Coalition says sex. ed. in Quebec is 'worse than ever' as teachers lack resources and support

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By Gabrielle Fahmy and Daniel J. Rowe, CTV News Montreal

MONTREAL -- A coalition is demanding the Quebec government improve sexual education in schools immediately, as many teachers have found they don't have the resources to teach the subject properly.

The EduSex coalition says that during the COVID-19 crisis, there has been an increase in sexually transmitted infection (STI) cases, a lack of prevention and testing resources, increased domestic violence, and sexual misconduct and assault on social media platforms.

"It's just worse than ever," said coalition spokesperson Jessica Legault.

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The coalition is circulating a petition that has been signed by over 2,000 educators, parents, community groups and students demanding increased funding for schools and community groups and an adequate support system for educators so they can deliver adequate sex ed in the classroom.

"This is not something that's happening right now in schools and we want the government to put in place funding that teachers get more training and get ongoing training also," said Legault.

The Quebec Ministry of Education said it has provided online documents and tools and 39 educational outlines in addition to the Open School online platform for parents teaching at home.

"The Ministry of Education is continuing to provide ongoing support and personalized support to those responsible for sexual education in the school network to help them ensure the implementation of compulsory content," said ministry spokesperson Bryan St-Louis. 

Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers president Heidi Yetman said the organizations asked Minister of Education Jean-Francois Roberge to suspend sex ed in September because students are already behind due to the pandemic. Roberge, Yetman said, replied no.

“The issue is time," she said. "The course is a minimum of five hours and teachers just don’t have time this year to do that, unfortunately, because they’re having a hard time even doing the curriculum that they need to do for the school year.”

Yetman said the QPAT does not disagree with the petition, but rather that sex ed classes were just "sprinkled on top" of existing curriculum without giving teachers the proper time, tools or training to deal with the workload.

The Sexual Health Network of Quebec said in November that the health crisis has had a profound effect on STI cases; a fact the coalition supports.

"We know that the cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea doubled in Quebec during the time that we had no sex ed," said Legault. "We know that consent is a huge issue that isn't addressed when there isn't a comprehensive sex ed, so sexual violence and gender-based violence increases."

The coalition formed in 2018 as concerns grew about sexual education in the province. Legault noted that there was no government-mandated sexual education program between 2003 and 2018.

"It was just supposed to happen organically in classes, which is not something that is realistic or beneficial to students," she said adding that the new content was put in place without proper training or consultation with community groups trained, ready and willing to deliver the content, but without proper funding.

Then the pandemic hit.

"They're scrambling to get this content done. The teachers are already overwhelmed with all of the sanitary measures and educating online sometimes and going back and forth. They don't have time."

Legault said the coalition found that 75 per cent of teachers polled in November didn't have any training in the sex ed courses they were asked to teach.

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