Position statement: Ontario’s Health and Physical Education Curriculum

Background

In September 2015, the Government of Ontario implemented a revised Ontario
Elementary Health and Physical Education Curriculum. The curriculum update,
the first since 1998, followed other provinces, such as Nova Scotia, Quebec
and Saskatchewan.

The current Government of Ontario has reverted to the 1998 version, pending
a consultation process to revise the curriculum.

Our Position

As a healthcare organization providing services and support to diverse
communities that include youth, LGBT2SQ individuals and newcomers to
Canada, Sherbourne’s healthcare practitioners and service providers
constantly see and hear about the health impacts of bullying, harassment, and
discrimination, as well as the health risks associated with inadequate access
to health information.

Research evidence demonstrates that:

  • Newcomer youth are less likely to access sexual health services than
    Canadian-born youth, instead seeking informal sources for answers to
    their sexual health questions, increasing their health-related risks.
  • LGBTQ youth report experiencing harassment and discrimination in
    school environments, contributing to increased disparities in their health
    and wellbeing and placing them at risk for higher rates of depression and
    anxiety, substance use and suicidality.
  • The absence of sexual diversity in school-based sexual health education
    has been linked to homophobic and transphobic bullying, leading to
    higher absenteeism and dropout rates for LGBTQ youth.
  • A lack of diversity in sexual health education results in LGBTQ youth not
    learning critical information about their health, which is problematic
    because sexually diverse youth also report higher risk behaviour.
  • Same-sex instruction can lower sexual risk behaviours, particularly
    surrounding HIV education.

We have previously stated our support for the 2015 curriculum, which we
believe is respectful, inclusive, and above all consistent with health evidence. It
provides safe space for discussion about diverse sexual orientations and
gender identities, different types of families, consent and safer sex as it relates
to young people’s health.

We believe that an evidence-based, factual approach to health and physical
education plays an important role in protecting the safety and health outcomes
of young people.

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