The Toronto Sun reported on 10 July that Bnai Brith of Canada have asked the publishers Nelson to withdraw copies of Canada and the Global Community. This Grade 6 textbook, aimed at children aged eleven or twelve, lists Israel along with Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya and Yemen as one of the countries which sends children into armed conflict.
“They (the child soldiers) are used as fighters, messengers and spies,” claim authors Mary Cairo and Luciana Soncin. “Most child soldiers are kidnapped from their homes and forced to fight … some children volunteer to fight because they feel pressure from peers.”
The accusation that a group of Jews are responsible for kidnapping children will seem eerily reminiscent of medieval blood libel, when Christians often used Jews as a scapegoat for the disappearance or deaths of children, among other things. The inaccuracy is so glaring that it seems difficult to see how it could arise through an innocent error.
The textbook was shown to Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada by the parent of a child whose class were using Canada and the Global Community as a text book.
The factual error was reported to publisher Nelson Canada by Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in March this year and the publisher swiftly notified the Education Ministry, issuing a replacement page for the book in sticker format.
Mr Mostyn praised Nelson’s response but found that, as of June 2017, most schools were continuing to teach with the original text, instead of using the corrected sticker pages. He feels that, as the book has been in use for three years, the schools should correct the record to make it plain that Israel is not using child soldiers and that every Ontario school should have the correct version in place by the new school term on 5 September.
A spokesman for the Education Ministry has assured B’nai Brith they are fully engaged with the situation and that all schools involved have been notified.
It is unlikely that the schools will have a chance to respond before the new term begins. B’nai Brith is asking parents to let them know whether or not the corrected version has been implented at their children’s schools.
Luciana Soncin was the principal of Toronto Catholic District School Board from 1998 to 2006. She has co-authored with Mary Cairo, an administrative coordinator in Vaughan, Ontario, a social studies Catholic resource called ‘Many Gifts,’ for elementary schools, also published by Nelson Canada, as well as a series of history books.
It is to be hoped that these are not marred by any other damaging inaccuracies.