The Ontario College of Teachers has revoked the licence of a Timmins, Ont. history teacher who used his classroom to push “hateful” Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories, including songs he performed as part of a local rock band.
The decision to pull Joseph DiMarco’s licence was made public on the college’s website on Dec. 8, 2021, but the statement by three-member came into effect on Nov. 15, 2019.
DiMarco, a fifteen-year veteran educator who obtained his teaching degree at Nipissing University in North Bay in 2006, was certified as a history specialist.
DiMarco did not contest the allegations or the decision, according to the college.
He was fired by his employer, the Northeastern Catholic District School Board, in May 2019, after complaints from a parent of one of his students at O’Gorman High School. The family’s name was not released, due to a publication ban.
According to the 17-page long decision, the trouble dates back to 2016, when DiMarco began to openly harass a student, saying “looking at your face is starting to make me feel hate.” The document does not specify whether religion had anything to do with the case, nor does it say whether the student was Jewish.
DiMarco was found to have taught that Israel was to blame for carrying out the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001, as well as urging his students to consult Holocaust material that contradicted the textbook and instead disputed the Holocaust.
“When students tried to challenge or question [DiMarco’s] assertions about the figure of 6 million deaths not being accurate, [he] was dismissive, reminding the students how much research he had done,” the OCT decision reads.
“The member shared his view with students that the Israeli government is a malicious force and that it frames itself as the victim by exaggerating the tragedy of the Holocaust in order to make the world more receptive to its agenda.”
The college described how DiMarco brought his own material into the classroom, including a personal “Zionism slideshow” which he presented “over multiple days.” Some of the YouTube clips in the show were subsequently censored by the social media company for violating hate speech rules, the report said.
Among the materiel he showed included talk shows by American TV personality Montel Williams, where Holocaust revisionists were interviewed.
The panel’s decision pointed out that DiMarco spent so much time teaching his own unapproved Holocaust instructional work that the students fell behind in what they were supposed to be learning from the actual curriculum.
The Northeastern District Catholic School Board launched its own investigation into the parent’s complaint in March 2019. It found that Dimarco’s “willful actions have lead [sic[ to the promotion of Holocaust denial, racism, hate and conspiracy theories, and… created a poisonous learning environment.”
The college described how the teacher disparaged a planned March 2019 school educational trip where the students were to visit Second World War battlefield sites, as well as a concentration camp. He told them the trip was “propaganda” by “the powers that be”, and they should understand why the itinerary began at the concentration camp.
“In order to prevent students from questioning the Holocaust narrative and to play on their sympathies,” the college said.
YouTube channel with antisemitic videos
The college pointed to evidence that students asked the teacher to show them some of the songs he wrote and performed as lead singer of his personal rock band, The Coalescence. The link to the videos was also posted to a school club website, according to the evidence. Much of the material espouses “Truther” conspiracy views, and lyrics:
“The Evil Empire of Israelica. The Evil Empire of Israelica. The United States of Israelica.”
One chorus of a song titled “The Counter-Narrative, from 2017, delves into who is to blame for 9/11. DiMarco points the finger at Israel as being the culprit for who controls the U.S.
The band’s YouTube channel shows that music video containing images of two men in costumes and wigs purporting to be Israeli Mossad agents dancing with joy when the twin-towers collapsed in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. It is not clear whether DiMarco is one of the performers.
As part of the college’s investigation, an expert in antisemitism was engaged to advise them. Bernie Farber, the chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, confirmed to that the teacher’s conspiratorial mindset and the content of his presentations were antisemitic. But Farber told the college that the ramifications went further.
“The member knew or ought to have known that his teaching risked arousing antisemitic sentiment among his students,” said the college report.
it is the first time in Ontario history that the College has kicked someone out of the profession for teaching neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial in the classroom.
Timmins had a thriving Jewish community in the early part of the 20th century, but the synagogue was closed in the 1970s. At last estimate in 2009, it comprised approximately 15 Jewish families.
A former Peel regional teacher and self-described white supremacist, Paul Fromm, lost his teaching licence in 2007. Jewish groups including the former Canadian Jewish Congress, which Bernie Farber helmed, pursued Fromm for seven years.
In interviews published at the time, Farber told the Globe and Mail it was Fromm’s outside the classroom statements and actions that were seen as problematic.
The teachers college advised Farber Friday that he could not speak publicly about the DiMarco ruling.
Joseph DiMarco’s Linkedin biography describes him as an independent musician living in Timmins, Ont., although his Facebook page seems to point to him most recently living in Whistler, B.C., where he enjoys whitewater rafting. It is not clear whether he continued earning a living as a teacher after he was fired in May 2019, but before he lost his Ontario teaching licence.
A spokesman for the college, Andrew Fifield, said they were not aware if DiMarco had appealed losing his licence.
“However, it should be noted that the individual did not contest the allegations,” Fifleld said in an email.
The CJN has reached out to the school board, and to DiMarco himself.
The DiMarco case comes a week before International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2022.
In 1996, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that an Alberta teacher, James Keegstra, violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by preaching to his students that the Holocaust was a hoax. It was the first successful conviction under Canadian law’s hate speech provisions. Keegstra died in Red Deer, Alberta in 2014.
A New Brunswick teacher and author with extreme Holocaust denial views, Malcolm Ross, was barred from the classroom in 1996 and reassigned as librarian. His three books were widely available. He later appealed to the United Nations but in 2000, his appeal was rejected.
Reaction to the news has been surprisingly muted, from Jewish groups and the mainstream media. Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn worried on Monday about the “complacency” and “indifference” to this story.
“There is no place in the classroom for Holocaust denial or conspiracy theories,” said Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada on Friday. “The teacher in question agreed to a statement of facts that was damning. We are pleased he is no longer in the classroom.”
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Union, (OECTA) confirmed it has no record of DiMarco teaching after he was fired in 2019. The union was not involved in his disciplinary hearing, as he chose to find his own legal advisors and did not use his union’s resources, according to a spokesperson.
“Catholic teachers strive to create classrooms and schools that are inclusive and welcoming to all,” said Barb Dobrowolski, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association in an email on Friday. “Our Association unequivocally condemns hatred, bigotry, and discrimination, in any form.”