The first resource specifically for teaching about genocide at the high school level in Quebec is now available in English.
Like the French version launched last year, Studying Genocide is only available online for now. It is the only material currently available covering 20th-century genocides, including the Holocaust, a subject that is not mandatory in Quebec schools.
Both versions are the fruit of many years of effort by Heidi Berger, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She was appalled by the lack of knowledge of the Holocaust among Quebec high school students and inadequate materials for teachers who wanted to include the complex and sensitive subject of genocide in their curricula.
In 2014, Berger established the nonprofit Foundation for Genocide Education to rectify that, raising funds and lobbying government. Her ultimate goal is to see teaching the history of genocides compulsory in every school in North America, and she would be happy to see teachers everywhere download the guide.
Studying Genocide itself is the culmination over six years of work.
The English guide’s official release was held on April 27, as part of Genocide Awareness Month and can be found at education-genocide.ca. Teachers took part in an all-day training session on how to use the guide.
Financed by the Quebec education ministry, the guide was produced by professors Sabrina Moisan of the Université de Sherbrooke and Sivane Hirsch of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières with the collaboration of the Foundation for Genocide Education, as well as the Montreal Holocaust Museum and other experts.
Input by the affected communities was integral to the development of the guide, the co-authors stressed.
Studying Genocide covers nine genocides of the 20th century, both their history and human rights legacy. The guide includes case studies and definitions of the six stages leading to genocide, as well as teaching plans, reference documentation, and instructional videos.
“It also examines the various genocides through testimony videos of survivors or children of survivors living in Canada today,” said Berger. “Reaction to the French version of the guide (which was available for the current school year) by educators has been overwhelmingly positive.”
The only formal reference to the Holocaust in the Quebec curriculum is in the contemporary world course in senior high school, and that course is optional.
Besides the Holocaust, the genocides presented in the guide include those of the Herero and Nama in Namibia, the Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, the Holodomor of the Ukrainians in the Soviet Union, the Roma and Sinti by the Nazis, the Muslims in Bosnia, the Tutsi in Rwanda, the victims of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the First Nations of Canada.
Over 30 teachers took part in the April 27 training session, held at the Holocaust Museum and led by the guide’s co-authors. That was followed by a reception to celebrate the launch attended by representatives of the involved communities, among them PAGE Rwanda, the Armenian National Committee, and the Mohawk nation, and Georges Lemieux, director of the education ministry’s intercultural department.
Teachers who have used the guide testified to its value. Virginie Maltais described it as “very complete, very interesting and very enriching.
“I was well supported from start to finish by the guide and the team of researchers. It was a wonderful experience that allowed my Secondary 4 and 5 students to better understand the process that leads to genocide, as well as the events related to the various genocides themselves.”
The Foundation for Genocide Education holds its annual fundraising gala on May 25 when the guest speaker will be Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, founder of the Crossroads of Civilization Museum in the United Arab Emirates, the only museum with a permanent exhibition on the Holocaust in the Arab world, on the subject “Building Communities: From Coexistence to Harmony.”