Alberta announces mandatory Holocaust education for students across the province

Alberta Minister of Education Demetrios Nicolaides with members of the Edmonton and Calgary Jewish communities.

(Edmonton) – Surrounded by members of the Edmonton Jewish community and leadership from both the Edmonton and Calgary Jewish Federations, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides announced that the Alberta government has mandated Holocaust education as part of the province’s new social studies curriculum.

Minister Nicolaides made the announcement on November 9 prior to the Kristallnacht commemoration at Beth Israel Synagogue in Edmonton.Kristallnacht, also called Night of Broken Glass or November Pogroms, refers to the night of November 9–10, 1938, when the Nazi parties in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia spurred violent mobs to attack Jews and Jewish property including synagogues, Jewish businesses and homes.

“This announcement comes at a time when antisemitism has spiked across Canada and around the world. It is crucial that the next generations learn about how hate surfaces. Whether it’s distortion of Holocaust history or misinformation about Hamas’ terrorist attacks, both are rooted in antisemitism, and today’s announcement demonstrates that the Alberta government is dedicated to fight hate in all its forms,” says Stacey Leavitt-Wright, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton.

“Creating an antiracist society starts at the school age level and Holocaust education is an important tool in helping our students learn about the underlying ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping. What is happening in our society today is an important warning around the need to teach the universal lessons of the Holocaust, and the consequences of bigotry and hate. We applaud the province for helping to ensure that our youth will not only learn from, but keep the memory of the Holocaust alive,” says Adam Silver, CEO of Calgary Jewish Federation.

“I firmly believe we must do everything possible to combat rising antisemitism and educate young Albertans about the horrors of the Holocaust. Ensuring all students learn from one of history’s darkest chapters will help us confront hate and prevent similar atrocities from occurring,” says Minister Nicolaides.

Alberta Education is in the process of engaging with education partners, curriculum specialists and teachers on the development of new K-12 social studies curriculum. As part of this process, Alberta Education will engage with the Calgary Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of Edmonton and other Jewish organizations. Feedback from these engagement activities will be used to solidify when and where students learn about the Holocaust in draft social studies curriculum before it is released for further engagement.

“Education is crucial to ensuring our children learn the lessons of the past and are ready to stand up against hate today. Implementing mandatory Holocaust education will create a safer Alberta for all. We want to thank Premier Danielle Smith, Minister Nicolaides, and the Alberta Government for supporting the Jewish community and fighting antisemitism and hate,” says Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

“The Official Opposition supports the confirmation that Holocaust education will be part of the social studies curriculum review and that Jewish community groups will be part of that process, stated Rakhi Pancholi, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA and opposition critic for Alberta NDP.

“The history of the Holocaust is mandatory in the current senior high school social studies curriculum. In 2018, the Alberta NDP began a process to expand Holocaust education in the curriculum, and we continue to support that expansion. The persecution and murder of 6 million Jews by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis is a singular evil in world history. We must always guard against attempts to deny or distort this history. Young people must be educated about these terrible crimes to ensure they never happen again.”

Alberta is one of the foremost leaders in Canada to stepping up against hate, especially antisemitism. The adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism in September 2022 was the first step. A firm commitment to action is being demonstrated by having Holocaust Education be mandated as part of the curricula and ensures this history will never be forgotten.

Calgary Jewish Federation and the Jewish Federation of Edmonton have been providing educational opportunities and programs for over 20 years and look forward to contributing to the development and implementation of these new curricula.

The decision makes Alberta the third province in Canada to announce mandatory Holocaust education. Last month British Columbia’s Minister of Education announced the inclusion of mandatory Holocaust education in the province’s K-12 curriculum. Ontario took this step in September for its Grade 6 curriculum and supported the development of Unlearn It, a free, bilingual online resource hub for educators and parents to support children in grades 6-8 in learning about antisemitism, how to identify it, and act to address it.

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