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Quebec's lack of Holocaust awareness due to high school curriculum: historian
A new poll suggests that Quebecers are significantly less likely than other Canadians to have learned about the Holocaust in school or read a book about the Second World War genocide.
About 40 per cent of respondents across Canada said they did not learn in school that roughly six-million European Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War, while more than 53 per cent of Quebecers said so.
More than 61 per cent of Quebecers polled said they'd never read a book about the Holocaust, compared to the Canadian average of 41 per cent.
And 36 per cent of respondents from Quebec said they had never had contact with a Jewish person. The Canadian average was 18 per cent.
Leger surveyed 1,560 Canadians over the age of 18, between June 7-11, 2019, in the poll commissioned by Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies.
Jedwab said he was surprised to learn the gap between Quebec and the rest of the country was so high.
"The gaps were so high, I was surprised at the degree to which Quebecers, particularly Francophone Quebecers had neither seen a film, read a book or visited a museum exhibit about the Holocaust," he said.
Jedwab said he believes the province's history curriculum is the reason for the poll's results.
"The second World War doesn't get a lot of coverage in what's taught to students and there's quite obviously an important relationship between learning about the second World War and learning about the Holocaust," he said.
Some high school history teachers, such as Westmount High's Robert Green, have called on the government to change the current curriculum, saying it's too narrow.
"As a history teacher here in Quebec I'm not surprised at all by these results," said Green. "In secondary four where we cover World War II, the Holocaust isn't even treated as a central area of study for the second World War. It's a side box... and it's less than 150 words describing the Holocaust and the word genocide is never used."
But Montreal Holocaust Museum spokesperson Sarah Fogg said teachers are finding ways to supplement the curriculum, including having their students take class trips to the museum. There, they can meet Holocaust survivors and hear their stories.
"We work hand in hand with teachers, addressing the issues and the fears they have about teaching this daunting subject," she said. "We develop tools with them, we develop teacher trainings and of course kids come to the museum."
Despite the poll, Fogg said she believes there's hope that once students do know of the Holocaust, they will continue to learn more.
"I think that it's important to remember that a lack of knowledge doesn't mean a lack of interest and that's why we're here," she said.
- With files from The Canadian Press