Hon. Liz Sandals
Minister of Education
14th Floor, Mowat Block,
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2
Dear Minister Sandals,
I am writing about the announced plan to introduce changes to the Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum for grades 1-8 for next fall. The EFC wrote to the previous minister of education in 2010 when similar plans to alter the curriculum were announced, but the changes were not implemented by the Ministry.
We understand the need to regularly update curriculum, including in the areas of health and physical education. Particular concern over sexual abuse has been noted, and we agree that education in general, and schools in particular, have important roles to play in addressing this issue.
We also affirm previous statements of the Government acknowledging that curriculum should reflect the diversity of Ontario’s population. Every effort should be made to recognize and accommodate the views of parents, particularly when dealing with subject matter that is very sensitive and upon which parents in Ontario are known to disagree. Based on the draft released in 2010, many then, as now, are concerned about some of the content and the age at which certain concepts will be introduced.
It is essential that parents have a full and complete opportunity to participate in the development of curriculum. Such participation is in keeping with both The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
, “parent have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children,” and the state should respect the liberty of parents and “ensure the religious and moral education of their children is in conformity with their own convictions.”
While your November consultation with school council chairs was important, we believe it is insufficient. The school councils are intended to facilitate communication between the principal of the school and the board, not to make recommendations to the Ministry of Education on matters of curriculum.
We encourage you to release the intended revision and allow stakeholders, most importantly parents and students, to review the proposed changes, to understand the rationale for the changes, and provide an opportunity for input.
We also recommend special accommodation for those who, after this consultation and possible further changes, may still find the changes incompatible with their beliefs. For them, we recommend that alternative courses of study be developed. While the Government of Ontario has previously recognized the right to parents to determine the kind of education to be given their children, and has affirmed that ability of parents to withdraw their children from components of curriculum upon a written request, exclusion is not accommodation.
Every effort should be made to develop courses of study that meet the overall objectives while respecting the rights and concerns of parents of cultural and religious minorities.
Bruce J. Clemenger
President, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Get the EFC's 2010 free downloadable resource produced in relation to this issue: Hands Up: Identifying Parents Rights.