Photo: PETER MCCABE/MONTREAL GAZETTE
Too many Quebec students finish high school with no knowledge of genocides, past or present, including the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, Rwandan genocide and the cultural genocide of First Nations, a Montreal-based foundation argued on Wednesday, reports.
The Foundation for the Compulsory Study of Genocide in Schools had Liberal MNA David Birnbaum table a petition in the National Assembly demanding that the topic be made mandatory in Quebec high schools. It is currently up to individual teachers to decide how much they want to teach about genocide, the foundation said.
“I’ve seen teachers who have done amazing jobs with their high school students; they put on exhibits, they take their students to the Holocaust museum, they learn about the Armenian genocide, and other schools that I’ve gone to where teachers have come up to me saying ‘We’re very, very worried, our children are graduating from Grade 11 not knowing even what the word genocide means,’ ” foundation chairperson Heidi Berger said.
The petition, which collected about 3,000 signatures, states that “racial and cultural intolerance and discrimination are the preconditions associated with the beginnings of genocide,” which is defined as “the systematic destruction of a racial, ethnic or cultural group.” Education, the petition continues, is the key to recognizing and preventing discrimination and acts of hate among youth, and knowledge of genocides is essential to preventing such acts in the future.
“Considering the times that we’re in, 25,000 Syrian refugees coming in, 16- and 17-year-olds with the radicalization and ISIS and so forth, with the cultural genocide and the Aboriginals, there’s no time like now to make sure that every student graduating from Grade 11 understands what genocide is and the stages that lead to genocide,” Berger added.
Catherine Poulin, press attaché for the education minister, said there is already a compulsory class that deals with genocide called “Contemporary World.”
“At this point, it is not our intention to change the curriculum,” Poulin said.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said there should be more compulsory content related to genocide in schools all across Canada.
“I spoke about this in the House of Commons last week and made a member’s statement calling upon all the different provinces to include this in the curriculum,” he said, adding Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia have made the most headway so far, along with some American states: New Jersey, New York, California, Florida and Illinois.