politics

Doug Ford’s Sex-Ed Curriculum Repeal Will Lead to More Sex Assaults, Advocate Says

Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, says Doug Ford’s plan will endanger students’ lives.

Manisha Krishnan

Manisha Krishnan

Rehtaeh Parsons, photo submitted. Doug Ford, THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn.

The father of Rehtaeh Parsons, a Nova Scotia teen who died by suicide after allegedly being gang raped by four boys, says the Ontario government’s move revert to decades-old sex-ed curriculum will endanger students’ lives.

Recently-elected Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford announced this week the province will be scrapping the sex-ed curriculum introduced by the Liberals in 2015. That curriculum, created with the consultation of thousands of parents and experts, taught kids about concepts like consent, same-sex relationships, the dangers of sexting and technology, bullying, and gender identity.

Ford said the province will re-implement its old sex ed curriculum, last updated in 1998, while the government consults with parents about a different updated version.

But Parsons’ dad Glen Canning told VICE scrapping the modernized curriculum will result in more children being sexually assaulted, bullied, and potentially, killing themselves.

“Kids today are misinformed and they’re being educated on the internet, they’re being educated about sex online and that’s just incredibly dangerous and they’re going to end up with a completely distorted view of relationships, sexual and otherwise,” he said.

Parsons died in 2013, about a year-and-a-half after she was allegedly assaulted and a photo of her vomiting while a 15-year-old boy penetrated her while flashing a thumbs up was widely circulated amongst her peers. She hanged herself and was later taken off life support at the age of 17. No one was ever charged with sexually assaulting Parsons though two of the boys were eventually convicted of child pornography for taking and sharing the photo of her.

Yesterday, Canning tweeted a message he said Parsons’ mom received from the boy allegedly assaulting Parsons in the photo. His name is protected because he was underage when the incident took place.

The sender described helping Parsons “get sick” out of a window before he told another boy to “go ahead and then he told me to go ahead, so I went again.”

“We were all really drunk and she was done getting sick when she said that,” he continued. “I don’t want to live with the title ‘rapest’ (sic) for the rest of my life it is the most hurtful word I can think of. But like I said we were all drinking.”

Canning said he posted the message to show how ignorant teenagers are about consent.

“They believe when a girl is unconscious, it’s OK to have sex with her if she didn’t say ‘no.’”

He said if Nova Scotia’s sex-ed curriculum had been updated when his daughter was in high school, the boys around her may have known better, or someone could have intervened.

“I might still have my daughter right now,” he said. “She died because of a lack of information on consent in school.”

Canning also said his daughter was relentlessly bullied when the photo of her allegedly being raped was shared amongst students. She went to four different schools, he said, but she couldn’t escape it.

“Every time someone shared that photo of Reh, they stuck a knife in her.”

Canning told VICE that sex education gives kids the words to explain when something bad happens to them. At age 7, he said he was molested by his uncle but he had now way of communicating that to anyone else.

“If I had had the right words, I wouldn’t have sat quietly and felt the shame of this. It destroyed me for most of my life.”

He believes Ford’s beef with the curriculum is its inclusion of concepts relating to the LGBT community.

“It’s outright bigotry,” he said.

Yesterday, Ford tweeted, “we will respect parents, teachers and students by getting back to basics and replacing failed ideological experiments in the classroom.”

Canning joins many other advocates in calling for Ford to change his mind on scrapping the new curriculum.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has said it is considering challenging the repeal on the grounds that it discriminates against LGBT kids.

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