Montreal group has a plan to combat antisemitism, which is on the rise amid pandemic

Heidi Berger, film producer, Concordia University teacher, daughter of Holocaust survivors, and founder of the national Foundation for Genocide Education.

With antisemitism spiking worldwide amid the pandemic, including a stark rise in antisemitic content on social media platforms such as TikTok, The Foundation for Genocide Education is calling on governments across Canada to follow the lead of the Quebec Government and take action to educate today’s youth.

“At the root of hate is ignorance, and it’s the responsibility of our country’s leaders to educate the next generation on the dangers of intolerance and racism in order to prevent future atrocities,” said Heidi Berger, film producer, Concordia University teacher, daughter of Holocaust survivors, and founder of the national Foundation for Genocide Education. She pointed to shocking videos mocking the Holocaust that are being posted by TikTok users, a large percentage of whom are between 18-24.

“Very few high school students learn about genocides in Canadian schools, and it’s evident by actions such as the TikTok posts, how damaging the consequences can be,” Berger said, adding that her organization’s studies show many Canadian students graduate high school not knowing the meaning of genocide, including the Holocaust.

For this reason, the Foundation for Genocide Education is working with the Quebec Education Ministry, which is creating a groundbreaking genocide education guide for high school teachers to incorporate into their curriculum, scheduled to roll out in schools across Quebec in September. Now, the non-profit organization is calling on governments in all provinces to roll out similar classroom guides.

“In order to nip racism in the bud, it’s critical to educate Canadians in their formative years on the history of – and steps leading to – genocide so that they can develop critical thinking skills to be able to recognize signs of racism and denounce hatred wherever they encounter it,” Berger said.

She points to alarming statistics that show 62 percent of Canadian millennials don’t know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, more than half of millennials can’t name even one concentration camp or ghetto, and 22 per cent of millennials haven’t heard of, or aren’t sure if they have heard of, the Holocaust.

Issues that concern Berger include:

* The concerning rise in antisemitic and racist acts amid the pandemic, including the recent spray-painting of swastikas on Montreal’s oldest synagogue, the finding[ ] that one in two Canadians identifying as visible minorities have felt attacked by hateful comments on social media, the increase in anti-Asian hate, and the mocking of an Indigenous patient by two nurses in a Montreal hospital.

* Details about the guide the Quebec Government is about to roll out, which covers nine UN and Canadian recognized genocides – the Armenian, Bosnian, Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, the Holocaust and the cultural genocide of the First Nations, among others – and the foundation’s plan to work with other provinces to follow suit.

* Other ways the foundation is reaching youth to educate them on the dangers of intolerance, such as: a social media campaign called Say No to Hate on Tik Tok, featuring Holocaust survivors reacting to videos mocking the Holocaust; a newly-launched webinar series on current genocides and human rights violations – including those in Myanmar and China – featuring experts, survivors and activists; and in-person and virtual school presentations by descendants of survivors of a range of genocides.

More information, videos and testimonials can be found at

— Foundation for Genocide Education

— AB

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