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It's time for Doug Ford to consult Ontario parents about sex-ed

Doug Ford claims that “listening to the people” is a hallmark of his approach to politics. Well, Doug, there are many hundreds of thousands of parents who have a keen interest in the sex ed curriculum of this province.

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Tanya Granic Allen Montreal QC
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The recently concluded public consultation on Ontario’s sex-ed, whose results have yet to be analyzed, already appears to have been a failure. The consultation needs to be for the parents, broadly distributed, and have straightforward questions. The media are reporting that the majority of those who participated in Doug Ford’s online sex-ed “consultation” want to keep the Kathleen Wynne radical sex-ed. This is all based on a “freedom of information” request for one day’s worth of submissions in August when the online consultation process hadn’t even officially started. An overwhelming number of people in favour of the Kathleen Wynne sex-ed? Who are these people? And what exactly are they in favour of? Now that the Dec. 15th consultation deadline has passed, many are seeking answers to these and several other questions.

Consultations are not reaching enough people

All we know so far is what Doug Ford has said: that 35,000 responses were received in this autumn’s consultation process, and that might include responses from what Ford refers to as “certain groups” – a thinly veiled shot at the teachers’ unions. 35,000 responses. Frankly, that’s a very small number. Recall that the parental rights group which I lead – Parents as First Educators (PAFE) was able to engage over 35,000 Ontarians about the sex-ed in just a few short weeks in the summer through an old-fashioned, legislative, paper petition. And we at PAFE don’t have anywhere near the resources the government or the unions have! I hope the government is including our petitions on sex-ed in their consultation process because, if Doug Ford is to be believed, it seems that PAFE’s petition effort got the same number of responses as the government’s 4-month consultation process!  So if it is true – that only 35,000 Ontarians participated in the government’s process (not counting PAFE’s petition) – then Ford has a problem. After all, hasn’t Ford been saying that this will be the biggest and widest and most comprehensive “consultation” ever?  Hmmm. Not quite. Think about it: apart from PAFE’s emails and flyers, did you see the consultation advertised anywhere? If you or someone in your household is a member of one of Ontario’s teachers’ unions, then you certainly did hear about the consultations. But other than that?

Government isn't interested in the opinions of parents

And of those 35,000 who participated in the government consultation process – how many of them are actually parents? According to the Ontario Ministry of Education website, there are over 2 million children attending publicly-funded schools this year. Let’s say there are 3.5 million parents with school aged children. Even if all 35,000 survey participants were parents (which they were clearly not), that means only 1% of parents submitted their feedback. How reliable are the results of the government’s consultation process? Ford’s online portal was open to anyone with an email address – not just parents. This isn’t necessarily a problem. When it comes to consultation, the more, the better. But why did the government not make any special effort to solicit the opinions of parents? Shouldn’t the opinion of parents be of greater interest to the government than any random person with an email address or anyone who can create multiple email addresses? If the government was truly interested in hearing from parents, they should have sent home a take-home survey to parents through the schools. A consultation called ForTheParents.ca should actually be for the parents. And for those parents who homeschool, surely the government can find a way to consult with them directly. I have some good news for Doug Ford: It’s not too late!

A survey should be sent to every Ontario parent

The government can still turn around this poorly conceived and executed consultation process, and actually engage in meaningful consultation with parents. The government should send a survey to every parent in Ontario with a unique barcode. They should do it in January. Then the government can actually say they’ve consulted with the parents. Doug Ford claims that “listening to the people” is a hallmark of his approach to politics. Well, Doug, there are many hundreds of thousands of parents who have a keen interest in the sex ed curriculum of this province. It is, after all, why repealing the Kathleen Wynne sex ed was one of your priority campaign promises. If only 35,000 or so people participated in your first attempt at “parental consultation”, then it’s time to start over.  There is no shame in admitting that Education Minister Lisa Thompson botched this first effort. Please try again, and this time, don’t forget about the parents!

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