Opinion
3 min

This anti–sex ed talking point is a homophobic conspiracy theory

Social conservatives honestly believe LGBT people are grooming children for sex

Benjamin Levin, the former Ontario deputy minister of education, leaves a Toronto court on March 3 2015, after pleading guilty to three charges relating to child pornography. Credit: The Canadian Press/Chris Young

After the Ontario government announced that it would be reverting back to the 1998 sex-education curriculum in September, Matt Galloway, the host of CBC Radio’s flagship Toronto program Metro Morning, interviewed Farina Siddiqui, the head of Coalition of Concerned Parents, an anti–sex ed organization.

“If you take a look at the curriculum, what is your problem with it?” Galloway asked.

Siddiqui first responded by saying that it was disrespectful to the faith and culture of many parents. And then she casually dropped the following:

“The curriculum was constructed by a convicted pedophile,” she said. “And he was appointed, he was not elected.”

Galloway didn’t challenge the claim.

So what is Siddiqui talking about? Was the revised sex education curriculum actually created by a convicted pedophile?

The short answer is no. But the reason why this pervasive myth persists speaks volumes about the nature of the opposition to the curriculum.

What Siddiqui is falsely claiming is that the idea that the first version of the revised sex-ed curriculum was written or directly created by former deputy education minister Benjamin Levin, who was convicted of creating and possessing child pornography, as well as counselling someone to commit sexual assault.

It’s one of the most essential social conservative talking points that gets repeated by many opposed to the curriculum including Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington, Rebel Media founder Ezra Levant, National Post columnist Barbara Kay, the Campaign Life Coalition, and Parents as First Educators.

Levin, an influential education academic, had been deputy education minister under the Liberal government for most of the period between 2003 and 2009. In 2013, Levin was charged with a number of child pornography-related crimes, and was convicted of a number of them in 2015.

The curriculum that was put in place under the Wynne government in 2015 was based off a similar curriculum that the Dalton McGuinty government drafted in 2010, but was never implemented because of push-back from right-wing evangelical and Catholic groups.

So was Levin the author of that 2010 curriculum? There is some truth to the fact that Levin, as deputy minister of education, was essentially in charge of the day-to-day bureaucratic work of the ministry. He would have, from a high-level, overseen the process that led to the creation of the curriculum changes.

But the bureaucracy is large, especially the education ministry. A deputy minister writing the specifics of a curriculum is like a university president crafting a first-year syllabus. And deputy ministers do not generally have the power to act autonomously — they are there to assist the minister.

So to claim that Levin created the curriculum is wrong in two respects. He was not writing the curriculum changes himself nor was he the person ultimately responsible for it. No evidence has emerged that Levin performed some kind of extraordinary meddling in the policy-making process.

The proposed curriculum was also largely in line with the revisions to sex education that other jurisdictions have been implementing, including Quebec and recently California.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that Levin was in fact heavily involved in “writing” the curriculum. The question is why does it matter?

Social conservatives make the link between Levin’s crimes and the actual text of the curriculum. Essentially they argue that giving children information about what their body parts are called or informing them about the existence of LGBT families unduly “sexualizes” these children in a way they would not have been otherwise.

The subtext is that this was done for a nefarious purpose by a nefarious person. Levin, they claim, deliberately placed these types of instructions in the curriculum so that children would be more susceptible to molestation by himself and other convicted pedophiles.

In other words, they believe that the sex education curriculum is a province-wide effort to groom children. It’s the kind of conspiracy that puts Pizzagate to shame for its preposterousness.

And who do they think is behind this conspiracy? It’s not just convicted pedophiles like Levin. It’s also the homosexuals, who people like Charles McVety — the head of Canada Christian College who the Ford government invited to the speech from the throne — believe are all pedophiles anyways.

“They have an insatiable appetite for sex, especially with young people,” McVety said on his television show in 2010. “And there are not enough of them, so they want to proselytize your children and mine, our grandchildren and turn them into homosexuals. And they’ve seized our ministry of education and now they’re implementing this.”

And what confirms this for them is the fact the minister of education at the time was Kathleen Wynne, a lesbian.

“Kathleen Wynne wants to impose her sexual preferences on our children,” McVety said on another segment in 2010.

When the Wynne government announced they would be implementing the revisions to the sex ed curriculum in 2015, opponents did not bring up homosexuality nearly as much. Instead, understanding that engaging in explicit homophobia would not be a winning strategy, they switched to implicit homophobia and explicit transphobia. They railed against “anal sex” and “six” genders. They spoke of “sexualizing” children.

And they kept returning to Levin, a clear dog-whistle for the vast homosexual conspiracy they believe Ontario is being subjected to.

By constantly referring back to Levin’s time as deputy minister of education, social conservatives want to convince Ontarians that queer and trans people are grooming their children for sex. But they’ll never just come out and say that because it’s so obviously absurd. So expect to keep hearing a lot more about Levin instead.