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Slide shared by N.B. premier ‘gross misrepresentation’ of sexual health presentation

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The sexual education slide that angered New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is the first of more than 100 in a presentation about healthy relationships and sexual health that is given to high school students across the country.

Teresa Norris, president of the Montreal-based organization HPV Global Action, walked reporters through the presentation today in an effort to provide context for the single opening slide that Higgs shared on social media last week and deemed “clearly inappropriate.”

The screenshot of the slide features questions such as, “Do girls masturbate?” and “Is it good or bad to do anal?” and Norris explained that it is intended to show teens that such questions are normal, and that her presentation will help them better understand their sexual health.

The next slides tell her own story of losing her best friend to cervical cancer, a story she uses to connect with her audience and to illustrate that some of what they are about to learn could save a life.

The presentation titled Healthy Relationships 101 — which Higgs admitted he has not seen in its entirety — then discusses healthy and unhealthy friendships and relationship behaviour, sexuality and puberty, consent, abstinence and sexually transmitted infections.

Though Higgs said the material is not part of the provincial curriculum, a government website shows puberty, gender identity, sexual orientation and healthy romantic and sexual relationships are all discussed in a high school course on individual and family wellness.

Norris said she has delivered similar presentations for more than two decades in schools across the country, in consultation with local education and public health officials, and she has never faced backlash or criticism.

She said focusing on a single slide from her talk is a “gross misrepresentation” of her work and its importance, and she fears Higgs’s vow to ban her group from presenting in the province will have a chilling effect on educators in New Brunswick, and across the country.

“We should be putting teens core and centre to the discussion that we’re having right now,” Norris said in an interview. “What happens when we don’t allow a space for teens to have questions and concerns?”

She said that she has 12 documented cases in which students went home after her presentation and encouraged their mothers to get tested for HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, and the resulting screening turned up a problem.

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

The Canadian Press

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