Premier says sex education group will be banned from giving school presentations

Premier Blaine Higgs says he will ban a Quebec-based sex education group from presenting at schools in New Brunswick after a presentation he believes was “clearly inappropriate.” 

The premier took to X, formerly Twitter, to express his displeasure with a presentation given at several New Brunswick high schools. 

“To say I am furious would be a gross understatement,” he said. “This presentation was not part of the New Brunswick curriculum and the content was not flagged for parents in advance.

“The fact that this was shared shows either improper vetting was done, the group misrepresented the content they would share … or both.”

Higgs said the Department of Education told his office the presentation was supposed to be about the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus – but it went beyond that. 

Higgs shared a photo of a sex education presentation to X, formerly Twitter, calling the material ‘clearly inappropriate.’ (X)

He shared and criticized a presentation slide that includes questions like “do girls masturbate” and “is it good or bad to do anal?”

Teresa Norris, who delivered the presentation to several New Brunswick schools last week, denied that schools were misled about what the presentation would cover. 

The president and founder of the charity HPV Global Action, which also operates a youth sexual education resource called Thirsty for the Talk, said she was surprised and disappointed at Higgs’s reaction.

She said the slide Higgs shared was the presentation’s cover slide. She said it reflects actual questions her group receives from students. 

“That excerpt that was taken is an extraction of something that’s very grossly misrepresenting what this presentation is about,” Norris said.

A presentation slide that reads "4 out of 5 have had HPV at some point in their life," with cartoon people shaded in red and green.
One of the slides from a healthy relationships presentation given by a Quebec-based sex educator. (Teresa Norris)

“All of the topics that we cover are supporting the learning areas. This is something that your province has decided … We’re not creating something that the province hasn’t already put in place.”

Norris said she has been giving presentations at New Brunswick schools for several years. All schools receive an outline of the topics to be covered and the school must give its consent prior to the presentation, she said.

The presentation is called Healthy Relationships 101. Norris said it is an “A to Z” about relationships and sexuality.

“We are not promoting any of these sexual behaviours … we talk about abstinence in the presentation, we empower students to help them make decisions about their relationships,” she said.

A presentation slide about healthy relationships.
A slide covering healthy relationship advice, which Norris said was part of the presentation. (Teresa Norris)

“We teach them to understand when they are not comfortable, or that they don’t feel ready, and to pay attention so that they have those boundaries. Our goal is always to destigmatize conversations about sexual health.” 

Objectives in the province’s high school sex education curriculum include having students define sexuality, discuss safe sex practices that include abstinence, masturbation, condom use and birth control options, and how to handle sexual feelings and sexual pressure.

Andrea Anderson-Mason, MLA for Fundy-the Isles-Saint John West, said she has heard about the presentation from teachers and constituents with family members who attend Fundy Middle-High School.

The Anglophone South School District has not responded to a request for comment.

Anderson-Mason said she has a daughter in Grade 12 at the school, but the presentation was only delivered to Grade 9 to Grade 11 students.

The MLA said reaction has been mixed and she is hoping to see a balanced conversation on the issue.

A person speaking to reporters.
MLA Andrea Anderson-Mason said she’s been hearing from people in her area. (Radio-Canada)

“When I was in high school, I had a male teacher teach me about breast self-examination, and at 47 years old I am still grateful for that information and use it,” she said. “There is a time and a place and an appropriateness to talk about our bodies.”

For Norris, the ultimate goal is to help students stay informed and avoid getting into relationship situations they are not ready for.

Despite Higgs’s statement, she has not been given any formal message from the province banning the presentation. 

Requests to the premier’s office for comment have not been answered.

See also  'Listen to us,' says residential school survivor as N.L. premier begins apologies in Labrador

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