Antisemitic video prompts school in North Bay, Ontario to educate students about the Holocaust

After an anti-Semitic video surfaced last year, a high school in North Bay, Ontario, scrambled to educate its students about the Holocaust and hate speech.

On September 17, 2021, North Bay police investigated what they called an « anti-Semitic incident » that occurred at Algonquin Catholic High School.

Some students reportedly recorded a video on school property where they chanted anti-Semitic slurs and raised their arms in what appeared to be a Nazi salute.

In an email to CBC News, the North Bay Police Department said it had not brought charges, but the students involved were notified and the school took steps to educate them about the Holocaust. and the impact of anti-Semitism.

“All students at Algonquin Catholic High School have received enhanced Holocaust education,” the email reads.

When news of the incident at the school broke, the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies became involved.

« When we read about the incidents, I contacted the school and offered our resources and asked if we could set up a meeting to have a conversation, » said Melissa Mikel, the center’s director of education.

Mikel said the school administration was receptive to his offer to share their educational resources on the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate.

« They were interested in finding out more, » she said. « They were interested in this support for the students but also for their staff. »

The center shared its lessons with students and staff five times during the school year.

Due to the pandemic, Mikel said they had to offer the classes online, but she said the students remained engaged.

Vera Schiff was among five Holocaust survivors who participated in online sessions with North Bay students, teaching them about the impact of hate. (Submitted by Melissa Mikel)

“In one particular session about survivors speaking up, we had, I think, a full 15 to 20 minutes of kids asking questions,” Mikel said.

« And really thoughtful questions about what was said by the survivor. »

The center enabled five Holocaust survivors to share their stories with the students. Each was given a different rating and given appropriate context for each age group.

Students also took a virtual tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and learned about the history of the Holocaust.

Mikel said the lessons also covered other forms of hate, such as the Canadian residential school system and Japanese internment camps.

« So the hope is really to empower these young people to find their voice and use their voice to spread good, » Mikel said.

More antisemitic incidents

Mikel started her career as a teacher, but has been in her current role since 2008.

She said she has become aware of more anti-Semitic incidents over the past year.

« At one point, we were getting up to two or three calls a week, whether it was from parents or articles we were seeing in the news where we were doing outreach to offer support, » she said. .

Mikel said that in Ontario, the Holocaust is only covered in grade 10 history.

She said there is a greater need to educate young people about hate and its impact on others.

In an email to CBC News, North Bay’s French Catholic school board, Conseil scolaire catholique Franco-Nord, said its mission is to engage with all of its students to learn and reach their full potential.

« Following the sad and unfortunate incident last September, in which our school community spoke out about the intolerable behavior of some students, important partnerships and increased dialogue with the Jewish community in North Bay and around the world have been established to benefit and further enrich the education of our young people,” the email read.


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