Grand Council Treaty Three has won its motion to intervene in a court case challenging the roll-back of the province’s sex-ed curriculum.
The case was filed by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
“I think this is another important acknowledgement from the court system that Indigenous young people have a critical and central role to play in the futures of so many domains of Canadian society,” said Douglas Judson, a lawyer and staff advisor for Grand Council Treaty Three.
“We’re excited to bring this perspective to court.”
The ETFO argues that the Ford government’s decision this summer to abandon the 2015 sex-ed curriculum is an unconstitutional violation of equality rights, expression rights and rights to security of the person.
Grand Council Treaty Three will argue that Indigenous students are uniquely vulnerable because they suffer higher rates of sexual abuse and violence than other Canadian youth.
It will also argue that Indigenous students rely on the up-to-date curriculum more than non-Indigenous students for accurate information about sexual health and relationships.
The diversity of argument should match the diversity of the classroom
The legacy of residential schools and the Sixties Scoop has produced intergenerational trauma, which impacts Indigenous young people’s access to accurate health information, because their parents aren’t always equipped to provide it, wrote Grand Council Treaty Three Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh in his affidavit to the court.
“A robust and fact-based elementary school curriculum is vitally important for our youth, because it may be the only source of accurate health and sexual education information they receive. Despite ongoing efforts, our children in many cases may not have access to the same guidance at home as do their non-Indigenous peers,” Kavanaugh wrote.
It’s relatively uncommon for organizations to intervene in court cases at lower court levels, but Grand Council Treaty Three wants to make sure that the diversity of argument before the courts reflects the diversity of the classroom, Judson told CBC.
It also wants to make sure that its arguments make it before the court, in the event that the Ford government opts to use the constitutional notwithstanding clause to overturn a decision against it — as it sought to do in its case involving the size of Toronto City Council.
“Given that we’re facing a government that has shown a tendency to invoke things like Section 33, I think it’s important that we get this critical perspective for our region out there,” Judson said, “because if we don’t get another chance at appeal then this could be our only shot to make sure that the impacts on Indigenous young people are captured.”
Grand Council Treaty Three is one of three parties granted intervenor status in the case.
The other two are Justice for Children and Youth, a Toronto legal aid clinic, and a partnership between the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario.