Montreal group pushes for changes to ‘inadequate’ high school history curriculum

Teachers and parents are pushing for the Quebec government to make significant changes to the province's high school history curriculum.
Teachers and parents are pushing for the Quebec government to make significant changes to the province's high school history curriculum. Global News

A group of parents and teachers is calling on the Quebec government to make substantial changes to the province’s high school history curriculum.

“It seems to be pursuing a certain narrative that doesn’t reflect the reality of Quebec,” says Carol Meindl of the Quebec Federation of Home and School Associations and a member of the group.

The Committee for the Enhancement of the History Curriculum in Quebec (ComECH) says the current history program isn’t inclusive enough and is severely lacking in its representation of Quebec’s Indigenous and minority communities.

Furthermore, they don’t like how anglophones and some other minority groups are depicted. In some cases, groups are demonized or in other cases, stereotypes are reinforced.

READ MORE: New Quebec history curriculum has population divided

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Robert Green, chairperson for ComECH and history teacher at Westmount High School says there are several omissions.

“When we look at the section in World War II where it talks about the rise of anti-Semitism as a global phenomenon,” he told Global News.

“My Jewish students, I have to say, are outraged that there is not a single mention of the manifestation of that phenomenon here in Quebec.”

He also says there’s a section in one of the textbooks that only mentions Muslims in association with terrorism.

“It’s actually reinforcing negative stereotypes.”

The group says that they are heartened by some changes already planned. A controversial textbook for Secondary 3 students, History of Quebec and Canada, which was issued in 2016 is to be replaced next school year.

“The reason the government has given for replacing this textbook,” says Green, “is to respond to some of the concerns of the Indigenous communities, and specifically to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

READ MORE: Truth and Reconciliation: What comes next?

He hopes the government does follow all the recommendations but says that one change isn’t enough and the consequences for not addressing them are obvious.

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“We see the consequences all the time,” he stresses. “A great example is the perennial debates in Quebec, over the donning of blackface. We hear that it’s American history, that it has nothing to do with the history if Quebec. “If we knew our history, we would know that minstrel shows, not only passed through Quebec, they were wildly popular.

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Meindl agrees.

“Many students who take history in high school — this will be the only history they are going to read,” Meindl says. “This is what they’re going to take into their adult life and it’s inadequate.”

Green wants to make it a central issue in the upcoming provincial election campaign.

He says all the parties are courting the votes of anglophones and other minorities, “and we think it’s time for those parties to put their money where their mouths are, and to speak out about this ideologically-driven reform, that reflects an ethnic nationalist vision much more than the visions of an inclusive democratic society.”