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Alberta school’s art project involving Nazi propaganda posters draws criticism

WATCH: A school art project is drawing controversy in Carstairs, Alta., after a Global News viewer took issue with Nazi propaganda posters created by students as part of a project. Christa Dao has more on the outcry and why the school says it did it.

NOTE: This article contains graphic and disturbing images. Please read at your own discretion.

Posters at a central Alberta school displaying Nazi propaganda is drawing some criticism.

The posters were created by Grade 11 students at Hugh Sutherland School in Carstairs, Alta., and were displayed as a collage in the school’s hallway.

A Global News viewer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the pictures did not belong in the hallway, regardless of the lesson. He took the photographs last month.

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As part of the school project, some students drew swastikas, Nazis and other pro-Nazi messaging. Other examples included artwork of American, Japanese and Italian propaganda.

The school’s principal said the project was meant to teach students about ultra-nationalism and propaganda and its power.

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“Our message in that whole collage was that propaganda can be used as a very powerful source in society and these are some examples like back in World War II when actual Nazis used that type of propaganda to have influences on their society,” principal George Thomson said.

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Thomson said the project in no way was in support of Nazi ideology but rather against that ideology.

“The actual assignment was to create some propaganda posters that view or bring forward that ultra-nationalistic viewpoint and it was kind of the opposite.”

The Calgary Jewish Federation commended the message behind the project but said without proper context, it can be misconstrued, calling the display “irresponsible.”

“Calgary Jewish Federation commends any educator who teaches students about propaganda: to recognize it, understand how it can be used to promote racist ideologies and respond to it,” the statement said.

“However, in our view, it is inappropriate and irresponsible to display hateful propaganda without context. If even one person misinterprets the exercise as a promotion of Nazi ideology, it undermines the intent of the project.”

Around Carstairs, the posters drew some strong but mixed reactions.

“I don’t want to see it ever again. It’s in the past. [It’s] gotta go,” resident Ted Devine said.

“If there’s an explanation to go along with it… it’s part of history and something the kids need to know about,” parent Mandy Longe said.

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“It’s concerning to see it at first but if you know they’re being taught about it, maybe gives it a bit of hope,” Heide Chamberland, a community member said.

Thomson said the project came out of the textbook approved by Alberta Education’s curriculum and will re-evaluate displaying the sensitive material in the future.

“I understand there are some items that are more sensitive in nature… In the future, we would probably refrain from putting those pictures in the hallway,” he said.