Ukrainian News | 24Jan2008 | Marco Levytsky
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Toronto board leaves Holodomor out of genocide focus points

The Toronto District School Board has left the Holodomor out of the three major focus points of its new "Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications" curriculum for Grade 11 students.

The course has been approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Toronto District School Board is in process of asking experts to write the curriculum. It is expected to be available by September 2008. The teachers are supportive and eager to implement it.

The course comprises of three case studies -- the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide.

"I appreciate your concern about the perceived omission of the Holodomor," wrote Nadine Segal, System Superintendent of Special Programs for the Toronto District School Board in a Jan. 20 e-mail responding to an earlier e-mail from Ukrainian News.

"The new course states that it 'includes' the Armenian and Rwandan genocides and the Holocaust but these are not the only genocides that will be studied. The course objectives state that students will be expected to study other examples of genocide such as Cambodia, the Ukrainian Famine, Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, Bosnia, Sudan, Darfur and others. Students will be able to pursue areas of interest and/or personal history. Also of importance is the section of the course that addresses the role of civil society. Students will be encouraged to understand their responsibilities as global citizens to take action to protect human rights and to confront genocide," she added.

Asked to elaborate on what "expected" means in a Jan. 21,2008 telephone interview, Segal said:
"That will be part of their course expectations through independent study work so the course focuses on, or references the three genocides of Armenia, the Holocaust and Rwanda, but it is not limited to those. So it would be dependent on the independent study component, students will be able to pursue other examples and probably with input from the teacher as well, based on the school and the community in which he or she is teaching."

When asked whether that means the Holodomor is an optional item, as opposed to a compulsory part of the program, Segal stated:
"I'm not too sure that I'd say compulsory and optional. There will be many examples of genocide that are part of the course. There will be the three, the three that we have referenced will definitely be in there as part of the course, but it's not the other ones are optional, but they will be (there). There are 14 key genocides that will be referenced as well in the course."

Asked what term she would use instead of "optional", Segal replied the Holodomor "may not be a focus, but would be included."

However, Orest Steciw, Co-ordinator of Holodomor Projects for the League of Ukrainian Canadians and the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, says "independent study" implies "optional", and "optional" means the Holodomor won't be studied by students unless the teacher insists on it.

"How many teachers will insist? Very few, if any," he added noting that teachers have heavy workloads and are unlikely to teach a component unless the head of the department tells them to do so.

In addition, not many teachers are familiar with the Holodomor which makes it less likely that they will choose to teach about it, Steciw says.

Asked why the board picked those three genocides as focus points, Segal said:
"These were three that were referenced in a lot of materials that the steering committee had looked at. It had also come though a motion of the board (in July 2005) to examine the Holocaust in its contemporary implications, including Rwanda and there had been a previous board motion to look at the Armenian genocide. So because those are three areas that lend themselves to some comparative study because of the way the process is so carefully documented that became the core of the course."

Asked why the Holodomor [was not] included among those three, Segal said:
"Because the three were referenced through a board motion� the board of directors specifically mentioned those three and as we were looking at other resources those were the three that were referenced� so there are ways to compare those three and to be able to access information and to explore from there."

But Eugene Yakovitch, Head of the Holodomor Committee for the Toronto of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress says that with over one million Canadians of Ukrainian descent "we have made a significant contribution to the prosperity and fabric of Canada."

"Over one hundred years ago Ukrainians settled in the major cities of Canada and developed the lands of Western Canada. Omitting teaching about the Holodomor [famine/genocide] of 1932-33 leaves a significant gap in the education system," he added in a Jan. 23, 2008 interview with Ukrainian News.

"President Victor Yushchenko of Ukraine said: 'I address you on behalf of a nation that lost about ten million people as a result of the Holodomor-genocide. We insist that the world learn the truth about all crimes against humanity.'

"Only by learning about a Holodomor where ten million perished, can we prevent the reoccurrence of such an event," Yakovitch noted.

Since the TDSB announced its planned genocide curriculum, members of the Ukrainian community in Toronto have been sending letters to the board protesting the omission of the Holodomor from the compulsory component.

"We have received comments from the Ukrainian community� We've responded to those e-mails thanking people for their input and they've been very generous with their time and their support," Segal said.