Ontario partners with Wiesenthal Centre to combat anti-Semitism in schools

Education Minister Stephen Lecce, bottom right, accompanied by MPPs Gila Martow and Robin Martin announces the government will fund education on anti-Semitism.

The government of Ontario plans to counter “rising anti-Semitism in Canadian schools and communities” with new training initiatives and resources for educators, and support for students.

The initiative was announced on July 5 by Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Robin Martin, MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence, and Gila Martow, MPP for Thornhill, as well as Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).

“Anti-Semitism is a scourge and historic evil that must be eradicated from our schools and from our communities,” Lecce said.

As part of the Safe Return to Class fund, the Ontario government is providing FSWC with $327,000 to support two summer learning programs:

The “Unpacking Intolerance: Equity and Diversity Training for Educators” program will provide professional development “to help educators learn about dismantling systems of oppression and anti-Semitism in homes, schools and communities,” according to a news release from Queen’s Park.

The “Tour for Humanity Virtual Summer Camp” will help students learn about human rights, dealing with injustice, and will encourage ideas for creating positive change.

“We will fight anti-Semitism with every tool available to us to ensure Jewish students feel safe and supported in Ontario schools,” Lecce added.

“That is why we are partnering with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center to strengthen training for educators and supports for students, with the aim of promoting respect for all students, irrespective of their faith or heritage.”

Also, as part of the Safe Return to Class Fund, the Ontario government is directing $6.4 million toward equity-related projects, including funding to community organizations to address anti-Asian racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia; support for Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ students; supports for newcomer parents and families to enhance access to school and community resources; and culturally appropriate mental health supports for youth, families and teachers.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it welcomed the announcement “as we experience an unprecedented spike in anti-Semitic incidents.”

While Ontario schools have remained physically closed most of the year due to COVID restrictions, some anti-Jewish incidents at schools have still been reported, B’nai Brith Canada noted.

“The government of Ontario must make good on its commitment to fighting anti-Semitism,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “Anti-Semitic indoctrination in public schools is a grave threat to the Jewish community, and must be treated as such.”

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