May 20, 2015

New Ontario Tory leader fuels campaign of ignorance

Liz Rowley

Originally published in Peoples' Voice newspaper

On May 4th and 5th, 35,000 elementary students – almost 90% - were kept out of school in Brampton and Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood to protest the new sex education curriculum being introduced in health and phys ed classes in September by the provincial government. 

As far as protest organizers are concerned, no sex education is the best education for their kids – and yours too.

The protests are the result of a massive disinformation campaign carried out by Campaign Life, the Christian fundamentalist Rev. Charles McVety, fundamentalists in the South Asian community who are the main targets of this campaign, and organizers for the new leader of the Ontario Conservatives and several of his Queen’s Park caucus.

Patrick Brown, elected May 9th with a 61% plurality over Christine Elliott, swept the leadership contest after signing up 40,000 new members across the province, focussing in on new immigrants and racialized groups to build the kind of right-wing movement Jason Kenny built for the federal party. At the core is the Ontario Landowners’ Association, a right-wing rural movement that has elected several MPPs to Queen’s Park, knocking off at least one sitting Tory MPP to do it, pushing the party farther and farther to the right from inside and outside the caucus. This is where the proposal to slash 100,000 public sector jobs came from in the 2014 election, along with right-to-work laws that were eventually dropped from the platform, but not from the agenda.

A party of privilege and money, the new Tories represent a party even father to the right than the Mike Harris government of 20 years ago.

Patrick Brown has no seat in the Legislature and is in the process of resigning his federal seat as an MP from Barrie in the Harper government. But he’s in no hurry to get to Queen’s Park, preferring to root around in the detritus of Campaign Life and Rev. McVety, President of Canada Christian College. Brown and his supporters have not only supported the fundamentalist campaign against sex education in schools, they’re fuelling it.

A massive disinformation campaign about the contents of the curriculum has convinced many parents that their children are being groomed for sexual exploitation, and the “proof” is a disgraced former Deputy Minister charged with possession of child pornography.

Adding to this, the Liberals have decided not to try to educate communities about the real content of the curriculum, which is to protect children and youth against pregnancy, disease, and new dangers like sexting, internet luring and pornography which are easily accessible on any computer. The curriculum teaches consent, that is the right and the ability to say ‘no’ to unwanted sexual advances, and the right to choose when to say ‘yes’. Students are also taught about changes under Human Rights legislation that recognize different types of families, including same-sex families, and single parent families, which are equally valuable, loving and important, especially to their children, and also legally equal.

The Ministry knew full well from previous experience in 2010 that McVety and Campaign Life were very likely to try to whip up fear, homophobia, and prejudice in order to block the new curriculum. But instead of using its staff and resources, and the School Boards’ community school liaison workers to educate communities and families about the benefits of the new curriculum, the Ministry opted to ignore the very large communities of new immigrants, and bull through.

On Steve Paikin’s TV Ontario program on May11, organizers of the school protests claimed that sex education leads to rape. The logic? According to Faras Marish, it’s because boys get charged up talking about sex, cannot control themselves and cannot take no for an answer. That’s just the way it is, so you better not tempt them with all that sex talk. Boys are beasts. And girls are powerless – that’s the second shoe. Another lie.

But in fact the beasts are not children, they’re the right wing politicians and religious fundamentalists that want to ride this issue into power, and never mind the consequences on youth and students, families and communities. They are PC leader Patrick Brown and Rev. Charles McVety who want to turn the clock back 100 years, to a time when equity didn’t exist, where women and racialized communities ‘knew their place’, where LGBTQ people were invisible, and where unions had no rights.

Despite the government’s inept performance, it’s important that progressive people and organizations speak up in support of the new curriculum, for education, knowledge, and liberty, against the backward and reactionary ideas of McVety and Brown, Campaign Life and the PC caucus. Ontario must defeat these ideas and move forward, not backwards.

This is a sign of the dangerous times we are living in.

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