When the changes to Ontario’s sex education curriculum were announced on Feb 24, certain circles of conservatives began crying foul over the alleged involvement of Dr Ben Levin in its creation.
Levin, who served as the deputy education minister for several years between 2004 and 2009, plead guilty to three child pornography related charges on March 3, according to the Toronto Star.
A week earlier, Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant alleged in Parliament that Levin was involved in the curriculum’s creation. Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals told The Globe and Mail that the claim is “outrageous and quite frankly disgusting.” Premier Kathleen Wynne had begun distancing herself from Levin as far back as two years ago, noting to the Toronto Star that ministers and deputy ministers don’t create curriculum.
But that hasn’t stopped other politicians from continuing to connect Levin and the updated sex education curriculum. At a panel at the University of Toronto on March 23, Monte McNaughton, an MPP who is currently running to be leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, told a small and supportive crowd that it was an issue for the government that Levin had his fingerprints on the curriculum.
McNaughton also mentioned news reports alleging that Levin had written parts of the updated curriculum — though he didn’t specify which reports. On March 2, Joe Warmington published portions of leaked memos in the Toronto Sun, showing that Levin was overseeing the Learning and Curriculum division in the Ministry of Education, and pushed the 2009 Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.
However, the 2009 version of the strategy includes a list of over 30 people and organizations credited for assisting with its development and refinement. And the updated curriculum also reportedly went through an extensive consultation process, though some parents and politicians have also taken issue with how this was conducted.
Daily Xtra spoke to McNaughton about Levin and concerns about the curriculum. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Daily Xtra: You mentioned Ben Levin had worked on the 2010 curriculum and that he had written some part of it — what’s the concern for you there? Do you think that there’s some sort of implication hidden in this curriculum?
Monte McNaughton: I think this raises alarm bells for parents — in fact it does raise alarm bells for parents in Ontario . . . this is a convicted criminal who was very close to this Premier, played a huge role in the 2010 curriculum. There are well-documented details about that. That’s why I think the 2010 curriculum should have been shelved altogether; they should have gone back to the drawing board with parents at the table, with meaningful consultation and come up with a curriculum that was more what parents want for their kids.
But is the concern that, because he worked on it, there is inappropriate material in the curriculum?
The concern I have is that he’s a criminal. He is going to jail I hope for a long, long time, and I have zero tolerance for that kind of behaviour as I think a majority in Ontario do, and I think that the government’s approach should have been to start from scratch to ensure that there is a comfort level for parents that Dr Ben Levin had no influence over this curriculum.