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Warmington

Wynne's sex ed photo-op raises eyebrows

By Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun

Premier Kathleen Wynne, with Toronto students Tessa Hull (left) and Lia Valente, announces that the new sex education curriculum will address the issue of consent Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. (Toronto Sun/Antonella Artuso)

Premier Kathleen Wynne, with Toronto students Tessa Hull (left) and Lia Valente, announces that the new sex education curriculum will address the issue of consent Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. (Toronto Sun/Antonella Artuso)

TORONTO - 

They may be among the youngest political lobbyists ever seen at Queen’s Park.

But if Premier Kathleen Wynne thought bringing in two 13-year-old girls to help push through her new sex education curriculum would prevent push back, she misread it.

When it comes to Wynne’s hope to start teaching children in Grade 1 about sexual consent, an appalled Dr. Charles McVety — president of Canada Christian College — let it be known it won’t be done without a fight.

And Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Monte McNaughton called on Wynne to make her planned legislative changes public immediately.

Meanwhile, it’s just not every day you see any political leader being lobbied by 13-year-olds, let alone on the subject of sex.

Eighth graders Tessa Hill and Lia Valente — thanks to a petition they started as a class project — ended up at the podium with Wynne pushing for the end of “rape culture” by bringing in a “consent culture.” It was bizarre.

What the heck were they doing there? Imagine if Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled something like that?

Lia told the media: “We’re asking for it to teach a lot more than just asking for permission. It’s understanding what is a clear, enthusiastic, affirmative yes, and what consent looks and sounds like, so understanding body language, facial expressions and how the lack of no isn’t necessarily yes.”

Her pal, Tessa, added: “Everything in creating a consent culture starts with education, and so it starts with putting that information in the curriculum so kids can learn about asking for permission and about healthy relationships.” She dismissed the teaching of abstinence because “whether or not teens are going to be having sex when they’re 13 or 14, learning about abstinence isn’t realistic because sex is a part of society, part of our lives. Not learning about consent means not knowing what consent is when you do decide to have sex.”

A lecture about sex ed from 13-year-olds in a country where legal consent is 16? What did the adult at the podium say?

“We need to renew the curriculum to address issues that students are facing every day,” said the premier. “Starting right in the primary and junior grades, kids will be learning listening skills and helping each other to pay attention to facial expressions and what they mean and whether somebody is positive or negative or happy or sad.”

Wynne also said children should “start to learn those signals from the time they enter school so, I think, that very early you build the building blocks for that kind of interpersonal ability and intelligence.”

It’s twisted, said McVety, who was mortified.

“Teaching six-year-old children to consent to sex is abhorrent,” he said. “The Institute for Canadian Values has fought Premier Wynne’s radical sex education initiative for years. On behalf of the 105,000 members and parents across Ontario who defeated this in 2010, the president speaks out against the latest announcement to start teaching Grade 1 children how to give sexual consent.”

McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, said: “I believe this thing is signed, sealed and just isn’t delivered yet and a lot of people feel there is a hidden agenda” and “the parents should be the first educators.”

McVety said, “We abhor the premier announcing that Ontario’s teachers will be forced to teach little children how to give permission for that child to engage in sex” and “I don’t think it is legal to advise a child before the age of 16 on how to give sexual consent.

“To do so would be aiding and abetting a criminal activity, a child under 16 having sex.”

McVety, who was also critical of using the teen girls as “political pawns,” is “calling on all parents to take action to defend Ontario’s two million children.”

The news conference was certainly unusual and caught the eyes of politicos.

“Interesting,” said University of Toronto political science Prof. Nelson Wiseman of the approach.

Time will tell, he said, if it was effective but at first blush, “I am not sure it gains her support” in a “treacherous area” where there are a lot of “preexisting positions.”

From a political point of view, discussing “sexting” may be realistic but to “introduce consent to children in Grade 1 is another matter.” Wiseman said common political practice incorporates the belief the “government has three-and-a-half years on its mandate and this will not even be on anyone’s radar at the time of the next election.”

McVety and McNaughton say Wynne should not be so sure.

joe.warmington@sunmedia.ca

The Toronto Sun wants to hear from parents about their views on consent being part of the sex ed curriculum. Please contact reporter Terry Davidson at 416-947-2295 or terry.davidson@sunmedia.ca


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