Students taught tolerance, humanity with touring classroom

Emily Barsanti-Innes, an education associate with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, shows off the Tour For Humanity mobile unit on tour in Windsor-Essex, April 3, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

A touring mobile unit is moving through Windsor-Essex with a message of tolerance.

The Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, a non-profit group that aims to educate people on diversity and social justice, is touring the region with its Tour For Humanity, a mobile educational unit. This week, the trailer is making stops at middle and secondary schools in the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board for presentations focused on a dark aspect of Canadian history, the residential school system.

One of the tour’s local stops is Windsor’s Corpus Christi Middle School and F.J. Brennan High School. The trailer can fit about 30 students at a time for a one-hour session featuring a multimedia presentation and a question-and-answer period. Quotes and portraits from influential figures are on the mobile unit’s walls, including Gandhi, Anne Frank, and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Tour visits locations across Canada during the school year, with 600 schools visited since it began in 2013. Emily Barsanti-Innes, an education associate with the FSWC, says younger students are first taught the importance of treating everyone with care and respect regardless of their background.

“Practising empathy, practising caring about people who are different and practising learning about people who are different, is something that you practise now so that when you’re an adult, it just becomes second nature,” said Barsanti-Innes.

In the presentation that took place Wednesday, students saw “The Canadian”, which included an overview of the residential school system as well as the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War. Barsanti-Innes said these periods of history tie into the current efforts of schools to eliminate bullying.

“Unfortunately, a lot of hate crimes that happen in Canada are based on people’s race, religion, ethnicity, colour, language, sexual orientation, and ability, and it’s recognizing that bullying often may stem from those things as well,” said Barsanti-Innes.

The centre, named after Holocaust survivor and Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, is based in Los Angeles but has a Canadian office in Toronto. In addition to educational programs and research into the Holocaust, the Centre also a staunch defender of Jewish people worldwide and regularly speaks out on anti-semitism and xenophobia.

The tour remains at Brennan and Corpus Christi schools Thursday. It will appear Monday at Sacred Heart School in LaSalle, then Tuesday at St. Gabriel in Windsor.  For complete information on the Tour For Humanity, visit its official website.

The Tour For Humanity mobile unit, from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, makes a stop near Corpus Christi Middle School in Windsor, April 3, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.