TORONTO-Amid a wave of intense Turkish opposition, the Toronto School Board’s Program and School Services Committee voted unanimously on Monday to include the Armenian Genocide in its 11th grade curriculum.
For the last six months, a consortium of Turkish Groups has been fighting to prevent the Toronto School board from including the Armenian Genocide in its 11th Grade curriculum.
The decision to approve the recommendation of the board’s director and Review Committee was made despite the heavy lobbying and is now set to go to the School Board’s June 25th meeting for final adoption.
Representatives of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC), the Greek and Cypriot communities, the Zoryan Institute, the Armenian Certified Teachers Association, the Armenian Community Center of Toronto, the 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.
During the public commen’s portion of the meeting, the Council of Turkish Canadians (CTC) objected to the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide in the curriculum and called for its removal. The Council also threatened to take legal measures to halt the introduction of the curriculum if the board did not consent to the CTC demand. While a representative of the Muslim Canadian Congress, Farzana Hassan followed with accusations of religious bias against the board and the Western world. She made similar accusations against Canadian media, specifically the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star newspapers. Two Turkish parents also made presentations.
ANCC Executive Director Aris Babikian criticized the Turkish representatives present at the voting, charging that he tried to use an educational forum to promote unsubstantiated accusations against the Armenian community by insinuating that Armenia’s are teaching hatred against Turks in their churches, schools and community centers.
"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 ultra-nationalists are using to whip hysteria and animosity between the two people, "said Babikian. "A policy, which simply does not fit with the school boards view of history, nor that of Canadians generally."
Toronto’s Ukrainian community also turned out to comment at the meeting. Representatives of the community commended the board for introducing the "worthy program," but stopped short of giving it a full endorsement, as they objected the omission of the Ukrainian famine/genocide from the curriculum. They urged the PSSC to reconsider the exclusion of the Ukrainian case. According to Toronto the Associate Director of the Toronto School Board, Ukrainian Famine/genocide 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 Monday’s 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 Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide and as a separate unit.
Meanwhile, Barbara Coloroso’s book, Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide will not be required reading, but it will be included in the curriculum as resource material.
ANCC President, Dr. Girair Basmadjian commended the board for upholding its moral and ethical principles and not wavering in the face of a revisionist campaign to falsify and rewrite the history of the Armenian Genocide.
"By approving the recommendations, the Toronto School Board proved that the Turkish government’s interference and manipulation of academic institutions and its attempt to suppress freedom of expression is a failed policy," Basmadjian said. "We are confident the curriculum will create better understanding between Turkish and Armenian students and will help them rationalize their common history."