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‘Just say no’: public dissent over sexuality education and the Canadian national imaginary

Faculty Advisor




sex education, national identity, public discourse, critical discourse analysis, critical race theory, multiculturalism, Ontario Canada

Abstract (summary)

Scholars of sexuality have argued that ‘moral panics’ about sexuality often stand in for broader conflicts over nationality and belonging. Canada has spent decades cultivating a national image founded on multiculturalism and democratic equality. The Ontario sexuality education curriculum introduced in 2015 drew audible condemnation from a variety of groups. Drawing from Critical Discourse Analysis and Critical Race Theory, we argue that the public discourse surrounding these protests exposed the limits of Canadian pluralism, fuelling a meta-debate about the ‘Canadianness’ of recent immigrants and the incompatibility of liberal values with those of non-Westerners, especially Muslims. We explain this in terms of contextual factors such as Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic school system and anti-Muslim xenophobia in the post-9/11 era. Our analysis speaks to the importance of intersectional social justice efforts as part of the movement for comprehensive sex education.

Publication Information

Lauren Bialystok & Jessica Wright (2019) ‘Just Say No’: public dissent over sexuality education and the Canadian national imaginary, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 40:3, 343-357,


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