Ontario Announces Plan to Combat Antisemitism in Schools
TORONTO — As the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, joined by Stan Cho, MPP for Willowdale, and Robin Martin, MPP for Eglinton—Lawrence, announced new investments and resources to combat rising antisemitism in schools and communities across Canada and the world.
Jewish people remain one of the most targeted minorities with respect to hate crimes – globally and in Canada. In 2019, Statistics Canada found police-reported hate crimes against Jewish people accounted for the highest number of religion-based hate crime in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, in 2020, there were 321 police-reported incidents targeting the Jewish population in Canada. This is a five per cent increase from the 306 police-reported hate crimes in 2019 against Jewish people.
The problem of antisemitism was underscored by the B’nai Brith Canada 2020 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents which reported a record number of antisemitism cases in 2020, up 18.3 per cent from 2019. This trend has been exacerbated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, noted that antisemitic hate speech has increased alarmingly since the start. In 2020, over 44 per cent of antisemitic violence was COVID-related, including incidents of Jewish people being spat on and assaulted with weapons.
As part of the province’s plan to fight racism, hate, and prejudice in the classroom, the Ontario government is investing almost $300,000 to partner with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
- $148,000 to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies to create a collection of bilingual classroom resources and programming that will introduce students to the topic of antisemitism and ways to recognize and address antisemitism. This will include workshops and webinars for students and parents.
- $150,000 to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) to develop bilingual classroom resources, targeted at students in grades 5-8, on the dangers of antisemitism. Parent resources will also be developed on how antisemitism manifests on social media and online gaming.
“Over the past months, we have observed a disturbing increase of hate crimes targeting Jewish students, families, and synagogues,” said Minister Lecce. “We must fulfill our collective responsibility to acknowledge and decisively combat antisemitism. To ensure that students learn from history so not to repeat it, we are delivering new resources, training, and tools to eliminate this hateful reality from the classroom and hearts of students, staff, and communities.”
The funding announced today is part of the Ontario government’s Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF) COVID-19 Equity Supports.
- For this school year, Ontario’s Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF) includes more than $288 million in funding for approximately 150 initiatives that include a focus on strengthening math skills, access to mental health and well-being supports, combatting racism and other forms of discrimination and support for children with disabilities.
- As part of the Safe Return to Class Fund, the Ontario government directed $6.4 million to support equity-related projects. This included funding to community organizations to address anti-Asian hate, antisemitism, and Islamophobia, support for Black, Indigenous and 2SLGBTQI+ students as well as support for newcomer youth, parents and families to enhance access to school and community resources, and culturally appropriate mental health and well-being supports for youth, families and teachers.
- In 2021, the Ontario Government launched the new Anti-Racism and Anti-Hate Grant Program that will focus on increasing awareness on the impact of racism and hate. It is a two year investment of $1.6 million.
- To hold educators accountable for racist remarks and behaviour, Ontario amended regulations to explicitly set out remarks and behaviours that expose persons to hatred based on a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Code as acts of professional misconduct, effective November 5, 2020.
- Ontario requires all school boards to have an anti-bullying policy in place to help foster more welcoming and supportive school communities. As announced in November 2021, for the first time, there are specific references regarding religiously motivated discrimination, including antisemitism, along with discrimination based on sexual orientation, and racism.
- On June 4, 2020, the government launched the Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity, a new advisory group which provides advice on how young people can overcome social and economic barriers and achieve success.
“Sadly, we continue to see antisemitism in our communities and we all have a role to play in stamping it out. Eradicating antisemitism and all forms of hate begins with what we teach students from a young age. I have full faith that the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and CIJA will deliver informative and engaging material for students and parents.”
– Stan Cho
MPP for Willowdale
“Our government has repeatedly shown its unwavering commitment to combatting the concerning rise of antisemitism. Today’s announcement is another clear step in the right direction, ensuring our classrooms, schools, and communities have the resources needed to recognize and address this type of hatred – creating a safe and welcoming environment for all students.”
– Robin Martin
MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence
“Education is a critical antidote to hate in our society. We are experiencing an increase in antisemitism in schools across Ontario, often driven by hateful content online. This spreads dangerous stereotypes and misinformation, leading to radicalization, bullying and even violence. This investment will help to provide educators with additional tools to open young minds and inoculate against hate.”
– Noah Shack
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
“We are extremely grateful to the Government of Ontario and its Ministry of Education for recognizing the importance of educating both children and adults about antisemitism and combatting it in all its forms, especially at such a critical time when antisemitism is on the rise and the Jewish community needs our allies standing with us. By supporting the development and delivery of these important resources and programs, the Ontario government is sending a message that Jew-hatred will not be tolerated in this province. Through the Antisemitism Classroom Toolkit, students, teachers and parents will gain the knowledge and tools needed to recognize antisemitism when it appears and to combat it.”
– Michael Levitt
President and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies