Dear Minister Lecce,
The Toronto District School Board is committed to creating a school system and workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment. Part of this commitment is providing our staff with on-going human rights training and educating our students about the various forms of hate, such as racism, homophobia and antisemitism – just to name a few.
As you know, hatred in all forms is on the rise and as a public education system, we have the responsibility to educate our students, staff and school communities about the way in which we can recognize, report and combat hate and discrimination. This work is reflected in our Multi-Year Strategic Plan and our new procedure, Reporting and Responding to Racism and Hate Incidents Involving or Impacting Students in Schools. However, there is so much more than we can do.
Genocide Education is known to help students better understand their rights as humans, both individually and as a society, and also provide them with the critical thinking skills needed to better understand racism and intolerance. In return, this prepares students to recognize, report and combat various forms of hate in their own surroundings. For this reason, we believe Genocide Education is critical in our fight against hate and discrimination.
Recently, the Azrieli Foundation found that 22 percent of Canadians under the age of 34 never heard of the Holocaust or were unsure of whether they had. This is a major concern. It is important that we educate our youth about the past, including genocide examples like the Holocaust, to ensure that history does not repeat itself; to honour those we have lost; and to help our students become more rounded, informed members of society.
Although the Toronto District School Board offers the locally developed course, Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications (Grade 11), it is not deemed a university credit, which may discourage students from selecting it when preparing for post-secondary education. If this course was given a higher form of a credit – i.e. university or mixed – we believe that more students would be more inclined to register and benefit from this experience.
In saying that, we are asking that your government:
- accredit the locally developed course, Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications (Grade 11), as a university or mixed course;
- ensure that Canada’s role in genocide examples are a comprehensive study as part of the mandatory course, Canadian History since World War I (Grade 10 Academic and Applied);
- convene a working group of experts to look critically at the Ontario curriculum to:
- develop a policy framework which will enable students to graduate with a better understanding of human rights, peace, war, critical thinking, historical thinking, racism, etc;
- ensure students know their human rights and responsibilities, how to protect those rights, the consequences of indifference and how to take effective action when they or other members of the community experience, hate, racism, and other forms of discrimination and violence, now and in the future;
- include Genocide education as mandatory curriculum in order to accomplish (i) and (ii) above.
These actions were a part of a motion (Page 4), which was passed unanimously by the Board. It is also supported by a number of organizations including the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Project Abraham, National Holodomor Education Committee, Liberation75 and the Armenian National Committee.
As always, I am happy to continue this conversation at a later date.
Robin Pilkey, CPA, CA, ICD.D
Chair, Toronto District School Board