Reasons to Love Toronto Now: because these teens fought for consent—and won

Reasons to Love Toronto Now: because these teens fought for consent—and won

(Image: Norman Wong) (Image: Norman Wong)
 

Lia Valente and Tessa Hill love selfies, shopping, and Brenda and Kelly–era 90210 fashion. They’re obsessed with Beyoncé. And they happen to be Canada’s biggest yes-means-yes consent advocates. Last year, as part of a media studies class assignment at their Toronto alternative school, the 13-year-old feminists decided to create a 20-minute documentary on rape culture. They were shocked to discover that Ontario’s sex ed curriculum, last updated in 1998, included nothing on consent.

In December, they launched We Give Consent, a petition to include the subject in the updated provincial sex ed curriculum. Within weeks, Matt Galloway had invited them to speak on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning—and, on the day of their segment, Premier Kathleen Wynne reached out to them on Twitter. “Great interview this morning. Thanks for your important work! Let’s talk!” she tweeted. “We were jumping up and down,” says Valente. “We were like, ‘Wow. Wow. Oh my god.’ ” The petition earned more than 40,000 signatures, and in late January they donned their Queen’s Park finest—plastic chokers and Doc Martens—to meet with Wynne, who announced that consent would indeed appear in the new curriculum. Valente and Hill, who enter Grade 9 next September, are just getting started. They plan to stay “activist buddies,” and hope to publicly screen the documentary that started it all. Their next goal: to start their own YouTube channel, where they can bring their irresistible, infectious enthusiasm to millions of other teens.