Quebec Liberals promise school curriculum on genocide if elected

By Philip Authier

The Gazette – Quebec’s Liberals rose to hug and congratulate each other Sunday after adopting a motion that says a Liberal government would make teaching the history of genocides, including the Holocaust, mandatory in Quebec schools.

Such a program would become obligatory starting in the seventh grade, the Liberals decided during a weekend general council meeting where the central theme was the economy and responsible fiscal management.

To the latter end, interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay tagged François Legault the worst premier in contemporary Quebec history because of his government’s $11-billion deficit.

The debate on the delicate issue of genocide nearly went under the radar in the rush to formalize other policies.

“Today we want to ensure the most sombre chapters of history are taught,” Leslie Perez, a member of the D’Arcy-McGee riding association, said in a passionate pitch to delegates.

“It is proven that education on genocide contributes to critical thinking and a social conscience.”

The motion was the result of a compromise hammered out by delegates. The original wording proposed by D’Arcy-McGee spoke only of making the teaching of the Holocaust mandatory; some Liberals felt that was too restrictive.

The new wording, adopted unanimously, includes a long list of other international genocides, including the Armenian, Bosnian and Rwandan genocides. It also mentions those affecting the First Nations in North America.

The resolution says programs will be developed to provide resources and activities that will “deepen (students’) understanding and empathy,” and make use of an existing guide developed by the Education Ministry.

“Different areas of the world, different peoples have experienced genocides differently,” D’Arcy-McGee MNA Elisabeth Prass said in an interview with The Gazette after the vote when asked about the change of wording. “The whole goal is to make sure our youth are educated in order to not make the mistakes of the past.”

D’Arcy-McGee riding was backed by Chomedey MNA Sona Lakhoyan Olivier, who noted her own Armenian roots in addressing the plenary.

“It’s a historic day,” Lakhoyan Olivier said afterward. “The thing is, children do not get the whole history of the world.

“It’s part of education, you know, being a better human being. By adding all the genocides, including the Holocaust, people are going to listen better and there will be better acceptance.”

After the vote, many Liberals made a point of walking over to the table occupied by the D’Arcy-McGee delegates for a group hug — a fact that did not surprise Tanguay.

Activists in the party “are very sensitive, smart and aware of those realities,” Tanguay said at his closing news conference. “You saw a very respectful debate on a delicate subject.”

The debate came as the Liberals continued the rebuilding process they launched following their poor performance in the 2022 election. Down to 19 MNAs and on the outs with francophone Quebecers, the party is gradually putting in place fresh policies in the hopes of wooing back voters.

The mood at the council was surprisingly upbeat, with organizers having to cut off the registration list at 450. An appearance by all the former Liberal leaders to pay tribute to former premier Philippe Couillard was also a morale booster.

“I see on TV that we’re down and out,” Nicole Appleby Arbour said in her speech accepting the party’s Prix Lucienne-Saillant for volunteer work. “Come on. I don’t see that here.”

Many Liberals believe time is on their side as the bloom comes off the rose for the Coalition Avenir Québec government. The rise in the polls of the Parti Québécois is also bringing many federalists back to the Liberals.

“In 2026, Quebecers will want change,” Liberal party president Rafael P. Ferraro said in a speech closing the council. “It’s up to us to be ready and offer a credible alternative to replace the government.”

“There’s something happening in the Quebec Liberal Party,” Tanguay added in his closing speech. “The relaunch is underway.”

He reached out to the English-speaking community.

“The Quebec Liberal Party will defend all Quebecers no matter their origin, their culture or the language they speak at home, because they are first-class citizens and deserve to be treated as such,” he said.

Among the other motions adopted, the Liberals pledged to cancel recent tuition increases for out-of-province students. They also committed to producing a plan in a first mandate to balance the province’s books.

Hovering in the background was the issue of who will lead the party. That won’t be known until June 2025. Half a dozen names are floating around. They are all men.

“I would love a female candidate to run,” said Bourassa-Sauvé MNA Madwa-Nika Cadet.

Frédéric Beauchemin, the lone member of the Quebec Liberal caucus mulling a run for the leadership so far, welcomed the talk of more candidates apparently about to step forward.

“There are rumours of others,” he said. “So if there were even a dozen, it would be awesome because we could actually have a debate.”

Beauchemin was reacting to news that 81 members of the Liberal youth wing had signed an open letter to say they support another rumoured candidate, Charles Milliard, president of the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec.

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