‘Learning about the Holocaust is such an important priority’: Manitoba mandating Holocaust education

The Manitoba government, announcing in its Throne Speech Tuesday, they plan to follow other Canadian provinces in mandating Holocaust education in the classroom. Alex Karpa reports.

“We will combat division and antisemitism by including Holocaust education in the K-12 system.” That announcement was made by Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor during Tuesday’s Throne Speech, as the Manitoba government looks to follow other Canadian provinces in mandating Holocaust education in the classroom.

“Learning about the Holocaust is such an important priority intrinsically, but it’s also an important priority, and so far instrumentality, would help us hopefully prevent future acts of antisemitism in the province,” said Premier Wab Kinew.

For Winnipeg teacher Kelly Hiebert, it’s a euphoric moment.

“It’s kind of validation that all the hard work that we have been doing as educators and organizations is coming to fruition,” said Hiebert.

Hiebert says he has been advocating for this decision for over two decades – but says it’s taken so long due to the complexity of the topic. 

“I think because of the state of the world today, I think it has opened a lot of people’s eyes that, no we do need to focus on this. This has to be taught on some level in the student’s schooling career. They need to be exposed to this.”  

Belle Jarniewski, the Executive Director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, says Holocaust education has been a suggestion for educators to teach, not required – but to mandate it, she says, brings forth a whole new meaning.

“This is a time where antisemitism, of course, just exploding here in our community and all over the world. At the same time, we know through Canadian polls, North American polls, students, unfortunately, know little about the Holocaust,” explained Jarniewski.

Ontario, B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan have pledged they will mandate or already have mandated Holocaust education into their curriculums. Josh Hacker from the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem says it would be instrumental for this education to become the norm in schools across the country.

“We’re going to continue to work with the provincial governments to ensure that what is going into the curriculum is the right information,” said Hacker.

Gustavo Zentner, President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, says this decision is extremely important.

“These tools will help us provide more education and prevention of discrimination in the global challenges that we are facing today,” said Zentner.

The province did not say when the proposed changes could enter the classroom.

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