Sask. gov’t discourages use of federally funded Canadian Anti-Hate Network toolkit in classrooms

The Government of Saskatchewan is discouraging teachers from using an anti-hate toolkit developed by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

The toolkit is a resource to identify and address hate in schools, according to the network, which monitors and reports on groups or individuals promoting hate toward “identifiable groups” outlined in Canadian law, according to its website.

All the content is Canadian, and it makes reference to Saskatchewan three times. But the province says it doesn’t meet their criteria.

“The toolkit does not meet criteria such as being high quality, free from bias as reasonably possible, and having appropriate and significant Saskatchewan context,” a spokesperson for Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education said in a statement on Oct. 13.

The federal government says on its website that the toolkit will provide “a comprehensive anti-racism education program to help equip educators, parents and communities better identify, confront and prevent hate in schools across Canada.”

The project is funded through the Government of Canada’s Anti-Racism Action Program, which aims to address barriers to employment, justice and social participation among Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities and religious minorities, as well as address online hate and promote digital literacy.

The toolkit, titled Confronting Hate in Canadian Schools, was launched in June and received $268,400 in federal funding for development. But the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education informed the education sector on Sept. 20 that the Canadian anti-hate toolkit is not recommended.

The ministry says that instead of using the toolkit, schools and school systems can find a selection of resources using the Learning Resource Selection Guidelines 2022 and lists found on the curriculum website.

Toolkit isn’t curriculum: director

Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, says the anti-hate toolkit is heavily sourced with links provided. (Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society)

Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, says he’s disappointed the province is discouraging the education sector from using the toolkit.

“BC says it’s already putting it on a recommended list, before we even reached out to them. We have some meetings lined up with other provinces. So everywhere else, the response has been neutral to positive. So Saskatchewan has been an outlier,” Balgord said.

Balgord says the toolkit is not necessarily meant as an in-class resource, but as a professional development resource, primarily for parents and teachers. It is not curriculum, Balgord said.

“It’s to prevent kids having their heads so full of hate, being groomed and radicalized and being propagandized by, you know, manifestos and stuff and going out and carrying out some kind of like mass attack,” Balgord said.

He says the toolkit also addresses less extreme situations. He denies that it is biased, like the province suggests. He says hate groups often target children for recruitment.

“It’s not partisan and it’s not meant to be seen as partisan. It does have to talk about politics a bit because white supremacist groups, all the time, they’re talking about how to influence or infiltrate mainstream politics to achieve their ends,” he said.

“So it’s a big part of their ideology. So of course we have to mention the toolkit. So that’s where you’re going to see.”

Teachers say they can make the call themselves

Samantha Becotte, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, says she’s surprised the province is discouraging the use of this toolkit.

“It’s the first time from my knowledge where they’ve come and discouraged something rather than approving it,” Becotte said.

Samantha Becotte, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, says she’s surprised the province is not recommending the anti-hate toolkit to Saskatchewan teachers. (Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation)

Becotte says Saskatchewan teachers are well trained and able to decide for themselves what materials, anti-hate or otherwise, are appropriate for dealing with intolerance in the classroom.

“The teachers that I represent are highly educated and they’re trained to evaluate and choose the resources that they use in their classroom,” said Becotte.

“They often teach multiple different viewpoints so that their students can be critical of what they are, what they’re learning.”

She says hate can sometimes be detected in some classrooms.

“Well, not just Saskatchewan, but really the youth across Canada and anywhere around the world. We want our students and our youth in Saskatchewan, as teachers, we want them to be welcoming and we want it to be safe and caring, learning environments for all students to feel welcomed into.”

Becotte says she trusts Saskatchewan teachers to make the right call about the toolkit.

“We would expect that those decisions be made by teachers who know their students and know their communities.”

Saskatchewan content

As for Saskatchewan content, the toolkit does mention the Sixties Scoop, which “tore Indigenous babies from their mothers’ arms under racist policies that sought to erase their culture and community bonds.”

It also mentions the “Starlight Tours,” where Saskatchewan and Manitoba police would take Indigenous men to rural areas and “leave them there in the dead of a cold Prairie winter.”

During what is known now as the Sixties Scoop, federal and provincial agencies would place ads like this in newspapers, trying to place Indigenous children in white homes.

Balgord says the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education has claimed that the Canadian Anti-Hate Network has made “quite controversial statements without any kind of backup or evidence” in the toolkit.

“That’s not factual or accurate. If you go and take a look at the toolkit, it’s right there. Everything’s hyperlinked. There’s like a dozen hyperlinks a page. I feel hyperbolic here, but it’s sourced, it’s evidenced.”

Balgord says that if someone says the toolkit isn’t factually accurate the network takes that seriously and will review.

“We don’t want this thing to be political. We’re kind of disappointed it’s become political in Saskatchewan,” he said.

“We just want to create a good resource for parents and teachers and ultimately to protect kids from getting radicalized into white supremacist and hate movements that ruin their lives, and turn around and make them make threats to other kids.”

As for the province’s issue with what it calls a lack of Saskatchewan material, Balgord says supplementary material could be added in the future.

“There is some Saskatchewan content. We of course would be happy to add more. But this is a toolkit meant for all of Canada. So it might touch in Saskatchewan, but it’s not going to have a ton of province-specific material.”

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