Ontario Strengthening Holocaust Education to Counter Rising Antisemitism
TORONTO — As Ontario marks Holocaust Education Week, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, today unveiled a series of reforms to combat rising antisemitism across Ontario schools, including the introduction of mandatory Holocaust learning for the first time in elementary schools.
“We are taking action to counter antisemitism and hate, because those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “With antisemitism on the rise, we are introducing mandatory Holocaust education in elementary schools, expanding resources and strengthening anti-hate training for Ontario students, educators, and families.”
Antisemitic events are on the rise in schools across Ontario, with over 50 incidents involving antisemitic hate symbols occurring in the Toronto District School Board alone in the 2021-22 school year. According to the first study of antisemitism and Holocaust knowledge — conducted by Western University and Liberation75 in 2021 — 42 per cent of students surveyed said they have unequivocally witnessed an antisemitic event. This study also found that one in three students think the Holocaust was fabricated, exaggerated or are unsure if it actually happened.
The Ontario government is announcing actions to counter this hate:
- Ontario will implement its first mandatory learning requirement in elementary school on Holocaust education in the Grade 6 curriculum to help younger students gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the Holocaust.
- The Ministry of Education will work with the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) to develop professional learning, also known as an Additional Qualification, for teachers so they can further support efforts to educate students on the Holocaust.
Currently, mandatory learning about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide are included in the Grade 10 Canadian History Since World War I course. The revised Grade 6 Social Studies curriculum, which is part of Ontario’s continued modernization of the curriculum, will be implemented in September 2023.
Ontario is also investing in community partnerships to help students learn about historical and present-day discrimination and how to identify and address hate. These initiatives include:
- The launch of the Antisemitism Classroom Toolkit, designed by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, to provide parents and educators content and learning strategies to combat antisemitism.
- Introduction of Unlearn Antisemitism, developed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), a resource hub for educators and parents to learn about, identify, and take action to address antisemitism.
- Promotion of Antisemitism resources and guides to support parents and students from the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation.
- $140,000 to Liberation75 to provide Holocaust/antisemitism education resources for educators and supports for students.
- Jewish Canadians remain the most targeted religious minority for hate crimes in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. While Jewish Canadians make up one per cent of the population, they were victims of 14 per cent of all reported hate crimes in 2021.
- In 2021, Statistics Canada reported that police-reported hate crimes targeting the Jewish religion were up 47 per cent.
- Ontario launched the new Anti-Racism and Anti-Hate Grant Program in 2021 that will focus on increasing awareness on the impact of racism and hate. It is a two year investment of $1.6 million.
“With the rise of antisemitism throughout our schools and communities, it’s incumbent on all of us to do all that we can to eliminate hate and discrimination. By making it mandatory learning at an earlier age, Ontario is acting on its commitment.”
– Michael Ford
Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism
“We all have the right to feel safe in our communities, and a shared responsibility to stop hate. “Our government is combatting antisemitism by updating the Grade 6 curriculum to include Holocaust education, so that future generations never forget.”
– Michael Kerzner
“Recent studies amongst Canadian youth have revealed an overwhelming lack of knowledge about the history of the Holocaust, the ultimate example of what happens when hate is left unchecked. We commend the Ontario Ministry of Education for taking this monumental step in ensuring that the lessons from the Holocaust and the legacy of survivors are never forgotten.”
– Michael Levitt
President and CEO, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies’
“My father was a Holocaust survivor whose entire family was murdered in Auschwitz. He spoke to Ontario schools for more than 20 years and always finished his speeches by imploring students to fight hate and protect the freedoms of our great country. Hate begins in the younger grades and this outstanding initiative allows us to teach students what it means to be good citizens. In a time when we are losing Holocaust survivor witnesses, “never again“ won’t just be an empty phrase, it will be a requirement. I couldn’t be more thrilled and am so grateful to Minister Lecce for his leadership. “
– Marilyn Sinclair
Founder of Liberation75
“We applaud Minister Lecce and the Ministry of Education for advancing these crucial initiatives which will support important learning at a formative stage. Antisemitic incidents among middle school students are on the rise, and these steps will help to prevent all forms of hate and discrimination from taking root, preserving the values of respect, diversity and inclusion we hold dear as Ontarians.”
– Noah Shack
Vice President, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
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