Pamphlet challenging P.E.I. school system's gender guidelines called 'misinformation'

About 9,000 of these pamphlets were distributed randomly to households across P.E.I., the group behind it says. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC  - image credit)
About 9,000 of these pamphlets were distributed randomly to households across P.E.I., the group behind it says. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)

Pam Atkinson of Charlottetown says she was surprised to receive a mysterious envelope in the mail with big black all-capital letters on the front that read: "ATTENTION PARENTS."

Inside was a pamphlet outlining concerns about what it called "radical gender ideology" in the provincial curriculum, starting out with the headline: "Did you know? Parental consent is no longer required in P.E.I. schools!"

The one-page handout went on to raise concerns that "third parties" are sharing "sexually explicit experiences" and organizations are exposing children to "multiple genders and alternative sexuality." The pamphlet urges parents to contact Premier Dennis King, the minister and deputy minister of education, and their local MLA, listing their email addresses.

Atkinson is the parent of two children, aged five and seven. She fully supports what is being taught to her children with regard to gender diversity.

"Once I read it, I was really quite upset and angry about the misinformation and the really explicit things that they are talking about in it that are really untrue," said Atkinson.

"It talks about third parties being able to share sexually explicit videos to kids as young as kindergartners — and really, that is not the case. Any kind of third party that is going in to do a presentation has been authorized by the school board. They are trusted organizations that have been working to support and protect vulnerable people in our population for decades."

In a statement, the P.E.I. Department of Education told CBC News any such videos would not be in line with the province's curriculum.

'We want all children to feel safe'

CBC News reached out to the people behind the pamphlet — a group called P.E.I. Parents.

The group wouldn't agree to any of its members doing an interview, but spokesperson Laura Braden agreed to answer questions via email.

We advocate for neutral ground and for schools to remain based on education and not on social or moral issues. — Laura Braden

She said about 9,000 pamphlets were distributed randomly to households across P.E.I., paid for by her group, which she said includes about 50 people living on the Island.

"Like everyone, we want all children to feel safe and comfortable at schools, which is why we advocate for neutral ground and for schools to remain based on education and not on social or moral issues," Braden wrote.

"We believe that parents should look after moral, religious and cultural beliefs, not the schools."

'Focused on promoting healthy decision-making'

This is not the first time that message has been distributed on P.E.I. A similar document was sent out in the mail and left on vehicle windshields a year ago.

And last September, hundreds of people took to the streets in Charlottetown to take part in a demonstration and counter-demonstration around inclusion in Island schools.

P.E.I. Education Minister Natalie Jameson at the P.E.I. legislature April 19, 2024.
P.E.I. Education Minister Natalie Jameson at the P.E.I. legislature April 19, 2024.

The department says Education Minister Natalie Jameson had received 'a few' inquiries as a result of the pamphlet. (Mary-Helen McLeese/CBC)

The Department of Education also declined a CBC News request for someone to do an interview. But in an email, a spokesperson provided clarification on what the department said was "inaccurate" information in the pamphlet.

The department said all of its curriculum is available online and is consistent with offerings in other jurisdictions.

The email also said changes to the curriculum for grades 7-9 implemented four years ago "focused on promoting healthy decision-making skills regarding sexual health and well-being, and preventing adverse effects of sexual health."

There is tremendous diversity in Island schools and it is important that schools are a safe place for all students, including those who may identify as gender diverse. — P.E.I. Department of Education

The department said that while students raise questions about gender identity "from time to time, they are not part of school curriculum until the intermediate level.

"There is tremendous diversity in Island schools and it is important that schools are a safe place for all students, including those who may identify as gender diverse," the department's statement goes on to say.

Officials with the Department of Education says all curriculum is provincially-approved and the guidelines went through extensive consultation and are consistent with what is available in other jurisdictions.
Officials with the Department of Education says all curriculum is provincially-approved and the guidelines went through extensive consultation and are consistent with what is available in other jurisdictions.

Another page from the mailed-out pamphlet. Officials with the Department of Education says all curriculum is provincially approved, and the guidelines related to gender diversity went through extensive consultation and are consistent with what is available in other jurisdictions. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

The system respects parents as the primary guide when it comes to their children's education, the department said, and parents can make arrangements to keep children home "if a piece of curriculum does not meet the family's views."

The department said Education Minister Natalie Jameson had received "a few" inquiries as a result of the pamphlet.

Undermining trust? 

Josie Baker, executive director with PEERS Alliance, said she was disappointed to see the pamphlet being distributed and feared it might undermine trust in the public education system.

"The pamphlet does include massive amounts of misinformation and also is clearly designed to create a moral panic where that's really not justified," said Baker.

Baker said she's received a lot of feedback from parents who were upset to receive the pamphlet.

Josie Baker, executive director with PEERS Alliance, says she fears the pamphlet may undermine trust in the public education system.
Josie Baker, executive director with PEERS Alliance, says she fears the pamphlet may undermine trust in the public education system.

Josie Baker, executive director with PEERS Alliance, says she fears the pamphlet will undermine trust in the public education system. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"The pamphlets get quite a lot of things wrong in terms of, you know, the kinds of content that's delivered, the ages at which content is delivered, and the intentions and the values behind it."

Canada Post comments

For its part, Canada Post said it is required by law to deliver all items and "does not have the right to refuse a mail item because it, its employees or any customer objects to the item's content."

The federal postal agency did say this envelope in particular should not have been delivered because the sender's information wasn't visible on the outside of the envelope.

Cape Breton-Canso Liberal MP Mike Kelloway's constituency office was evacuated Thursday after staff received a suspicious package in the mail.
Cape Breton-Canso Liberal MP Mike Kelloway's constituency office was evacuated Thursday after staff received a suspicious package in the mail.

Canada Post says the pamphlets should not have been delivered because there was no information on the envelope about their source. (Joe Passaretti/CBC)

"As such, it did not meet the requirements mentioned above and should not have been delivered," Canada Post said in a statement to CBC News.

"We will be reviewing the proper protocols and guidelines for Neighbourhood Mail induction internally to ensure this does not happen again."

Atkinson is encouraging parents who are concerned about the pamphlet to not just throw it in the garbage. She said she shared it with colleagues and every parent group she's part of, and encouraged them to reach out to the Department of Education and elected officials to let them know they fully support the curriculum.

"It goes a long way to protect kids and their families that may be gender diverse or with same-sex parents and it just creates, I guess, more understanding of what different families look like — more acceptance and tolerance."