Manitoba government to include Holocaust education in curriculum

In a move motivated by discussions with concerned Jewish students, the Manitoba government is looking to make Holocaust education more prominent in classrooms. The announcement was made Tuesday as part of the Speech from the Throne and was welcomed by community members.

“Holocaust education is a critical tool in the fight against hate and antisemitism,” said Gustavo Zentner, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. “But really, it also teaches us to be mindful of other communities and other peoples.”

Jewish organizations say they’ve been working towards having Holocaust education mandated as part of the province’s curriculum for some time.

“At the moment, it is suggested at various times in the students’ education,” said Belle Jarniewski, the executive director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, adding that if it’s not mandated, there are many teachers who don’t teach Holocaust education.

According to a 2021 study on the Holocaust and antisemitism, 32.9 per cent of 3,593 students surveyed in Canada and the U.S. think the Holocaust was exaggerated or fabricated. However, the same survey conducted by Liberation75 — a collaborative Holocaust organization — found that 92.64 per cent of the respondents in Ontario wanted to learn more about the Holocaust.

As of Nov. 21, Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have announced they will mandate or have already made Holocaust education mandatory in curriculums.

“It would be great to show that Canada is a country where every province has adopted it and that it becomes a norm across all the provinces in every school,” said Liberation75 founder Marilyn Sinclair.

In Manitoba, students can learn about the Holocaust in Grades 6, 9, 11 and 12, but experts say that depends on the courses they take and the teachers who teach them.

“There are many (teachers) that are hesitant because of the sensitivity of the subjects,” said Kelly Hiebert, an educator at Westwood Collegiate in Winnipeg.

In order to ease that hesitation, educators say the curriculum needs to be carefully curated.

“There won’t be a one-size-fits-all box containing information on the Holocaust that can be shared across grade levels,” said Adam Muller, director of peace and conflict studies at the University of Manitoba.

Educators also hope it will allow for broader discussions on prejudice.

“It’s kind of like a jumping-off spot if you want to talk about other groups that have been persecuted and discriminated against,” Hiebert said.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society said it’s looking forward to working with the province and also welcomes the proposed changes.

“Anytime that we’re talking about education to push back against antisemitism or Islamophobia or any type of hate, that’s a good thing,” said Nathan Martindale, the president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

The Manitoba government said it will also equip teachers with anti-Islamophobia toolkits to help combat violence and discrimination against Muslim students and families.

The province did not provide a timeline for when the changes would come to classrooms. A spokesperson told CTV News all further announcements will be made in due course.

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