Province introduces Holocaust education in elementary schools

The province announced it was taking steps to further educate and prevent anti-Semitic behavior in elementary schools.

On Wednesday, Ontario’s Holocaust Remembrance Education Week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce shared a a series of reforms 6th grade social studies course, which includes mandatory Holocaust study. Currently, classes on the Holocaust and other acts of genocide will not be taught until students have completed the required grade 10 course, “History of Canada since World War I.”

Lecce said the earlier decision to implement Holocaust education came after reports of anti-Semitism were becoming more common on some school boards in the province.

“We are taking action against anti-Semitism and hatred because those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. With the rise of anti-Semitism, we are introducing mandatory Holocaust education in primary schools, expanding resources and strengthening Anti-hate training for Ontario students, educators and families,” Lecce said.

According to data collected by the Ministry of Education, more than 50 anti-Semitic symbols were found in Toronto Regional School Board schools during the 2021-22 school year.

A study last year by Western universities and Liberation75, an organization that provides Holocaust education, found that 42 percent of students surveyed said they had witnessed an anti-Semitic incident at some point. It also showed that one in three students believed that what happened during the Holocaust was not real, exaggerated or unsure if it happened.

The province said it will begin working with the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) to develop professional learning for teachers, called additional qualifications, so they can equip young students to educate young students about the importance of the Holocaust. The ministry said it is also investing in community partnerships to help students understand the historical and current impact of discrimination, and how to identify and address hateful behavior.

Liberation75 founder Michael Sinclair said his father, who was murdered at Auschwitz, spent more than 20 years talking to students in Ontario about the Holocaust. He said he was delighted that primary school children would be educated about the events.

“Hate starts in the early grades, and this outstanding initiative allows us to teach students what it means to be a good citizen. As we lose witnesses to Holocaust survivors, ‘never again’ is not just an empty phrase, it’s A request,” Sinclair said.

according to Statistics Canada, Jewish Canadians are the religious minority most targeted by hate crimes in the country. Data collected by the agency also showed a 47 percent increase in police-reported hate crimes against the Jewish religion in 2021.

The revised curriculum will take effect in September 2023.

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