The PC leader's latest move is part of his trend of flip-flopping on LGBTQ issues.
This past July, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown strode down Yonge Street, banner in hand, as part of Toronto’s annual Pride parade. He marched along with LGBTory, the country’s pro-queer Conservative organization. His attendance could be read as an act of support: after years of denouncing same-sex marriage, Brown did an about-face on the issue. “My thinking has evolved over time,” he told Toronto Life last July.
It’s not the first time Brown has changed his tune on LGBTQ issues. In June, he announced his support for Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum, which includes a straightforward education about gender identity, sexual orientation, and safe sex for people of all identities.
But now, just months later, Brown has flip-flopped yet again on the issue. Just days before the Scarborough–Rouge River by-election, Brown says he’d scrap the sex-ed curriculum if elected. In a letter distributed to Scarborough residents, the candidate says sexual education should remain in the hands of parents. “I believe parents are the primary educators of their children. When it comes to sexual health education, parents should have a say on how much their children are taught, and at what age,” he writes in the letter.
It’s a dangerous stance to take—one that, if enacted, could be detrimental to youth (especially those who identify as LGBTQ) across the province.
For months, Brown has created a persona as the modern Conservative candidate. In an interview with the Canadian Press, he suggested he had no issues with the Liberal-approved sex-ed curriculum implemented last year. His turn to the hard right, sympathizing with traditional conservative voters who value sheltering their children from the nitty-gritty of sex-ed, can be seen as motivated largely by the need to scoop up as many votes as possible and to ultimately win this week’s by-election.
What Brown forgets, in the meantime, are the key players affected by such a move: the kids who so desperately need an open, honest, and frank education about sex and sexual and gender identities.
In the past, we’ve reported on the need for a sex-ed update. Before the Liberals overhauled the curriculum, sexual education in Ontario had not been updated since 1998—before the advent of sexting and long before LGBTQ youth were widely accepted by their peers. Since then, we’ve spoken to young people who say the new curriculum could be potentially lifesaving. In fact, as a queer woman, I know my own high-school career would have been vastly different had my classmates been taught about the nuances of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Without the new sex-ed curriculum, youth lose out and, in turn, become ignorant to these understandings. Questioning queer youth might struggle and think they are alone in feeling how they do. Those with questions about how sex works and how to engage in safe sex might not get the most informed answers. Teens who sext may not understand the risks—both socially and emotionally—that come with the act. In what world is this the right solution?
A spokesperson for Brown says the candidate does not intend to remove all sexual education from the school curriculum—just those “controversial changes,” which are not specified. But, he also hasn’t suggested an alternative. How, then, are young people expecting to receive the education they deserve?
Brown is pandering for votes and putting youth at risk—and that should come across to voters as despicable. When a candidate continues to flip-flop over such crucial issues, it should be a sign of worse things to come. It only makes his attendance at this year’s Pride parade that much worse: if Brown truly cared about the LGBTQ communities in Ontario, he would put education first.