B.C. to make Holocaust education mandatory for Grade 10 students

British Columbia has plans to make Holocaust education mandatory for high school students with additions to Grade 10 curriculum coming in 2025.

It has been a “frightening time” for the Jewish community after deadly terrorists attacks by Hamas militants in Israel earlier this month, Premier David Eby told an audience at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on Monday.

There has been a rise in antisemitism in the province, he said, pointing to examples including recent death threats against two Jewish women at a peaceful vigil and the vandalism of a rabbi’s home in Surrey, B.C., with a Nazi swastika.

“If we really want to fight hate in this province, if we really want to stand up to antisemitism, it is critical that we learn from the past,” Eby said.

“We know how threats and hate can accelerate into violent acts and into horrific outcomes. We must ensure that the same horrors are not repeated. When we say ‘never again’ in relation to the Holocaust, we mean it,” he said.

The premier said many B.C. teachers make a point of teaching their students about the murders of six million Jews and others by the Nazis during the Second World War as their classes discuss social justice, equality and the horrors of history.

But it hasn’t been required curriculum, Eby said before announcing the change.

The Jewish community has been calling for mandatory Holocaust education for “many decades,” he noted.

“We are going to work with the community to ensure that the content and the approach reflects the lived experience of this community, including, in particular, Holocaust survivors,” he said, adding the voices of survivors are precious.

The B.C. government is “committed to broadening the scope of the required Grade 10 social studies curriculum,” a statement from Eby’s office said.

That will ensure students learn about the Holocaust while “learning about discriminatory policies and injustices in Canada and around the world,” it said.

The changes will take effect in the 2025-26 school year to allow for consultation with the Jewish community and education partners, including the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.

Nina Krieger, executive director of the centre, said it’s “truly heartbreaking” to see the last eyewitnesses to the Holocaust are now witnessing a surge in antisemitism.

The commitment to require Holocaust education for B.C. high school students is a meaningful step forward for survivors and their descendants in the province, she said.

The province’s statement said further additions to the Grade 10 social studies curriculum will also be considered “to reflect the diversity and history of B.C. clearly.”

“This includes more learning on topics such as the destruction of Hogan’s Alley, Japanese internment and discrimination against other culturally diverse groups such as Muslim, East Asian, Black and South Asian communities,” it said.

Conversations with stakeholders will happen over the next year, it added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2023.

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