NB’s first social media post: “gross misrepresentation” of sex education


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The sex education slide that enraged New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is the first of more than 100 slides in a presentation on healthy relationships and sexual health that will be shown to high school students across the country, reporters learned Friday.

Teresa Norris, president of Montreal-based HPV Global Action, led the media through the presentation to provide context for the single opening slide, which Higgs shared on social media last week and called “clearly inappropriate.”

The screenshot of the slide contains questions such as “Do girls masturbate?” and “Is anal sex good or bad?”

Norris explained that the questions are meant to get attention, but also to show teens that such questions are normal and that presenting them will give them the information they need to find answers. Teens, she said, ask these questions whether parents and educators know it or not.

“And HPV Global is committed to providing people who are looking for an answer with an appropriate, age-appropriate, fact-based answer and not … misinformation like they find online,” Norris said in an interview.

Higgs shared a screenshot of the slide on X (formerly Twitter) last week and wrote that HPV Global would no longer be allowed to be presented in schools in the province “effective immediately.”

He also claimed that the material was not part of the province's curriculum. However, a government website states that puberty, gender identity, sexual orientation and healthy romantic and sexual relationships are discussed in a high school course on individual and family well-being. Higgs later admitted that he had not seen the presentation in its entirety.

On Friday, Norris explained that the slide sets the stage for her presentation, titled “Healthy Relationships 101,” and is not an overview of what will be discussed. The next few slides tell her own story of losing her best friend to cervical cancer, a story she uses to build a connection with her audience and reinforce that some of what they are about to learn about sexual health could save a life.

The presentation then discusses healthy and unhealthy friendships and relationship behaviors, sexuality and puberty, consent, abstinence, and sexually transmitted diseases. It explains that it is OK for teens to feel uncomfortable about sex or to ask questions about it and their own sexual identity. It discusses which sexually transmitted diseases can and cannot be cured, and how you get them and how to prevent them.

Her talk also touches on HPV, which can cause a number of cancers, including cervical cancer. She encourages students to remind their mothers to get regular checkups, and she said that in more than two decades of giving variations of this presentation in schools across the country, 12 teens have come back to her to say that their mothers got tested at her urging and a health problem was discovered.

Focusing on a single slide from her talk was a “gross misrepresentation” of her work and its importance, Norris said.

She said she had never heard such a reaction from Higgs and she fears his announcement banning her group from speaking in the province will have a chilling effect on educators in New Brunswick and across the country.

“We should put teenagers at the centre of the current discussion,” she said. “What happens if we don't give teenagers space to ask questions and express concerns?”

A spokesman for Higgs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2024.

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