How the world can learn from Canada’s education programme.
By Alan Simons
MARCH 4, 2009- In 2004, former President and CEO of Canada’s BMO Financial Group (Bank of Montreal), Tony Comper and his wife Elizabeth founded Fighting Antisemitism Together (FAST). Led by a coalition of non-Jewish Canadian business and community leaders, FAST is dedicated to funding educational programmes that empower and challenge students to speak out against antisemitism and racism in Canada.
In 2005, FAST launched an innovative education programme called Choose Your Voice. Developed in partnership with Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee, the programme educates students between the ages of 11 and 13 about the dangers of intolerance and bigotry in all its manifestations, with an emphasis on antisemitism.
What is so extraordinary about this award-winning anti-racism and antisemitism programme is that in just over three years, 500,000 Canadian elementary school students across the country have already been exposed to Choose Your Voice.
The programme, which has been designed so that even a teacher with no experience in the subject area can effectively teach these difficult issues, has received wide acclaim from educators who say that it has helped promote harmony, respect and equality in their schools.
“The extensive and rapid success of Choose Your Voice is cause for celebration,” said Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber at an event held yesterday in Toronto celebrating Canada’s diversity. “The programme resonates with educators and students alike because it sparks classroom discussion about the dangers of intolerance in all its manifestations. It’s proving to be a powerful component of character education, bullying prevention and other programmes that promote safe and caring schools.”
“Choose Your Voice encourages students to be heroes rather than bystanders or perpetrators by speaking out against antisemitism, racism and stereotypes,” said Tony Comper, FAST Founder. “The resource helps create a safer place for our children by promoting tolerance and creating hope.”
Choose Your Voice is a national, bilingual programme used by more than 140 school boards and almost 5,000 schools across Canada and is provided free of charge to educators.
(Photo credit: Media Profile, Toronto)