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Duncan stands by Planned Parenthood suspension

Education minister does not back down on decision to suspend Planned Parenthood from schools over sexually explicit A to Z cards.
Education Minister Dustin Duncan, seen here addressing reporters last week on the suspension of Planned Parenthood from sex ed presentations in school.

REGINA - Education minister Dustin Duncan is not backing away from his decision to suspend Planned Parenthood from participating in sex education classes in Saskatchewan. 

Dunkin suspended Planned Parenthood after it came to light that the organization had brought “A - Z” cards to a grade 9 class in Lumsden last week. 

The cards featured explicit definitions of sexual terms from A to Z — terms so explicit they would not be able to be repeated on the TV news. In response, Duncan had ordered school divisions to suspend Planned Parenthood from conducting health and wellness presentations in schools, and also for his ministry to conduct a review.

Since then, Duncan has faced criticism on social media from Planned Parenthood supporters who say he overstepped his bounds and acted too hastily, without contacting Planned Parenthood in advance.

In speaking to reporters Tuesday, Duncan stood by his actions. 

“If I can’t say it in front of you to the point that you can air in on your networks, then my view as Minister of Education is that there probably isn’t room in the classroom for it. People can say I overreacted. I think I acted appropriately.”

He also pointed out that there had been a similar incident involving the same material in Fort Nelson, BC a month ago.

“It was a mistake, and now we have a mistake in Lumsden, and yesterday we had a mistake in Creston with material that was deemed to be inappropriate. We seem to be having some mistakes, and so I want to make sure that as Minister of Education that I’m comfortable and that we’re all on the same page in terms of how material gets reviewed, how third parties are brought into the classroom, how material that third parties have brought into classrooms, that it is appropriate so we don’t keep having mistakes.”

As for what transpired last Thursday when the order was made, Duncan confirmed he had not spoken to Planned Parenthood prior to making the order, and also confirmed he personally has not had discussions yet with Planned Parenthood. 

“That will come,” he said, as part of the review being undertaken. But Duncan did confirm that they did contact the school division involved.

“We did confirm with the school division, because there was some thought of what was on social media — was it real, was it accurate, did it actually take place,” said Duncan.

Duncan also noted he had also seen on social media a statement purported to be from the school division. The division confirmed the statement was in fact legit. 

“It happened very quickly,” said Duncan of the events. “I haven't had a lot of time to think about what I would have done differently, but at this point in time, I would say no.”

Duncan also emphasized Planned Parenthood is not precluded from being involved in the future on such topics as sexually transmitted infections, contraception, and general sex ed. But the minister said they would go through a process of reviewing, and of what safeguards are in place to ensure material put in front of children is age appropriate.

Duncan also pointed out to reporters that when he made the announcement, there were only four days left of school.

“If there were planned presentations by that organization that were cancelled, there likely weren’t many,” said Duncan. The minister indicated he wanted to have the work of the review wrapped up by the time school does return in the fall.

“Pending a review, it’s not to say they won’t be back in the classrooms," he said.