Premier Wab Kinew is applauded by educators for mandating mandatory Holocaust classes in Manitoba

Wab Kinew's social media post on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, 2022.

Manitoba’s newly elected NDP Premier Wab Kinew has announced that Holocaust education will be mandatory for students in the province.

The announcement, made Nov. 21 in the Speech from the Throne, was welcomed by Belle Jarniewski, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.

“It’s the end of a long journey,” she said, noting the first efforts to get Manitoba schools to teach that subject started in the 1970s.

In the lead-up to the announcement, Jarniewski met with Education Minister Nello Altomare on Nov. 9 to talk about Holocaust education—something she had been unable to do with the previous Conservative government, despite repeated requests for meetings.

“Within two days of contacting the new minister, I received an invitation to meet him,” she said, adding she was invited to submit a proposal about the subject.

The minister and other provincial government officials also met with Deborah Lyons a week later during her first visit to Winnipeg as Canada’s new Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.

During her time in Manitoba, Lyons also asked the education minister to explore ways to ensure Holocaust education is included in the province’s curriculum.

Although no date has been set for when teaching about the Holocaust will become mandatory in Manitoba, Jarniewski thinks it could be implemented by 2025.

“That seems to be a reasonable timeline,” she said, noting the Heritage Centre is willing to provide teacher training, resources and workshops to help with teaching about the subject.

No details have been announced about in which grade levels the curriculum will be introduced.

For Kelly Hiebert, who teaches history at Westwood Collegiate, the announcement is also welcome.

Hiebert, who is not Jewish, includes Holocaust education in classes with a focus on the importance of protecting democracy, the role propaganda plays in promoting discrimination and prejudice and the need for media literacy to prevent future genocides

He’s also sought to “humanize the Holocaust” by helping students connect with survivors.

A goal of Holocaust education for him is to help students see their roles as “active and engaged citizens to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Manitoba joins Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan in announcing they will mandate or have already made Holocaust education mandatory in their curriculums.

In addition to Holocaust education, the new provincial government also intends to provide schools with resources to counter Islamophobia.