September 19, 2022
Minister Stephen Lecce
Minister of Education
Government of Ontario
Dear Minister Lecce;
We commend you for ordering the YRDSB and all Ontario school boards to honour the memory of Queen Elizabeth II. You have demonstrated several important values; recognition of the value of our constitutional monarchy and the respect our late monarch deserves, and the Ministry’s valuable role in setting standards of behavior.
We ask that you demonstrate the value of respecting the concerted decision of the Government of Ontario in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, and set the standard of appropriate conduct for all the school boards in Ontario by requiring that they adopt and implement this policy. In fact, if it is government policy already, then surely we ought to expect that school trustees across the province will already act accordingly. As was recently witnessed, the York Regional District School board rejected a motion to adopt IHRA which indicates a lack of concern and objectivity when dealing with antisemitism. We would expect your Ministry to discipline school boards that violate provincial guidelines.
Ministry of Education Guidelines, under the Provincial Code of Conduct, state the following:
All members of the school community must not:
- engage in any form of bullying, whether it is in person or through technology, like email or cell phones
- engage in hate propaganda or other types of behaviour caused by hate or bias "
The Toronto District School Board did not discipline an equity advisor/teacher who distributed hate material, which clearly demonized Israel and met the criterion for antisemitism as defined by IHRA; and the Jewish community is dissatisfied with this lack of action. The York Board rejected a motion to adopt IHRA and passed a motion to put if off in perpetuity. The Ottawa-Carlton School Board contracted inappropriate consultants to teach about antisemitism, neither of which are Jewish, nor acceptable to the Jewish community. We know that other boards are pushing antisemitism under the carpet and none are demonstrating knowledge of and acceptance of IHRA. Surely the Ministry, on seeing this resolution passed as government policy, would consider immediately working with the established Jewish community to deliver province-wide training on identifying and combating antisemitism? That is how other policies are regularly rolled out.
What is the point of an Executive Order-in-Council, if it is not followed up with action? What is the point of funding additional security for Jewish facilities if children are not educated to know that antisemitism is evil and must be confronted? What is the point of all the diversity and equity training, consultants and programs if none include educating our educators to understand that antisemitism is unlike other hatreds, that antiZionism is today’s antisemitism, that it is contrary to the values of our society, and is the responsibility of everyone to stop? If school trustees and teachers cannot be relied on to protect Jewish children, what is the future of our public education system?
Mr.Minister, we ask that you take bold steps now: require all Ontario School Boards to enact training about IHRA, discipline any staff, board, or administration that enables antisemitism, and hold educators accountable for teaching about Jews and Jewish contributions in Canada, and the harm of antisemitism to all Canadians.
Andria Spindel, Executive Director
cc Members of the Provincial Government of Ontario
Michael Mostyn, President and CEO, B’nai Brith Canada
Michael Levitt, President and CEO, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre
Shimon Fogel, President and CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs