Ontario’s new Catholic curriculum is homophobic and transphobic, advocates say

Advocates warn that a new Ontario Catholic schools curriculum for family life education, set to be taught in the fall, has homophobic and transphobic overtones.

“It’s a really concerning curriculum,” said Kyle Iannuzzi, a member of the 2SLBGTQ+ Advisory Committee within the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), he told CTV News Toronto.

The new curriculum covers topics such as relationships, family structures, as well as education and sexual health. Of particular importance to Iannuzzi is the focus on marriage as an act between a man and a woman and that individuals live within their male and female bodies.

“Although there might be a minor improvement, the curriculum tells me there will still be a big problem and no one is thinking about it from the perspective of a sponge-like brain that is absorbing this information for the first time.”

He Catholic Education Institute (ICE) is responsible for creating a version of the public school curriculum that accommodates religious schools.

The family life education curriculum was last updated in 2012.

The change also comes amid accusations that the textbook used to teach the 2012 curriculum, which the publisher discontinued early last year, was homophobic and transphobic.

Resources associated with the new curriculum are being developed, but until then many Catholic schools continue to use the “Fully Alive” texts.

Anne Jamieson, chief executive of ICE, said in a statement that the new curriculum aligns with the Ministry of Education’s expectations and “emphasizes that primary school children need gentle support to learn about family life.”

The curriculum also recognizes that views in secular society may differ from the traditional Catholic faith, Jamieson added.

“Our core teaching remains the same: every individual is a child of God, to be welcomed and treated with love, respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

But advocates say not enough has been changed from the previous curriculum to alleviate their concerns that LGBTQ2S+ students feel unwelcome within the public system.

WHAT’S IN THE CURRICULUM?

The new teachings, which at least two large Toronto school boards have confirmed they plan to use, are aimed at meeting the province’s health and physical education expectations.

An overview of the curriculum, posted on the ICE websitetalks about teaching family relationships, including marriage, as well as mental and sexual health.

Paolo De Buono, former TCDSB professor and founder of a group called Stop Catholic Harmtold CTV News Toronto that the new curriculum has overtones of homophobia and does not adapt to the realities of the 21st century.

“The curriculum teaches the Catholic teaching of chastity,” De Buono said. “That’s a code word. Catholics who understand Catholic doctrine understand what that means. What that means is that if you are gay or lesbian, you will never be able to have sex. It is a sin to do so.”

“There is also an emphasis on the idea that we are only men or women as we were born… We do not have a body. We are one body. We are one thing. And in a sense, sexual identity cannot be separated.”

He 76 page document provides a general list of expectations for the curriculum, divided by grade level.

As early as first grade, children are expected to “identify that humans are created, male and female, in the image of God.”

In third grade, students learn about marriage and how it is a “covenant of love between a man, a woman, and God.”

The new curriculum mentions civil marriage in the sixth grade and asks students to describe the similarities and differences compared to a church-recognized marriage. It also asks students to “evaluate the effects of stereotypes and assumptions regarding age, color, race, ethnicity, creed, ability, gender, sex, sexual orientation and propose appropriate ways to respond to and promote the sacredness of life.

In terms of sex education, it is thought that students in grades 1-8 will identify body parts within the reproductive system, as well as learn about puberty and how abstinence is the healthiest option to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“It is not a Science and Health curriculum. It’s a religious curriculum and that’s a problem,” Iannuzzi said.

“The information they’re told is ‘yes, you can have a civil union outside of here, but the family God values ​​is one that looks like this.’ It is the fear of God that you are putting in a child’s mind about what is right and what is wrong.”

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In a statement, ICE said parents who send their children to a Catholic school have the expectation that they will be taught certain values. They did not directly address concerns that the curriculum could be interpreted as homophobic or transphobic.

“When choosing to send their students to a Catholic school, parents rightly expect that the presentation of a family life curriculum will reflect a Catholic vision of human life, sexuality, marriage and family,” he said. Jamieson. “We also recognize in the curriculum that views in our secular society may differ from our own religious tradition.”

CONSULTATION AND LACK OF EXPERTS

When drafting this curriculum, according to ICE, several theologians were consulted, as well as focus groups composed of parents, students and educators.

According to the acknowledgments page, no scientific, mental health or secular education experts contributed to the document, something NDP LGBTQ2S+ Affairs advocate and critic Kristyn Wong-Tam notes as a major concern.

“We want everyone’s experiences to be included. We want children, especially young people, who need to be affirmed. They need to know they are safe,” Wong-Tam said in an interview with CTV News Toronto.

Wong-Tam pointed out the fact that the Ministry of Education was not even listed as a resource.

“I’m a little surprised that a document as important as this… hasn’t consulted as many interested parties as possible. There are not even scientific and medical collaborators in this document,” they said.

“For me, that is a glaring omission because what we want is for students to receive the best education. And what I see here is that it doesn’t necessarily reflect their everyday realities.”

The Ministry of Education says family life educational materials provided by ICE are considered supplemental resources and that school boards must meet provincial standards.

However the TCDSBjust like him Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Boardboth have said they will follow the new Catholic curriculum in September.

“Along with all Catholic School Boards in Ontario, the TCDSB will utilize the new family life education curriculum from the Institute of Catholic Education (ICE),” the school board said.

A spokesperson for the minister’s office said they “will always respect the constitutionally protected right of Catholic education in the province.” However, they also noted that school boards are responsible for how to use the materials provided and for ensuring a safe and inclusive learning environment exists. They did not acknowledge or respond to the claim that some of the material was homophobic.

“Ontario’s long-standing expectation is that all children, regardless of faith, heritage, orientation or place of birth, be fully respected and reflected in publicly funded schools,” the spokesperson said.

Iannuzzi hopes the ministry, as well as experts and committees like his who represent LGBTQ2S+ students, can provide their perspectives.

“I recognize that we still don’t know what the textbooks will look like or how this information will be presented. We just know the curriculum, but from my initial reading of the curriculum, and especially reading that contributor page, it tells me that I don’t think this was a complete and proper process.”


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