The head of a grassroots parent group in Saskatchewan is calling for increased vigilance regarding the materials used in sex education in schools across the country. This concern arises following an incident in which a deck of playing cards titled “Sex: From A-Z” was introduced to a Grade 9 class in Lumsden, Saskatchewan. These cards contained explicit descriptions of various sexual practices involving feces, urine, and semen. The cards were brought into the school by a presenter from Planned Parenthood, although the organization claims that the material was not part of the main presentation and refers to it as “secondary materials.”
As a response to the incident, Saskatchewan’s Education Minister Dustin Duncan has temporarily banned Planned Parenthood presentations in schools within the province and has planned a review to take place over the summer. However, Nadine Ness, representing Unified Grassroots, believes that the problem extends beyond the actions of one organization and requires greater monitoring of individuals who have access to children in schools. Ness points to similar incidents that have occurred in other locations, such as Fort Nelson, B.C., where the same deck of cards was used by a public health presenter in a Grade 8 and 9 class, resulting in concerns from parents and an apology from Northern Health.
Ness suggests that there is a concerning trend of sexualizing children, which she finds alarming but not surprising. The deck of cards in question consists of 26 cards, each representing a different sexual term with an accompanying cartoon. Ness, who was contacted by parents from the school after the incident, expressed her shock at some of the cards, stating that they made her sick. She finds it equally disturbing that facilitators would incorporate such material into their presentations within a school setting, as it reflects their mindset.
Planned Parenthood has issued an apology to the school division for the incident. The organization released a statement on their Facebook page, acknowledging that the unapproved material ended up in the hands of a student and expressing their regret for the difficulties caused to their partners. However, the statement also reveals their disappointment with the government’s decision to suspend them from presenting in schools. Planned Parenthood Regina believes that all youth, including those who identify as 2SLGBTQIAP+, should have access to relevant and affirming information about sex, gender, and sexuality. They argue that such education has been demonstrated to increase media literacy, delay the initiation of sexual activity among youth, decrease the risk of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies, and prevent serious mental health crises.
Ness emphasizes that these incidents, occurring in various schools across the country, highlight the need for governments to play a more proactive role in ensuring that materials for sex education align with approved curriculums. She asserts that a closer eye should be kept on external presenters and that stricter guidelines need to be established to clarify the content being taught. While she appreciates the temporary measures taken in Saskatchewan, Ness believes that a comprehensive curriculum with clear guidelines would benefit parents, enabling them to understand exactly what their children are being exposed to.
Ness clarifies that her group does not oppose sex education but believes that presenting materials that clash with the values parents are trying to instill in their children creates problems. She specifically references the teaching that gender is solely a social construct, which many parents find inappropriate. Ness argues that there is a fear of addressing these concerns, categorizing it as a widespread problem.
The deck of cards in question was previously available through the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), which receives partial funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada. However, the listing for the cards on CATIE’s website has since been removed. In 2015, following a similar incident in a Chilliwack, BC school, a spokesperson from CATIE told the National Post that the cards were never intended for use with minors in schools.