One of the major initiatives of The Asper Foundation is its Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program. The program objectives are to promote respect for others and sensitize grades 9 to 11 Canadian students to the consequences of racism through a specially designed education program. This program, which started in 1997 in Winnipeg, MB, is now a national initiative that is inclusive of students from many backgrounds. It is the recipient of the 2004 Human Rights Award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission “in recognition of (its) creative means of advancing and protecting human rights and working to address racism in our communities” and The Asper Foundation received the 2008 New Brunswick Pioneer of Human Rights Award from the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission in recognition of “human rights pioneers for their historic contributions to the protection and promotion of human rights in Canada.”
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The program includes four components.
First, all students are required to take an educational program on human rights and the Holocaust with an added emphasis on Canadian history and the current situation in the world.
Second, students are required to complete a 10 hours of pre-approved volunteering community service on public projects that meet the spirit of the program.
The third component is a 4-day trip (May 6-9, 2018) to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, MB. In 2016, The Asper Foundation Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program shifted its trips from Washington, DC, to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the first national Museum created in Canada since 1967 and the first national Museum to be located outside the National Capital Area.
The last component is a graduation ceremony to present a Memorandum for Personal Responsibility to each student. This document was commissioned by The Asper Foundation specifically for this program and written by Dr. Israel Asper. The ceremony is a wonderful way to provide the students with closure to the formal part of the program as well as the sense that they are now beginning a new life of greater understanding and inclusion.
A significant portion of the cost of the program is subsidized by The Hamilton Jewish Federation and The Asper Foundation. Since the program’s inception in 1997 to 2018, over 14,000 students and chaperones in 204 cities spanning twelve provinces and territories across Canada will have participated in this initiative.