Ontario parliament
Ontario parliamentiStock

The government of the Canadian province on Ontario announced on Wednesday it is introducing a mandatory learning requirement on Holocaust education to the province's Grade 6 curriculum, The Canadian Press reported.

Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the requirement is part of reforms to help young students understand the significance of the Holocaust and combat what the government says is rising antisemitism in schools.

"We are taking action to counter antisemitism and hate, because those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it," he wrote in a statement quoted by The Canadian Press.

Lecce added his ministry will also work with the Ontario College of Teachers to develop professional learning for teachers so they can further support Holocaust education efforts.

The Grade 6 learning requirement on Holocaust education will be implemented in September 2023. A similar requirement is currently part of the Grade 10 Canadian history curriculum.

Jewish groups in Canada hailed the move.

“Antisemitism is on the rise in Canada and around the world, with an alarming increase in antisemitic incidents in spaces where children spend their time: at school, online, or during extracurricular activities,” said Noah Shack, Vice President, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “Educating teachers and parents about how antisemitism manifests, its impact on students, and providing tools for meaningful learning are essential for stopping its spread.”

“We applaud Minister Lecce’s initiative to include Holocaust education in the grade 6 social studies curriculum and develop professional learning for educators. With antisemitic incidents among middle school children on the rise, this will provide an important educational foundation at a formative stage. Teaching the lessons of the Holocaust is crucial for preventing all forms of hate and discrimination from taking root, and for preserving the values of respect, inclusion, and diversity we hold dear as Canadians,” added Shack.

B’nai Brith Canada enthusiastically welcomed the Ontario Ministry of Education's decision as well.

“This is a major step in the right direction,” said Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith Canada’s Chief Executive Officer. “At this point of history, with stark amounts of antisemitism and dwindling numbers of Holocaust survivors, it is essential for our young students to be aware of the atrocities created by the Nazis and to be armed with knowledge so that this horrendous crime against humanity never recurs.

“It would be ideal if other Canadian provinces follow Ontario’s example,” he added.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) said in a statement it commends the Government of Ontario for making Holocaust education mandatory in elementary schools for the first time.

“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,” said Michael Levitt, FSWC President and CEO. “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.”

FSWC said it will continue to bring additional Holocaust, antisemitism and human rights education to students and professionals across Canada, including with its Tour for Humanity mobile education centers. Every year, FSWC educates tens of thousands of Canadians through both in-person and virtual programs, inspiring them to stand up against antisemitism and all forms of hate, it said.