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Canadian effort will study, educate about Shoah

TORONTO (JTA) — Canada will contribute nearly $1 million to a three-year national effort to study and educate Canadians about the Holocaust.

The government will partner with B’nai Brith Canada to invest in the newly-formed National Task Force on Holocaust Research, Remembrance and Education.

The announcement came Monday from Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, who addressed a two-day conference on lessons learned from the ill-fated voyage of the St. Louis.

The famous ship sailed from Hamburg in 1939 loaded with Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe. The ship was forced to return to Europe, and many of the passengers perished in the Holocaust. The conference, dubbed "The St. Louis Era: Looking Back, Moving Forward," marks the 70th anniversary of Canada’s refusal to let the passengers disembark.

According to a statement from Kenney’s office, funding in the first year of the agreement will be directed toward the costs of the St. Louis conference itself and the initial launch of the task force, which will bring together scholars, legal experts and educators with Holocaust survivors and Jewish community members in an effort to share research and educational work being done in Canada.

During the second and third years of the agreement, the task force will conduct a more extensive study of the St. Louis incident. The effort will also develop and publish educational resources, including a teacher’s manual, a textbook designed for secondary school students and a DVD documentary, and provide training for educators who teach about the Holocaust.

The announcement comes on the heels of a poll released on the eve of the conference that shows a majority of Canadians — 54 percent — mistakenly believe that Canada offered a haven to Jews escaping the Holocaust.

The survey of 1,500 Canadians revealed that 21 percent of respondents correctly stated that the country did not welcome Jews, and 25 percent of respondents said they didn’t know whether Canada opened its doors to those fleeing the Holocaust.

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