Questions from Saskatchewan NDP after government discourages anti-hate education toolkit

The toolkit, funded by the federal government, promotes a way to equip teachers, parents and community members with the tools to identify and confront hate in the classroom. File / Global News

Concerns have been raised by the Saskatchewan NDP’s education critic after the Saskatchewan government said it did not recommend an anti-hate resource to the province’s educators.

Matt Love, who serves as MLA for Saskatoon Eastview, says he was “a little surprised” that the province’s Ministry of Education and the Saskatchewan government were weighing in on what resources teachers should be using.

“Teachers are professionally trained to do this. They know their students and they know the local context and where these resources can be used most effectively,” noted Love in an interview with Global News.

“It’s a bit of a double standard when we look at this government’s oversight of qualified independent schools, where there’s many resources that lots of folks have raised questions over, including the ACE curriculum and other resource views, that this government seems to have turned a blind eye to and allowed those to operate without oversight.”

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This comes after a Sept. 20 email from the ministry told Saskatchewan educators that it does not recommend the Canadian Anti-Hate Network’s toolkit.

According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, the goal of the toolkit and its associated workshops is “to supplement a comprehensive anti-racism education program” that will “give you the tools to identify when a young person is consuming hate propaganda and is becoming radicalized, and to intervene as early as possible before the situation escalates.”

Love says he doesn’t want to see the province go down a path of “politicizing publicly funded education.”

“It wasn’t necessarily designed as a classroom resource to directly be used by students, but more to prepare teachers and adults to do a good job with these topics,” Love said. “And that makes it all the more surprising that the ministry is weighing in on how teachers should professionally prepare themselves to carry out these types of conversations.”

In an emailed response from a Saskatchewan government spokesperson, the Ministry of Education explained that resources for classroom use are reviewed and recommended by the ministry with the collaboration of classroom teachers.

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“The toolkit was not recommended for use by the Ministry of Education because it does not meet the criteria of being high quality, free from bias as reasonably possible, and having appropriate and significant Saskatchewan context,” read the statement from the ministry.

“For example, the resource actively promotes that the Red Ensign is a symbol of hate and encourages profiling those who use it, when in fact it is actively used by Legions and veterans in Saskatchewan today. There are numerous resources that have been recommended for classroom use in Saskatchewan to supplement curriculum outcomes regarding anti-racism and discrimination education that can be found on the curriculum website.”

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

Evan Balgord, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network’s executive director, admits it’s disappointing to hear the province’s education ministry not recommend the toolkit that was launched this past summer.

He says they have heard from teachers across Canada, including in Saskatchewan, that they like the resource and that it gives them something they need.

Balgord notes that educators are also concerned with what’s happening in their schools and how kids are being targeted.

“We know that young people are really being targeted by hate-promoting groups and especially white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. They’re grooming and recruiting these children into hate,” Balgord explained.

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“It doesn’t replace anti-racism education. Its goal is very specific. Its goal is to help teachers, parents and any other caring adults in the community spot the warning signs when a kid might be getting groomed and recruited by a hate group and suggests how they might intervene.”

Balgord adds that the program received $268,400 in federal funding, which he says received some criticism. However, he mentions the grant ended several months ago and that there was “no political influence at all in the toolkit.”

“I want to be really explicitly clear. No politician had any hand in this document. No bureaucrat had any hand in this document,” he said.

“We created this resource independently with the help of educators.”

He says another criticism they have heard is in regards to listing the Red Ensign within the toolkit, which is mentioned by the Saskatchewan government.

Balgord clarifies that while the Red Ensign isn’t always a hate symbol, they discovered that it is used by one group of concern.

“We did find a young white supremacist group called Canada First that uses that symbol because to them it meant an earlier, whiter Canada. They were specifically using that symbol as one of the main symbols of their group,” Balgord discussed.

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“Our toolkit is not trying to be political, but when young white supremacist groups are talking about infiltrating and influencing mainstream politics, and that’s a big part of their ideology, we necessarily have to talk a little bit about politics.”

The toolkit’s resources precisely mention Saskatchewan on three occasions, according to Balgord, including the “Starlight Tours”, the Colten Boushie case and when ID Canada, which advocates for anti-diversity, had displayed recruitment posters in Saskatchewan communities.

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