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CAEF Letter to Minister Lecce re: Regulation 304

July 10, 2023

Hon. Stephen Lecce

Minister of Education

315 Front St. W. 9th Floor Toronto, ON M5V 2A4

Dear Minister Lecce;

Re: Proposal 23-EDU006

Proposed Regulation 304 under the Education Act as amended by The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act: Professional Activity Day Transparency

We are writing in response to the Ministry of Education’s request for comments with respect to this proposed regulation.

We generally support this proposed amendment. One of the objectives of this amendment should be to ensure that the content of presentations made at professional development (“PD”) sessions for teachers, whether sponsored or conducted by school boards or teachers’ federations deal with issues concerning the State of Israel be objective, evidence-based, and consistent with Order-in-Council 1450/2020. This Order-in-Council states that the “Government of Ontario adopts and recognizes the Working Definition of Antisemitism, as adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Plenary on May 26, 2016.”

On February 17, 2022, OSSTF Toronto District 12 conducted a PD session dealing with Israel’s War of Independence of 1948-1949 that was markedly skewed and distorted, and which demonized the State of Israel. Far from being balanced or nuanced, it characterized Israel’s formation solely as a “Nakba”) (i.e., catastrophe) and presented the return by Jews to their historic and indigenous homeland of Israel as a racist “settler colonialist” project consisting of invading another country and expelling its inhabitants. In other words, the presentation amounted to a modern-day antisemitic blood libel. Two examples from this presentation are shown below[1]:

Aside from the fact that that these purported quotes by David Ben Gurion do not come from original sources and are at best of dubious authenticity,[1] the presenters at this PD session were hardly qualified to take on this politically charged topic. One of the two presenters, Derik Chica, holds a degree in science from the University of Toronto and no OCT additional qualifications in history. The other presenter, Maysam Ghani, is not an OCT member and also holds no apparent qualifications in history.

CAEF was not alone in raising significant concerns about this PD session. On February 20, 2023, Neil Orlowsky of the Abraham Global Peace Initiative issued a letter to OSSTF President Teixeira expressing similar concerns (Appendix A).

While teachers have the same rights as all Canadians to express their opinion about the Middle East conflicts, PD sessions are paid for by the public and are not the place for anti-Zionist propaganda.

The proposed requirements in Regulation 304 for advanced public disclosure of the content of PD presentations will greatly enhance public accountability for PD activities, and inhibit the abuses we have described.

At the same time, CAEF, being partially composed of educators, recognizes that a universal application of a 10 school day advanced disclosure requirement could be burdensome and impractical, given that preparation of the content of many PD activities is not completed until shortly before the event takes place. Therefore, we would have no objection to various exemptions from the advance disclosure requirement for PD materials dealing with a range of non-controversial topics (e.g., math/science instruction techniques, classroom management etc.) where the risk of a PD session being misused is low.

Best regards,

Andria Spindel, Executive Director

Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation

Appendix A

Letter to OSSTF District 12 from Abraham Global Peace Initiative


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