Toronto District School Board Reaffirms the Teaching of the Armenian Genocide

TORONTO — At a special meeting on June 2 the Program and School Services Committee (PSSC) of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) unanimously approved the recommendation of its Review Committee (RC) and its director to include the Armenian Genocide in its Grade 11 genocide curriculum.

Turkish groups had, in the past six months, lobbied against the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide in the Grade 11 curriculum. The PSSC recommendation now goes to the board’s June 25th meeting for final adoption.

At the beginning of the meeting, the committee provided 20 minutes each for the Turkish and Ukrainian community representatives to make an oral deputation in regard to their concerns about the curriculum.

The Council of Turkish Canadians (CTC) objected to the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide in the curriculum and called for its removal. Furthermore, CTC threatened to take legal measures to halt the introduction of the curriculum if the board did not consent to the CTC demand.

A representative of the Muslim Canadian Congress, Farzana Hassan, turned the curriculum teaching issue to a religious crusade. She accused the board of religious bias. She made similar accusations against the Canadian media, specially the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star newspapers. Two Turkish parents also made presentations.

Ukrainian community representatives commended the board for introducing the “worthy program”, but they objected to the omission of the Ukrainian famine/genocide from the curriculum. They urged the PSSC to reconsider the exclusion of the Ukrainian case.

In responding to a question from trustee Gerri Gershon, David Rowan, associate director of TDSB, reassured the Ukrainian community that the Ukrainian famine /genocide, even though it is not in the curriculum as a separate unit on its own, it will be discussed and taught in many forms during the curriculum teaching.

After the presentations, the committee unanimously voted to adopt the recommendations without any changes.

Based on the meeting and the approval of the recommendations, the Armenian Genocide will be part of the Grade 11 genocide curriculum and it will be taught as one of the three case studies along with the Jewish Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide, as well as a separate unit.

In regard to Barbara Coloroso’s book, Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide, even though it will not be required reading, it will be included in the curriculum as resource material.

Representatives of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC), the Greek and Cypriot communities, Zoryan Institute, the Armenian Certified Teachers Association, the Armenian Community Centre of Toronto, Armen Karo Student Association, the Armenian National Committee of Toronto and many other supporters of the curriculum turned out in large numbers to attend the meeting.

ANCC president, Dr. Girair Basmadjian, commended the TDSB for upholding its moral and ethical principles and for not wavering in the face of unprecedented revisionist campaign to falsify and rewrite the history of the Armenian Genocide. “By approving the recommendations, TDSB proved that the Turkish government interference and manipulation of academic institutions and its attempt to suppress freedom of expression is a failed policy. We are confident the curriculum will create better understanding between Turkish and Armenian students and will help them rationalize their common history,” stated Basmadjian

Aris Babikian, executive director of ANCC, criticized the Turkish representatives who tried to use an educational forum to promote unsubstantiated accusation against the Armenian community by insinuating that Armenians are teaching hatred against Turks in their churches, schools and community centres. “Once again, we would like to emphasize that we do not have any conflict with the Canadian- Turkish community. At issue is the Turkish government’s denial policy. A policy which Turkish ultranationalist are using to whip hysteria and animosity between the two people. A policy which simply does not fit with the school boards view of history, nor that of Canadians generally,” said Babikian.