OTTAWA – Parents must assert their rights as first educators of their children or bear the consequences of a government policy that will profoundly re-engineer their children's views on family and sexuality.
That's the message that Parents As First Educators (PAFE) director Teresa Pierre brought to three Ottawa Catholic churches March 3-4.
"You need to start getting involved," she warned. "Start attending your parent-teacher meetings and start asking questions when you hear a proposal offered that doesn't sound quite right or worse, when you don't hear anything at all."
"Parents have a lot of influence when their criticisms are offered in a respectful way in a context of a community that knows you," she said.
"The Church has told us the importance of parental authority in education and even suggested that families should work together to support each other," she said.
Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation, The Role of the Family in the Modern World (Familaris consortio), describes parental authority in education as "primary and inalienable" and outlines the duty parents have to an active relationship with teachers and school authorities, she said.
Parents are to be advocates of family policies in society, the document says, and warns: "Families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference."
PAFE formed last spring during equity policy public consultations with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Former Education Minister Kathleen Wynne introduced the equity and inclusive education policy to Ontario schools in 2008, Pierre said.
"It was designed to create openness to all forms of sexual expression by offering them as part of the curriculum from the earliest ages. "
The controversial Bill 13 which mandates gay-straight alliances in all schools is one prong of this policy, which includes a sexual education curriculum.
Though the Ontario Liberal government tried to introduce the curriculum in 2010, it received so much criticism from parents it was withdrawn, Pierre said. But Wynne has said the policy will come back.
This curriculum would teach Grade 3 students about homosexuality and gender identity; teach Grade 6 students about masturbation; and teach Grade 8 students about the concepts "heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, transgendered, transsexual and intersexed," she said.
"The second way the curriculum could be affected is that equity topic could be introduced almost anywhere in the regular curriculum," she said, noting the Toronto District School Board issued a manual called Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism, a K-12 curriculum guide that undermines traditional views of the family.
The suggestions include role-play activities having boys play girls, for example, and to "avoid portraying stereotypical images or behaviours in their tableaux. At times boys may play girls and rely on sexist stereotypical behaviour with which they are familiar."
Pierre said she heard that one little boy came home upset because he was forced to "act out marrying another little boy at school."
One suggested activity is to have a Pride Parade in the school and invite the local media and representatives of Pride Toronto or other groups; and by Grade 7 to look at images in the gay and lesbian newspaper X-tra "to evaluate stereotypes about homosexuals."
The material treats homosexuality and gender identity as fixed characteristics, she said. "The fact that there are lots of competing views on the origins of sexual identity or even the need for scientific proof is not even mentioned."
Pierre said few parents even know about the policy, despite the public consultations.
The media, the Church hierarchy and the school boards play a role in dissemination information, she said. But at the school level, parent-teacher associations should be informing parents about these policies.
"Are they doing that? Most don't," she said.
"Even the people who do care and do know better are often afraid to speak against the culture," she said. "You need to overcome your own fear, which is the root of the problem."