By Alex Chumak, Former Toronto School Trustee
What does one have to do to persuade the Toronto District School Board to include the Holodomor/Genocide as part of its curriculum? At the present time, the Toronto Board will be teaching the following genocides -the Holocaust, Armenian and Rwandan – in its Genocide Program. These were the recommendations of a Review Committee that ostensibly researched many genocides and concluded to teach only these three.
To its credit, the Toronto Board has established an appeal process where the wider community could express its views on the genocide program and request that, in this case, the Ukrainian genocide should be included in the curriculum. Presumably, the information provided at the appeal would be evaluated on its merit, considered carefully and, based on the information given, would render a decision that is both fair and educationally sound. Not so with the Toronto Board’s Program and School Services Committee which was hearing the appeal.
On June 2, 2008 , under the auspices of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee – Toronto Branch, the Holodomor committee presented educational reasons why the Holodomor should be included in the Board’s curriculum. The deputants argued passionately, with adequate documentation and sound educational arguments, that the Holodomor should be included in the curriculum. But this did not happen.
While the presentations were made, the Trustees, who were in a position to vote to include the Holodomor in the course of studies, seemed disinterested. When the presentations were over, the floor was open to questions. Not one Trustee asked a question or indicated they would support the appeal. They seemed oblivious to the filled to capacity supporters that were present.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Holodomor was in fact a genocide, as confirmed by scholars, historians, and at least 15 national governments with more to come, the Trustees, like Lord Nelson, turned a blind eye to the facts before them.
Historically, the Toronto Board has never shied away from controversial, sensitive or progressive issues. In fact, it is the first board in the GTA to have a course on genocide at the grade 11 level. For this, it should be applauded. However, ignoring or not including the Holodomor, which in the Director of Education’s own report states that: “more people died in the Ukrainian famine than in all of the genocides that are included in the courses (Holocaust, Armenian and Rwandan), the Review committee did not recommend altering the course at this time, but this should be considered when the course is reviewed. The review will take place in 3 years. For Canadians of Ukrainian origin, this is both offensive and unacceptable, since 2008 is the 75th Anniversary of the Holodomor. In fact, the Canadian government has proclaimed the 4th Saturday in November as Holodomor Memorial Day. How can we juxtapose the government’s proclamation with a lack of suitable resources in our schools to teach young Canadians about the Holodomor and its implications? This was raised at the June 2nd meeting, but it seemed to fall on deaf and apathetic ears.
In fact, it was insulting to the Ukrainian community that only 3 of the 5 committee members bothered to show up to listen to the deputants, just barely meeting the quorum. It seems that victims of the Holodomor, at least to the Trustees, are only statistics.
The Ukrainian community does not want to indicate that the
Holodomor is more important than other genocides, in other words “my genocide is greater than your genocide.” On the contrary, every
genocide is a blemish in the world community, as it clearly
demonstrates man’s inhumanity to man. However, not to include the
Holodomor as a genocide of gigantic proportions, which was ignored,
concealed, and hidden until very recently, is both an injustice and lack of sensitivity and contrary to the Board’s guidelines on genocide
The only recourse that is left for the Ukrainian community is to
make its voice known at the upcoming Board meeting. The UCC
Holodomor Committtee appeals to the community to embark on
the following strategies:
a. Contact your Trustee by phone, email or fax and demand that the Holodomor be included in the genocide studies. A list of contacts can be found at:
b. Send an email to the Chair and members of the School Boardrequesting the same:
c. Come out to the Special Board meeting, June 12, 6:00pm at the TDSB Board Room,
5050 Yonge St., Toronto.
We cannot afford to remain on the sideline and assume that the policy makers at the Toronto Board will do the right thing. We have to keep the Holodomor issue alive to the memory of the almost 10 million victims that perished.