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Tory leadership candidate picks battle over sex-ed

McNaughton says it’s ‘nonsense’ that people oppose curriculum because of homophobia

Monte McNaughton, pictured here with his wife and daughter, claims the new sex ed curriculum was created without consulting what parents were comfortable with. 

Ontario MPP Monte McNaughton is still hoping to pick a fight with the government. At a panel discussion at the University of Toronto on March 23, he spoke about his issues with the changes to Ontario’s sexual education curriculum announced by Minister of Education Liz Sandals on Feb 24, among them that he believes parents were left out of the process, and adding his oft-repeated phrase that consultations started with Sandals’ announcement.

McNaughton also spoke with Daily Xtra, and we tried to find out exactly what it is about the new curriculum he finds objectionable. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Daily Xtra: You were talking about the age appropriateness of the curriculum. What is it in particular — if it’s not you yourself [who objects] — that you are hearing from people that they don’t think is age appropriate?

Monte McNaughton: Look, I’ve been very clear that its up to parents to determine what’s age appropriate for their kids. It’s not the state’s job, the government’s job or any premier’s job to tell parents what is age appropriate for their children. You can talk to the thousands of parents out there who have concerns. I mentioned some of the meetings across the GTA that are happening — I’m sure those parents are giving their suggestions on what’s age inappropriate for their kids. For me, I’ve been very clear since November, since I started challenging Premier [Kathleen] Wynne, that they broke a promise and that promise was to have meaningful consultation with parents.

When does the school become involved in sex ed then? Should they be at all?

I’ve been clear there is a role for this curriculum, or for a curriculum to be taught, but when, for example, I attended a press conference with the education minister, and she said, ‘We’ve listened to the experts, we’ve listened to the education industry,’ but she never once mentioned parents . . . there is something wrong. Not just because parents pay for the publicly funded education system. Parents should be involved in what their kids are learning on serious issues like sex education.

How do you respond then to critics that say this is driven by homophobia; that people don’t want people learning about LGBT issues in school?

I think that’s nonsense . . . the government has I think been very vindictive to parents who oppose this sex education curriculum. Just had to see what Wynne called me in the legislature at Queen’s Park. There are real parents out there who are real concerned about the process; they have real concerns about what their children are going to be learning when they enter that classroom in September of 2015.

I’ve spoken to tens of thousands of parents on this issue over the last six months and some of them have a faith background, but many of them, as I mentioned, don’t have a faith background. There are everyday parents out there who are just concerned about what their kids are going to be taught and they should be at the table. A parent should be at the table when the curriculum is being developed and created, and unfortunately, the Liberals have totally cut parents out of this process.

For you though, is the main issue that parents weren’t consulted or do you have your own concerns about what’s in the curriculum?

I’ve always said that I come to this issue as a father with a belief that parents should be first educators and that the government should respect a parent. Clearly the Wynne Liberals aren’t respecting parents . . . The Liberals stand up and say we talked to 4,000 or 5,000 parents. That’s wrong. That’s a farce. That’s a lie, because we have the documentation that one, hand-picked parent per school was not to consult with any other parent in that school’s communities, and the way in which they brought this forward in a secret manner is wrong.

We should be having at least a year-long discussion with parents across the province on the sex ed curriculum. We had a great conversation here with people from all different sides and I think that’s the meaningful consultation that Wynne and the Liberals should be taking on. I think the real consultations begin today. They should not bring this curriculum forward in September, they should go out across the province, talk to parents and come back with something that parents support.