the National Metropolis Conference in Vancouver, shows a significant increase of international students living in the province between 2000 and 2012.
International Migration Research Centre (IMRC) researchers found an increase in students coming from Asia, Africa and the USA to study in Ontario, but more importantly found that over 50 per cent are opting to remain in Canada after completing their studies.
One of the IMRC researchers, Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts, says it’s important to evaluate the students’ experiences, and how they are impacting Canadian immigration, when looking at the study’s findings.
“We need to understand what is happening to these students in terms of their transition into the labour market and transition into permanent residency,” says Walton-Roberts.
“International students are becoming more a part of the immigrant demand and that is a deliberate policy and pathway that the government has engaged in.”
An Economic Boost
According to the study, from 2002 to 2011, 190,000 international students came to Ontario and over 60,000 made a transition to another visa.
Walton-Roberts claims there are several factors to the growth, but most recognized is the Student Partners Program (SPP), which originated in 2009 as an assisting program for Indian students looking to study at Canadian college institutions. India is also the leading country in international student migration.
In addition to SPP boosting college registration, international students in general represent more of an economical boost in terms of immigration.
International students are now considered the fourth largest import in Canada and Walton-Roberts says the focus should be on making sure everyone benefits from this.
“We could look at it as a privatization of immigrant settlement processes,” she explains.
“Tuition fees are a transmission of funds to Canada’s post secondary sector. It is also an investment in an individual’s education. As long as that person can reap the benefits of their investments, that’s okay. Can they enter the labour market, or if they go back to their country, will their credentials offer them the opportunity to have a wage premium?”
For some international students, like 27-year-old Humber College journalism student, Mahnoor Yawar, from Dubai, it’s hard to see the benefits of the transmission of funds Walton-Roberts speaks of.
“I’m frankly tired of having to pay twice the tuition as local students and getting half the opportunities available to them,” Yawar says.
“I can’t shake the sense that we as international students are keeping the whole system afloat, but being chased away right after it’s done with us.”
For 22-year-old Achint Arora, who is studying accounting at George Brown College (GBC), his transition to Canada from India was relatively smooth, but costly.
He applied online, as well as successfully passing his International English Language Test with a score above average.
“I always wanted to study across seas, so I did my research, applied and they accepted me,” explains Arora.
When it comes to the fees, he agrees with Yawar. “For international students the fees are too high, and paying fees at universities are next to impossible. University is about $26,000 a year, and a college is $18,000. So I did some research, read reviews and decided to attend GBC.”
International students pay anywhere from $11,000 to $13,000 more than their domestic counterparts.
Although many foreign students are entering into Ontario, there has been a significant decrease in female international students.
According to IMRC, from 2008 to 2012 there was a decrease of eight per cent of females coming to Ontario for education.
Walton-Roberts says it’s a reflection of the countries most international students migrate from.
“When we look at the major countries international students come from, you have to consider the gender politics in those countries and how comfortable families might be sending their daughters overseas.”
Yawar says she was one of the fortunate females that was able to study abroad.
“There’s also a certain conservatism in the South Asian/Middle Eastern cultures that suggests women shouldn’t move out of their family homes, and especially so far away from it before they’re married,” says Yawar.
“I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents who want their girls to be able to support themselves before making major life decisions, so we ended up here.”
For some, Walton-Roberts says it boils down to money.
“It is a huge investment, and it may be that the family decides not to make that investment in their daughter.”
Life After Graduation
IMRC statistics show that 75 per cent of students transitioned from temporary to Permanent Residence (PR) in Ontario.
Plus, according to economic reports, they are making $3,000 more than the average permanent resident who did not study in Canada.
“We were only able to access certain data, and those transitioning, we did an estimate based on their characteristics and the pathways they took,” clarifies Walton-Roberts.
Despite the promising numbers, though, Arora says the hardest part of being an international student is actually obtaining a stable job after completing school. With only four years given to find and maintain a job after he graduates, the pressure is on, he adds.
“[Citizenship and Immigration Canada] is becoming tougher, especially with their new Express Entry,” explains Arora. “If there is a person in India practicing accounting for 15 years, how can I compete with him? People who are applying outside of Canada, and [those] who are sitting in Canada, are now in the same boat, and it’s a competition.”
Arora says another problem lies with companies not willing to go the extra mile to help recently graduated international students.
“[We’re] a headache for companies. They have to write a letter for my citizenship, a LMO, and more, just to apply for the Express Entry. I was told it will be a long process for both the company and international students to apply for PR, so it’s more convenient for them to hire a Canadian.”
But Roberts says that the colleges have effectively set up their programs for the labour market and in the next few years the process will be much more profitable.
“I suspect there is a focus on the college programs because there is in an interest in getting entry into the labour market,” she explains.
“The fees are already less and many colleges have oriented themselves to the international market. Recruiters are a part of that story as well and colleges have had a very active relationship with them through marketing their programs effectively overseas.”
For now, Yawar isn’t entering the labour market, but says when she does, getting a job in her field will be challenging for reasons centred on diversity, or a lack thereof.
“I know Toronto gets a lot of praise for being diverse and having the most opportunities for a career in media, but at the end of the day, it’s a claim based in statistics rather than action. The lack of diversity – in race, in gender, in class – in media careers is a genuine problem that few are ready to acknowledge, because the existing culture of privilege is too comfortable.”
Yawar continues, “Nevertheless, I have hope that there’s a position out there I’m uniquely suited for, and will keep seeking out every opportunity that comes my way.”
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Aurora Tejeida (@Aurobots) in Vancouver [Part 3 of 3 of an in-depth investigative series]
The settlement service sector across the country is undergoing major changes and facing several challenges as a result. Unlike Ontario and the Atlantic region, both B.C. and Manitoba used to have provincial control of their settlement services. For these provinces, the largest issue has been getting used to federal control.
Settlement in the west coast metropolitan city of Vancouver – one of Canada’s top destinations for migrants with 45 per cent of its population being foreign-born – is no exception.
When the federal government decided to strip control of settlement services from B.C. effective April 1, 2014, the biggest casualty was the freedom agencies had to serve a large array of newcomers.
“Under federal funding, service can only be provided to permanent residents and government sponsored refugees,” explains Karen Larcombe, the executive director of South Vancouver Neighbourhood House (SVNH). “That leaves out naturalized immigrants (those with citizenship), temporary foreign workers, who we used to be able to serve, foreign students, etc.”
It’s been a year since agencies in Vancouver have been working under federal government guidelines and the effects are already being felt. This is why the province of B.C. stepped in to help.
“In our province, these changes have been less impactful because the provincial government has provided some agencies, mine included, surplus funding so we can continue to serve the clients that are ineligible under federal funding,” says Larcombe.
But those resources are limited. Provincial funding represents about 10 per cent of SVNH’s funding. The rest, 90 per cent, is provided by the federal government and can only be used for what the government calls ‘eligible clients’.
“In theory, ineligible clients are supposed to be 10 per cent of our cases,” Larcombe says. “In reality we’re seeing more than the 10 per cent, for us it’s closer to 15 per cent.”
Between 2013 and 2014, British Columbia received 37,451 foreign immigrants; 85 per cent of them settled in Metro Vancouver.
It’s likely these numbers only represent new permanent residents, since they don’t add up when the largest ‘ineligible’ group that Larcombe’s agency sees, which is temporary foreign workers, is taken into account.
“Their numbers are growing. I think temporary foreign workers is where we’re most feeling the pressure,” she explains.
The number of temporary foreign workers in the province increased from 19,283 in 2002 to 69,955 in 2011. Similarly, over 290,000 international students were enrolled in Canadian schools during 2013; 24 per cent of them live and study in B.C., that’s almost 73,000 people. Both groups have no access to settlement services.
Another casualty has been the time workers can devote to clients. Under the federal government there’s more extensive recording required, so workers spend more time inputting data into the system.
“The federal government wanted everybody across Canada to deliver services under the same way. So part of that was having the same information and the same data to get a better picture across the whole country,” says Larcombe.
“From a funder’s perspective, that makes sense. But from a service delivery perspective, that means that we lose control over what our services look like. So something that works in Ontario, might not necessarily work in Vancouver.”
Aside from B.C., Manitoba was the only other province that lost control of its funding in the last couple of years; now settlement services in Manitoba fall under federal regulations.
Jorge Fernandez is the executive director of the Manitoba Immigrant Centre. Like his counterpart in Vancouver, he says the biggest change has been the type of clients that settlement services can help.
“We can no longer help temporary foreign workers or foreign students,” explains Fernandez. “And the province of Manitoba is not offering any extra funding.”
Fernandez says 20 per cent of the approximately 18,000 clients his agency saw last year are what the government considers ‘ineligible’.
“It was difficult for us to close the door on clients, so we secured some private funding. We managed to raise $50,000 to hire one worker to see this group of people,” he adds.
The funds came from private donations and Winnipeg foundations. But even with the extra funding, the agency was only able to help 2,000 out of 5,000 clients that have asked for help, but are deemed ‘ineligible’.
Out of those ‘ineligible’ clients, Fernandez says 50 per cent are temporary foreign workers, 25 per cent are international students and the remainder is a mix of visitors and Canadian citizens — a group agencies in both Manitoba and B.C. consider important due to the fact that they may have only been in the country for a couple of years.
“We wish we could see everybody,” says Fernandez. “If we had more funding we could hire another worker and see more people.”
He hopes things will improve if there is a change in government, especially since some current migration policies don’t make sense to him.
“We are bringing temporary foreign workers into the country, and we have the Express Entry program, so we need the workers, we need labour force. So if we’re bringing them here, why aren’t we providing services for them?”
Is Sanctuary the Only Solution?
Byron Cruz is a community worker and an advocate for all types of migrants in Vancouver. He works with an outreach group called Sanctuary Health. For the last year or so, his organization, along with many more, has been participating in the mayor’s immigration task force. The main item of the agenda is to obtain sanctuary city status in Vancouver.
“Every settlement agency depends on the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) because all or most of their funding comes from the federal government, so instead of helping local communities, they’re doing CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency)’s job,” says Cruz.
Cruz explains that a group of undocumented mothers had recently approached him because they wanted to take a workshop that was offered by a local settlement agency, but that the agency denied them the service.
“Many agency workers want to help, but they have to do it outside office hours, because otherwise they risk losing their jobs or their funding,” he adds. “It’s a system that discriminates.”
Still, several agencies have helped pen the sanctuary city policies Cruz hopes will be completely adopted by Vancouver sometime this year. Agency workers like Larcombe agree that these policies would help those that are most in need.
“At this point there are more vulnerable migrants that we would be able to help if the city was granted a sanctuary city status,” she explains. “It’s difficult for these migrants to break through the poverty barrier.”
By ‘vulnerable migrants’ Larcombe means undocumented migrants, another group agencies are barred from helping. A 2009 House of Commons immigration committee report estimates that the number of undocumented immigrants in Canada ranges anywhere from 80,000 to 500,000.
But even without taking undocumented immigrants into account, the reality is that many of B.C.’s newcomers are not being granted access to settlement services under federal regulations.
“We need changes to ensure that those people are protected,” says Larcombe. “Even if technically it wouldn’t fall into the federal government’s mandate.”
In previous 360º instalments, NCM looked at the state of settlement services in Ontario, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. Be sure to read all three parts of this investigative series to get a sense of how several provinces across the country are dealing with a changing settlement system.
by Brad Dunne (@BradDunne1796) in St. John’s [Part 2 of an in-depth investigative series]
The face of Canada’s immigration system has been changing drastically. With the federal government scaling back on settlement service funding in parts of central Canada, the situation is even bleaker in the Atlantic region, where funding is hard to come by.
The Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council (RIAC), for example, is on life support. With the recent uncertainty in the value of oil, the private businesses who were RIAC’s prominent donors were forced to cancel their regular donations. The non-profit NGO has had to lay off its staff and is surviving month to month on private donations and volunteers.
“The drop in oil has affected us all,” says Jose Rivera, executive director of RIAC. Much like Alberta, oil is the dominant force in Newfoundland’s economy.
RIAC’s decline comes at a precipitous time for the province. According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, by John Ibbitson, jobs are disappearing, young people are leaving and the population keeps getting older.
As a solution, Ibbitson urges the province, and other regions in Atlantic Canada facing similar challenges, to “aggressively recruit immigrants, to slow the aging of the population while injecting new energy and ideas.”
Traditionally, however, Atlantic Canada has not been a hub for newcomers. Governments have been sluggish in developing recruitment strategies.
“Conventional wisdom is that newcomers would rather go to cities like Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver,” explains Rivera.
“In fact, newcomers are happy to be here, but they don’t get the support they need. They leave for the big cities because they think that’s where they’ll get help.”
While settlement services in central Canada are far from ideal, they do seem to be more of a priority there than with the Newfoundland government. This is presumably because the number of newcomers settling in the Atlantic province is low. According to Stats Canada, in 2014, Newfoundland only took 0.4 per cent of Canada’s total immigrants.
However, Rivera believes that if Newfoundland were to commit to immigration, the numbers would increase.
Rivera came to St. John’s, Newfoundland, as a refugee from Columbia in 2002. He started working with RIAC in 2004.
In the last 10 years, the organization’s annual budget has grown from $5,000 to $100,000. RIAC has come to play an integral role in helping immigrants and refugees in a province that has historically struggled in retaining newcomers.
“We are in danger of losing all the work and progress we’ve accomplished,” Rivera says.
RIAC receives no government funding. In fact, The Association for New Canadians is the only organization that offers government funded services in Newfoundland. Rivera says this is insufficient, as in other parts of Canada the government makes much more significant investments in settlement.
Newcomers need more robust services when they come to Newfoundland.
“There is no manual they can just pick up at the airport,” Rivera says. “It’s our job to fill that gap of knowledge.”
A Leading Example
As Ibbitson points out in his article, Prince Edward Island (PEI) is bucking the trend in Atlantic Canada.
By making extensive use of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and a sophisticated coordination of its settlement services, PEI has been able to attract and retain newcomers in droves.
According to PEI’s Association for New Canadians (ANC), PEI has 0.4 per cent of Canada’s population and it attracts 0.5 per cent of the nation’s immigration. Meanwhile, Newfoundland, with 1.4 per cent of the country’s population, attracts only 0.4 per cent of its immigrations.
As well, in the past eight years, PEI’s retention rates have improved from approximately 20 to over 40 per cent.
The secret to PEI’s success is how the province integrates its settlement services with various stakeholders, a strategy it developed in 2010 (seen below).
Much of this is achieved by Island Investment Development, Inc. (IIDI), a crown corporation that develops, implements and manages programs and services focused on increasing PEI’s population.
Craig Mackie, executive director of PEI’s ANC, explains, “The three keys to integration and retention are learning the language, employment and social inclusion.”
The province offers free English language classes – funded by the federal and provincial governments – for permanent residents.
In regards to employment, PEI’s PNP has two main categories to address its economic needs: the labour impact category and the business impact category.
The former is geared towards attracting skilled or temporary workers and is employer-driven. The latter is meant to attract foreign nationals to invest and manage a business in PEI.
Applicants who meet the criteria enter into an escrow agreement with the province to 100 per cent own, partially own or begin investing in a business in the province.
From 2013-14, PEI had 389 applicants for the 100 per cent ownership stream.
Mackie says the ANC is busy working on the third element, social inclusion. To that end, the ANC recently organized a gathering of over 100 people to discuss ways to make the province more welcoming to newcomers.
“We still haven’t gotten over ‘Islander’ mentality,” Mackie says. “That people born in the province are ‘Islanders’ and that newcomers are ‘Come From Aways.’ We are all Islanders.”
Like PEI, Newfoundland also struggles with an “Islander” mentality.
“Friendly people don’t necessarily make friends,” remarks Lois Berrigan, settlement services manager at the ANC in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Though Newfoundlanders have a reputation for hospitality and friendliness, “Come From Aways”, or “CFAs”, are terms that are heard often. Though rarely intended with malice, the separation is obvious.
Ben Waring, the diversity coordinator at the St. John’s ANC, agrees. “The population has been homogenous for so long. There’s going to be growing pains.”
Nonetheless, there have been high profile success stories of integration in the province. The CBC series "Land and Sea" ran an episode entitled “The Southern Shore Sri Lankans,” which profiled two Sri Lankan mechanics and their families, who’d immigrated to the rural town of Cape Broyle.
Rural, or “outport,” Newfoundland is the sort of homogenous area that would presumably struggle with newcomers, so stories like these illustrate how the province may be ready to embrace multiculturalism.
Furthermore, of the Atlantic region, Newfoundland is best positioned economically to invest heavily in a more robust settlement network. It is also arguably the most in need of immigration.
Oil revenue has helped fill government coffers, but unemployment remains high at 15.6 per cent.
And, by 2020, the province anticipates that 70,000 jobs will be available, most of which will be the result of attrition, but 7,700 of those will be new positions. Of these positions, 66.7 per cent will be in management occupation and will require a post-secondary education.
Moreover, Newfoundland is old and getting older. According to the 2014 census, Newfoundland had the highest median age (44.6) and it is projected that 31 per cent of the population will be 65 years and older by 2036.
By mimicking PEI, Newfoundland could lower its unemployment by injecting the economy with new investors and entrepreneurs, while simultaneously rejuvenating the population with young families.
“We need to increase our population,” says Berrigan. “Soon, we’ll fall back to ‘have-not’ status. We’ve got to do something.”
Rivera agrees. “For our needs, the province needs at least five settlement services working together.” At present there are three, the ANC, RIAC, and the Multicultural Women’s Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Nonetheless, the issue right now is quality, not quantity. There is a lack of cooperation among stakeholders and services. Newcomers are not able to cut through the red tape and access the services they need; Newfoundland needs it own Island Investment Development, Inc. of sorts.
For now, though, Newfoundland, and the rest of Atlantic Canada, would be wise to imitate PEI – the overachieving sibling.
In the previous 360º instalment, NCM looked at settlement services in Ontario. The final piece in this series will move westward to examine the state of settlement in provinces like British Columbia and Manitoba.
Our headlines this week: The future of settlement services + Canadian Immigration Summit 2015 + U.S.-Iran nuclear deal + dividing the Vietnamese diaspora + agenda for Modi's visit to Canada + phoney marriages + Rwandan exiles denounce embassy + anti-Roma bias + much more.
TORONTO—After contemplating hundreds of potential candidates, the CBC is convinced that new “Q” host Shad can succeed with flying colours. The 32-year-old rapper will soon...
by Patrick Hunter (@pghntr) in Toronto
Since the Ontario government announced new curriculum guidelines expanding the teaching of sexual health in Ontario schools, which will take effect starting in September, some parents have been crying foul. They have latched on to the idea that they should be the ones to teach their kids about sex, not the schools.
It is important to understand that what the ministry has introduced are guidelines. The only mandated parts of these guidelines are the boundaries – taking into consideration that we are now in the age of the Internet and smartphones; the recognition of same-sex couples; that girls are entering puberty at an earlier age and, frankly, the sexual content easily available in the media. It also sets out some expectations of what pupils are expected to know at the end of a school year. It does not go into the specifics. Teachers and other educational professionals will develop those finer points as they prepare for the classrooms.
The premise of this updated curriculum is explained as: “Sexual health, understood in its broadest sense, can include a wide range of topics and concepts, from sexual development, reproductive health, choice and sexual readiness, consent, abstinence, and protection, to interpersonal relationships, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, affection and pleasure, body image, and gender roles and expectations.”
Not all of this information will be provided at once. Most of the information will be graduated through the growth of the child – an introduction to the body in the early years leading to an understanding of how relationships work (or should work) in later years.
And here is the question: Bearing these factors in mind, do parents really teach their kids about sexual health? When?
Without Sex Education, Myths Develop
One of the popular myths of times past – particularly in North America – was about how babies were born. A stork brought them. Never mind that the mother carried that child for nine months, her belly growing larger each month.
In a way, this could be one of the first lies we, as parents, tell our children. The Hippie revolution of the 1960s and early 1970s erased some of those mythical explanations around sex. An era of “free love” ensued, which took some of the masks off sexual behaviour. Adding to this was the availability of the birth control pill. There was no putting the genie back into the bottle. The question then became: How do parents stop their children from engaging in sexual activity, especially at a very young age?
Every culture has certain boundaries or prohibitions around sexual activity. Some are greatly influenced by religion, some by traditions. From the strict separation of males and females in some Muslim sects to the Christian teachings of no pre-marital sex, to some African initiation rites, the rules are varied and often restrictive.
Sending the Wrong Message
Why should children, from the moment they begin to ask questions about their body, not be told the names of and the truth about some of the functions of their body parts? As a child growing up in Jamaica, the recognized names of penis and vagina for our genitalia were never used. They would have been considered inappropriate in mixed or adult company. My mother taught me to refer to my penis as my “teapot.” My sister’s vagina as a “mango.”
Later, when I learned their real names from schoolmates, I also learned that these were prohibited, distasteful or derogatory. It was also from my schoolmates that I began to learn from them how these “objects” related to each other.
For some, not much has changed over the years. Charis Newton-Thompson, a retired principal in Toronto high schools, who is originally from Guyana, pointed out that children, especially in high school, still lack a solid foundation in understanding their bodies and sexual health in particular. They still receive and rely on a lot of information – albeit misleading or false - from friends. Girls’ understanding of how they can become pregnant can be woefully misguided.
The fact is parents generally are uncomfortable talking about sex to their children. Discussing sex, even as adults, can be seen as risqué and embarrassing. And that is part of the irony within the North American context where, as noted above, sex is fairly pervasive.
Time for Appropriate Sex Talk
Teachers are trained to deliver lessons about life, beyond teaching mathematics or history or whatever subjects they specialize in. Those who are assigned to teach sexual health, we have to believe, would be trained and practiced in the art of imparting the information in a positive and constructive manner. They will have determined beforehand the appropriate boundaries – how much information, and content limitations, will be imparted and at what age.
They, I would hope, will include a strong message of responsibility – not a passport or permission to engage in sexual activity.
In many ways, some of the reactions to the announcement are not unlike the recent upsurge of the debate around vaccinations – proper health education and protection versus parental control. To some extent, the only lessons in parenting that most of us get are from our parents; we emulate how they handled most situations. What if we were taught parenting by trained specialists in ‘parenting’? Would we be better parents?
Patrick Hunter is a communications consultant and a columnist for Share Newspaper. He is a former communications director at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and has worked in government and the news media.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
by Maryann D’Souza & Mourad Haroutunian (@MHaroutunianTO) in Toronto
In part two of NCM’s coverage of the reactions amongst the ethnic/immigrant communities to Ontario’s sex education curriculum changes, our reporters focus on South Asian and Arab Canadians. To read part one, click here.
Most South Asians are uncomfortable talking about sex. That’s it plain and simple. And living in another part of the world hasn’t changed that, especially for Generation X. There might be a few that are somewhat open-minded, but even those hesitate when the time comes to have ‘that talk’ with their children. No surprise, therefore, that many in the community have added their voices to the growing group that is protesting the new sex-ed curriculum being implemented in Ontario schools this September.
Too Much Too Soon
It’s too much too soon say some of the protestors. Seven is a “sensitive age” and “too early” to be discussing concepts like homosexuality with their kids. In a recent article in the Weekly Voice, Jotvinder Sodi (founder of the Home Owners Welfare Association in Peel Region) spoke out on behalf of a group of “concerned” Brampton parents who organized a meeting to gather support against the curriculum.
“We fear that the proposed subjects could be about homosexuality and anal sex and discussions about puberty and masturbation. We believe that these are age sensitive material, age five to seven is too young to be exposed with this type of knowledge,” wrote Sodi.
Discussion is Permission
What many may not readily admit though is that, generally amongst South Asians, this discussion is not welcome at any age. Shazia Malik captured this sentiment in her article in the South Asian Daily. She referred to a caller on the South Asian PULSE Radio who said that, “He, as a father cannot dare talk to his young son about these matters openly, how will those be discussed in the class?”
Surjit Singh Flora, whose protests are written in a number of community publications, made his feelings clear in a Can-India News article. “Teaching small kids about sex means putting something in innocent minds which could backfire. They might take it the other way around… and it could have exactly the opposite effect than that it purportedly hopes to prevent — more rape crimes and sex abuse on the streets, at home, clubs, schools, bars, etc.,” he wrote.
“We don’t want our kids to get the idea that we are giving them permission to go ahead,” one mother said, on condition of anonymity.
Angst Amongst Liberals and Conservatives
Within the Arab community, much like amongst South Asians, there is overwhelming disdain for the new curriculum, which hasn’t been updated since 1998. In fact, both Liberal and Conservative minded Coptic-Canadians teamed up this week to voice their opposition at a protest outside of Queen’s Park, initiated by various community organizations.
“Mississauga’s Coptic churches had a strong presence in the event,” reported Good News, a Canadian–Coptic newspaper, on its online platform. A number of buses transported protesters from Mississauga under the auspices of Father Maximos Rizkalla, the pastor of the Church of St. Mary And St. Athanasius, the paper added.
Protesters held banners reading: “It’s a parent right to teach their children about sex,” “Math, not masturbation; science, not sex,” and “What’s next? Safe animal sex?”
“It is utterly unacceptable to see the government overstep their boundaries to take on the parental role while failing to deliver to their mandate,” Ghada Melek, one of many activists who called for the protest, wrote on her Facebook page on Feb. 24.
“Today's rally sent a loud and clear message to the Wynne government that we oppose her proposed sex education to our children,” added Melek, a Copt, who debuted her political career last year when ran (and didn’t win) for Mississauga Ward 6 councillor.
Political Leaders Speak Out
Sheref Sabawy, an influential Coptic activist from the Federal Liberal party, did not abstain from joining the consensus of his community and supporting his rivals, the Conservative party.
“I am adding my voice and efforts to all Ontario parents who are concerned with the new sex ed curriculum,” Sabawy wrote on his Facebook page. “There will be no new curriculum before full consultation with parents.”
Sabawy says he believes parents should be consulted through town hall meetings, questionnaires, or, if needed, written consent of parents. “Liberal values are clear to me and do not mean immorality,” he says.
Politicians in the South Asian community also spoke out against the curriculum. The Weekly Voice and South Asia Mail reported former MPP Harinder Takhar (who served under Premier Dalton McGuinty) as saying that he had advised McGuinty against implementing the curriculum in 2010. He maintains this view stating that, “a serious debate is required in the community on this issue.” The same report also states Conservative MP Parm Gill’s apprehensions. Gill said that being the father of three children, the new syllabus is a cause of concern for him. He was of the opinion that the Liberal party had, “destroyed the institution of marriage and now it is (sic) on its way to put our children on the wrong track.”
Not All Opposed
There are some who support the provincial governments move, though their voices may be barely audible amongst the loud clatter of all the protestors. Two of the five parents interviewed by Can-India News thought it was, “about time.”
“Parents opposing the new sex-ed curriculum are living in denial. Schools should be discussing these issues and giving students the information they need,” said one parent, identified only as Parineet. “They should know about these things because everyone talks about it in schools and it is easy for them to get the wrong idea or information from friends or the Internet. The school would do it scientifically and professionally.”
Irrespective of how parents feel, Premier Kathleen Wynne is determined that the new sex-ed curriculum will be implemented this time. How much of a difference it will make is another matter though, as parents will have the option of pulling their children out of sex-ed classes.
Our headlines this week: Ontario's new sex-ed curriculum + racism in Winnipeg + feds crack down on former refugees + fighting ISIS + niqab controversy
by Mark A. Cadiz @markacadiz & Shan Qiao in Toronto
Many parents throughout Ontario were up in arms about the new sex education curriculum announced Feb. 23, feeling they were excluded as part of the process.
The new curriculum, which is expected roll out in September, has received harsh criticism from some parents in various communities across Ontario.
Firas Marish from Oakville, Ont. is one of the community leaders behind Parents Against Ontario Sex-Ed (PAOSE), a Facebook community group, which launched yesterday. He isn’t holding back with his discontent, and he isn’t alone. The page, in the last 24 hours has already gathered 1200 likes.
“We feel that our role as parents [is] being undermined and this is one of the problems… they are going ahead as if we didn’t exist,” Marish said. “The goal is to protect our kids and we appreciate that move and we support it, but what we are seeing doesn’t serve that goal.”
Marish says with these new changes the government is trying to impose a certain ideology or lifestyle upon his children without his consultation. He, like many other parents, says he believes it is his right to educate his children about sex when he deems it is appropriate. To him, the school’s role is a secondary one on the issue.
He adds that to his knowledge, even school trustees were not informed properly.
What Will Be Taught
Many in the Chinese community agree on sex education being taught, but not as early as Grade 3. Many parents are even more angry when they know content like same-sex relationships will be discussed under the new curriculum.
Jessica Gao, a mother who has a four-year-old boy and a newborn daughter, appealed to all her parents’ friends on the popular Chinese social app WeChat to sign an online petition and oppose the new Ontario sex ed curriculum.
“Growing up in a typical reserved Chinese family, I know how important it is to have sex education and safe sex prevention before we enter our adulthood,” said Gao, who currently stays home taking care of her one-month-old daughter. “Lacking of proper sex education in China results so many teenage abortions. However, do I want my children to learn sexual orientation before he even turns 10 years old? I don’t think so.
Gao, like many other parents, is concerned about when Ontario sex ed curriculum when particular content will be introduced to her children, not to mention, some content will be accompanied with offensive graphics related to masturbation and sexual intimacy.
Catherine Fang, a North York mother who sent her six-year-old boy to a Catholic school, opposes the new sex ed curriculum for introducing sex orientation in Grade 8. “I wish Catholic schools will not use this curriculum. I think Grade 8 is still too young to understand what they feel… discussing sex orientation will confuse them more or less,” she says.
Other parents like Markham area resident Jason Huang wonders whether private schools in Ontario will adopt the curriculum or not. “I think it is too aggressive to introduce subjects such as homosexuality. I have no problem to support the rights for homosexual people, but where is the right to not know this at a fairly young age for heterosexual children like mine?” he asks.
Chinese media, on the other hand, have been covering this sensitive matter without any sensitivity. Words such as “anal sex” and “oral sex” appear frequently on headlines for the story, including in Singtao Daily News and Mingpao Daily News and on Fairchild TV. The coverage focuses mostly on those who oppose.
Mingpao Daily News interviewed several parents from Hong Kong and Mainland China who went to Queen’s Park to oppose on Monday. All of them express their wariness to the new sex ed curriculum as “too much” and “too early”.
“We believe in one man and one woman marriage. We want the Ontario sex ed curriculum to cover more on this part as well,” Dr. Peter Chen, Spokesperson of Toronto Chinese Catholic Task Force told Fairchild TV at Monday’s rally against the curriculum.
How It Will Be Taught
Retired junior high teacher and now president of the Filipino Centre of Toronto, Linda Javier, is more concerned about the delivery of the new sex education curriculum, not the material itself.
“It depends how it will be handled by teachers, because if it’s not handled properly it could be destructive for children,” Javier said. “The success will largely depend on the training that the teachers will get, in order to deliver this curriculum in such a way that it’s taught to the children properly.”
She says the intention of the program is helpful considering the advancement in digital technology, however, she doesn’t believe that from now until September will be sufficient time for teachers to be trained accordingly.
“Whatever is included in the new curriculum is intended to be helpful, it wasn’t intended to harm children,” she said. “But there are ramifications, there needs to be constant follow-ups and analysis to see if it is working.”
And this is the problem for Marish, there is no proof that this will actually make a positive difference, “it’s just trial-and-error,” he said.
In Marish’s culture, pre-marital sex is not promoted and he plans to pass those cultural values to his six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.
“For my culture we don’t have sexual relationships outside the constitution of marriage, but now all of a sudden it’s being heavily promoted by schools, and not just sex, but different forms of sex… oral sex and anal sex,” Marish said.
This promotion of sex at such a young age does more harm than good and contradicts what he would teach his kids at home Marish continued.
What Marish would like to see is an immediate suspension of the new sex education program and a true inclusive consultation with parents from a variety of backgrounds.
“We want to sit down with educators and people from different backgrounds, different lifestyles and different beliefs and play it fair… I’m sure that we can sit down and come up with something that is satisfactory and protects everybody, we’ve done it before in this country and we can do it again,” he said.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit