Canadian schools across the country are introducing updated sex education curriculums that will offer a greater focus on the subject of consent.
The hope is that starting children early on sex education will play a part in helping prevent sexual assaults. Each province has its own timeline for rolling out their own curriculums, but the goal is essentially the same - to teach kids that consent goes far beyond just its traditional meaning of “no means no.”
“Absolutely, non-verbal cues and things like voice tone are part of that picture,” says Saleema Noon, a Vancouver-based sex ed teacher, to the Globe and Mail.
In provinces like British Columbia and Alberta, the subject of consent is rare or non-existent in classroom lessons. Such is the case despite the fact that it could easily fit into current Grade 7 to 9 lesson plans.
Ontario, on the other hand, is a different story. In 2015, the province started a new health and physical education curriculum that begins talking about the issue of consent as early as Grade 1. This could entail teaching kids when it is okay to touch other students, and when it is not. By Grade 6 and onward, the curriculum specifically addresses consent, with students learning that consent “must be affirmative and continuous.”
While this is a good start to educating about consent, some educators believe there is still much work to be done. Jen Gilbert, an associate professor at York University, believes sex education should be taught at a broader scope.
“Consent isn't a magic bullet. It's not that if we just talk about consent then we'll somehow prepare young people to avoid sexual assaults. It's one piece of a larger educational effort,” she tells the Globe and Mail.