Holocaust education is becoming mandatory in British Columbia schools—but the teachers’ union is currently denying funds to experts in the field

The reasons behind the decision two weeks ago by a council within the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), the union representing teachers in the province, to deny funding to a specialist association focused on Holocaust education remain unclear and continue to upset local Jewish groups.

The BCTF, which represents 50,000 teachers in British Columbia, relies on provincial specialist associations (PSAs) to support the development of resources and oversee professional development sessions, through funding from the union. Approval for funding comes from the BCTF Provincial Specialist Association Council, which then makes recommendations to the BCTF executive.

In British Columbia, specialist associations help teachers in particular subject areas deal with matters concerning curriculum during professional development days: for example, an English teacher might have a professional development day through a specific specialist association, a math teacher with another.

On June 5, Jonathan Dyck, the chair of the specialist association council at BCTF, informed the Holocaust and Antisemitism Educators Association (HAEA) that it would not be recognized by the union and therefore not receive funding. 

The HAEA was created last fall after the BC government mandated Holocaust education in high schools beginning in the 2025-6 academic year.

Eyal Daniel, the president of the HAEA, was dismayed by the decision and expressed hope that the BCTF would change its mind. “The letter I received said that we should work with other PSAs, which is confusing because the formation of our group was specifically supported by the relevant PSA—the Social Studies group—as being important and necessary.”

Ginaya Peters, the founder of BC Teachers Against Antisemitism, was similarly shocked by the news. “I am trying to comprehend this and am failing. When the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre tells the BCTF that our PSA is needed to implement the mandatory Holocaust curriculum that they are helping to develop, they are literally ignoring the voices of experts in the field, and they are denying us the resources to teach the topic properly.”

The BCTF issued a statement on June 6 which led with the line “antisemitism has no place in our school communities” and said that, as a social justice organization concerned about all forms of discrimination, it stood with teachers as they confronted growing antisemitism.

The statement also provided seven criteria for granting recognition to an association under the BCTF’s Members Guide but did not say which, if any, the HAEA had failed to meet.

From June 5 to June 12, BCTF released 20 social media posts about the decision. Some of the posts concerned why it had turned down the HAEA and outlined the standards to which PSAs must adhere. It did not, however, indicate how the HAEA had fallen short of those standards.

The BCTF also posted that it had met with representatives of HAEA to apologize for any hurt caused by the decision, will commit to reviewing internal processes and had asked HAEA to provide ideas moving forward “to help ensure teachers across the province have access to teaching materials.” The BCTF said that as a union it does not set curricula and reiterated that it stood against antisemitism.

Nico Slobinsky, vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), responded on social media:

According to local Jewish organizations, every prerequisite for applying to the BCTF for recognition as an association had been met by the HAEA. The CJN reached out to the BCTF to find out how common it is for associations’ applications to be rejected, but has not received a response.

The provincial government has stressed that Holocaust education will go ahead for all high school students in BC and that the BCTF decision will not impact that plan.

Rachna Singh, BC’s minister of education and child care, told The CJN that she recently wrote a letter to school districts “to remind them of my expectations around fighting antisemitism and that complex topics be taught in a careful, respectful and age-appropriate manner that supports all students to feel safe and welcome.

“Education is a powerful tool to fight hate. That’s why we are implementing Holocaust education in our schools. It is happening and the timelines have not changed for that.”

According to the ministry, its engagement with community organizations and education partners is nearly complete and their recommendations will support the changes made to the social studies curriculum for the 2025-26 school year.

The ministry will also be meeting soon with the HAEA for further discussion.

Meanwhile, the BCTF had previously recognized and funded the Anti-Oppression Educators Committee (AOEC), an association with strong pro-Palestinian views. The BCTF had stated in the me dia that the AOEC was created to combat all forms of discrimination and oppression, including antisemitism. 

Following the uproar involving the rejection of funding to a Holocaust education association, AOEC’s website was taken down. However, an archived version of the AOEC website from May 31 showed, on its resource page, a section titled “Current Events: Israel and Palestine.” Three images accompanied the section, one showing a Palestinian flag with the words “Palestine will be free… Rise up against genocide.” 

The AOEC contact information is still listed on the BCTF website as well as a profile of the Anti-Oppression Educators Collective.

The BC Teachers Against Antisemitism accused the AOEC of promoting antisemitism, saying the association had shared social media posts that mention Samidoun, a group which CIJA has long said should be added to Canada’s list of terrorist organizations for its ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Samidoun is banned in Germany.

On June 12, the BCTF released a self-paced training program, titled From Awareness to Action—Anti-Racism in the Union!,  to provide teachers with the opportunity to deepen “understanding of concepts related to anti-racism and anti-oppression.

The following day, BC Teachers Against Antisemitism put out a statement which noted that the program does not “contain a single reference to antisemitism, and it completely erases the history of discrimination of Jews in Canada, while documenting racism against almost every single other ethnocultural community—including Italians.”

Some of the omissions in the BCTF training documents are the turning away from Canada of the St. Louis and its passengers fleeing Nazi Germany, the quota system at Canadian universities, including UBC, restricting the number of Jewish students and the prohibition of land sales to Jews in many Canadian neighbourhoods.

In a message written for the May/June issue of Teacher Magazine, the union’s periodical, Clint Johnston, the president of BCTF, wrote about a motion put forward and passed at the BCTF annual general meeting in March.

Johnston wrote that the BCTF will: “1. Continuously lobby the Ministry of Education and Child Care to include, where applicable, the following as part of the Grades 6-12 Socials and History curricula until it gets added to the elaborations: a. The Nakba, b. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, c. Military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

“2. Have the Federation president acknowledge through the next Teacher magazine that these events are essential to understanding the history of Palestine and Israel in the President’s Message.”

This part of the message does not currently appear on the magazine’s website.