Parliament of British Columbia
Parliament of British ColumbiaiStock

High school students in the Canadian province of British Columbia will soon receive mandatory lessons on the Holocaust, Premier David Eby announced on Monday.

Eby said British Columbia is committed to ensuring all students graduate with an understanding of this piece of history, according to a report in CityNews Vancouver. He added that the change will be applied through the Grade 10 social studies curriculum and will be implemented beginning in the 2025-26 school year.

Eby said that by integrating these lessons into the social studies curriculum, it will be learned alongside other lessons on discriminatory policies and injustices in Canada, and around the world.

“If we really want to fight hate in this province, we really want to stand up to antisemitism, it’s critical that we learn from the past, because we’ve seen this movie before. And we know how threats and hate can accelerate into violent acts, and then to horrific outcomes,” he added.

Eby also noted the move comes during a "frightening" time for the Jewish community, citing a rise in antisemitic incidents in British Columbia amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

He further said that over the next couple of years, important consultation will be taking place with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, the Jewish community and education partners.

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

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) noted in a statement that the decision makes Brtish Columbia the second province in Canada to introduce mandatory Holocaust education. The province of Ontario’s Ministry of Education recently implemented a mandatory learning requirement of Holocaust education in their Grade 6 curriculum.

“Education is key to ensuring that our children learn to combat hate and that the Jewish community can live in a safer province,” said Nico Slobinsky, Vice President – Pacific Region, CIJA. “Our community has always stood with other racialized and ethnocultural groups, because we know that an attack on one compromises the safety of all. This announcement allows us to share the experiences of Survivors and, by doing so, learn how to create a safe British Columbia. We look forward to working with the B.C. government on implementing mandatory Holocaust education in our province’s K-12 curriculum.”

Ezra Shanken, CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, welcomed the announcement and said, “When left unchecked, antisemitism culminates in some of the darkest chapters in human history. By learning from the Holocaust, we honor the memories of its victims and, we hope, contribute to preventing future tragedies.”

“Whether it’s distortion of Holocaust history or misinformation about Hamas’ terrorist attacks, both are rooted in antisemitism, and today’s announcement shows the B.C. government’s commitment to creating a safer society for all,” added Shanken.

Nina Krieger, Executive Director of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) said, “The introduction of mandatory Holocaust education in B.C.’s K-12 curriculum builds on more than 30 years of work by VHEC, which is dedicated to supporting teaching and learning about the Holocaust and its relevance today. The Second World War ended 78 years ago and, each year, there are fewer Holocaust Survivors who can share their first-hand experiences and insights with students. At a time when antisemitism is once again spiking, Holocaust education is more important than ever. It is now up to us to honor survivors’ legacies and share their lessons with future generations.”

B’nai Brith Canada welcomed the announcement as well, with Chief Executive Officer Michael Mostyn saying, “This is an important development. This is something B’nai Brith and the League have been working on for a considerably long period. Six-million Jews were murdered at the hands of Hitler and his henchmen and, sadly, many students have not been sufficiently educated in recent years about the Holocaust. So this is a step in the right direction.”

“We were delighted a few months ago when the Ontario Government introduced mandatory Holocaust education in elementary schools,” said Marvin Rotrand, National Director for B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights. “We hope that, before too long, each and every province will commit to Holocaust education.”