BMO’s Tony Comper Recruits Quebeckers to Fight Antisemitism, Bigotry and Hatred

Educational program to be rolled out in Quebec schools in January

MONTREAL, September 11, 2006 – Urging non-Jewish leaders to stand up against antisemitism, Tony Comper, President and Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group, today announced that FAST (Fighting Antisemitism Together), the organization he founded with his wife, Elizabeth, will be expanding its program into Quebec.

In a speech to business leaders at the Canadian Club of Montreal, Mr. Comper called upon all those “with still-open hearts and minds to stand up and speak out against discrimination, wherever and however it rears its ugly head, and marginalize the antisemites and bullies and bigots and take away their power to intimidate.”

In light of the recent tragic escalation of the conflict in the Middle East, Mr. Comper also warned that the tendency to single out Israel for criticisms and international sanctions “out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East” will have the unintended consequence of providing “those with darker motives” with a justification for hating Jews.

“While well-educated and presumably well-intentioned critics may be able to clearly distinguish ‘Israeli policy’ from ‘the Jews’,” Mr. Comper said, “the fineness of the distinction is lost – often wilfully so – on people in search of a pretext and trolling around for permission to further enflame antisemitism.

“So, as much as I may defend these critics’ right to criticize,” he concluded, “as a founder of FAST and a student of history, I truly wish that they would consider all the possible implications before making these public statements.”

While antisemites may be “impervious to reason and logic and the truth of history,” Mr. Comper said, “that doesn’t mean they can’t be effectively opposed.”

“One thing we certainly can do and are doing,” he said, “is showing the world what kind of people refuse to buy the rot of antisemitism and are willing to stand up and repudiate it publicly.”

To coincide with Mr. Comper’s speech, FAST today published a list of prominent – “and pointedly non-Jewish” – business and community leaders in Quebec and across Canada (see attached list) who are willing to stand up and repudiate antisemitism publicly.

Building on an educational program that has already been introduced in 30 school board districts in Ontario, FAST is now developing French-language and English-language versions of Choose Your Voice that are tailored to the unique educational requirements and needs of the people of Quebec. Aimed at the “hearts and minds” of students in grades 6 to 9, the Choose Your Voice resource kit gives teachers tools to help their students learn about the dangers of hatred and stereotypes, and find their voices to combat them. It encourages students not to be bystanders or perpetrators but heroes, by speaking out.

The kit contains four lesson plans, written by a team of teachers, to address prejudice. Each lesson contributes to a better understanding of the ways in which we construct stereotypes and the ways prejudice and misunderstanding have contributed to our past and our present in Canada. The kit also contains an award-winning DVD with compelling messages about the dangers of antisemitism and racism. It includes an introduction to FAST as well as four segments that match each of the lessons in the kit.

“We realize we may never get to those kids who acquired their antisemitism, and/or baseless hatred of any kind, at the parental knee,” said Mr. Comper.

“But we can help to marginalize them, strip them of their influence, make them ineffectual and leave them muttering in the mirror to an audience of one.”

Mr. Comper called on the audience to do its own bit to repudiate antisemitic slurs. “You don’t have to belong to our organization to stick it to antisemites,” he said. “(But) whatever method of derision FAST supporters and other non-Jews of goodwill may choose, … the time has passed for grimacing politely, letting the bigot ‘have his opinion,’ and easing away unobtrusively….

“As history, both ancient and modern, clearly and cruelly shows,” he concluded, “antisemitic words often birth antisemitic deeds. Or, just as vile, attempt to make these deeds ‘acceptable’.”

FAST Supporters:

Elizabeth Comper
Founder

Tony Comper
President and CEO, BMO Financial Group
Founder

  1. Charles Baillie
    Retired Chairman and CEO
    TD Bank Financial Group
    Chancellor
    Queen’s University

Laurent Beaudoin
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Bombardier Inc.

John M. Cassaday
President and CEO
Corus Entertainment Inc.

Anne and John Clark

Ed Clark
President and CEO
TD Bank Financial Group

Richard J. Currie
Chancellor
University of New Brunswick

Dominic D’Alessandro
President and CEO
Manulife Financial

Joan T. Dea
EVP, Head of Strategic Management
BMO Financial Group and
Lionel F. Conacher
President and Chief Executive Officer
Westwind Partners Inc.

André Desmarais
President & Co-Chief Executive Officer
Power Corporation of Canada

Ron Farmer
Managing Director
Mosaic Capital Partners

Dan Fortin
President
IBM Canada Ltd.

Robert J. Foster
President and CEO
Capital Canada Limited

David A. Galloway
Chairman
BMO Financial Group

Peter C. Godsoe
Retired Chairman and CEO
Scotiabank Group

Scott M. Hand
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Inco Limited

Linda Haynes and Martin Connell
Haynes Connell Foundation

Timothy J. Hearn
Chairman, President and CEO
Imperial Oil Limited

John Hunkin
Former CEO, CIBC

Joseph Iannicelli
President and CEO
Standard Life

Aris Kaplanis
President and Chief Executive Officer
Teranet

Morris Klid
President
Cyberbahn Inc.

Daniel Labrecque
President and Chief Executive Officer
N M Rothschild & Sons Canada Limited

Claude Lessard
Chairman of the Board and CEO
Cossette Communication Group

Libby MacAulay and J. Blair MacAulay
of Counsel,
Fraser Milner Casgrain and
Honorary Director
BMO Financial Group

Bill MacKinnon
CEO
KPMG LLP

Michael H. McCain
President and CEO
Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

  1. Sanford McFarlane (1943-2006)
    Vice-Chairman
    Davis + Henderson

The Honourable Michael A. Meighen and Mrs. Kelly Meighen

Robert A. Milton
Chairman
Air Canada

Bruce H. Mitchell
President and CEO
Permian Industries Limited

Gordon M. Nixon
President and CEO
RBC Financial Group

Philip S. Orsino
Corporate Director

Courtney Pratt
President and CEO
Stelco Inc.

Réal Raymond
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Bank

Glenn Rice
President
UPS Canada

Michael J. Sabia
President and CEO
Bell Canada Enterprises

Antoinette and Joseph Sorbara

Donald A. Stewart
CEO
Sun Life Financial

Marc P. Tellier
President & Chief Executive Officer
Yellow Pages Group

Rick Waugh
President and CEO
Scotiabank Group

Galen Weston
Chairman and President
George Weston Limited

Torrance Wylie
Vice-Chairman
Global Public Affairs

About FAST:

FAST (Fighting Antisemitism Together) is a coalition of non-Jewish Canadian business and community leaders who have come together to speak out against antisemitism and to fund education and other projects that encourage other non-Jews to speak out. This coalition was founded by Elizabeth and Tony Comper in response to the documented increase in vicious anti-Jewish incidents in Canada.

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For further information, please contact:

Ronald Monet, Montreal,
ronald.monet@bmo.com,
(514) 877-1101

Ralph Marranca, Toronto,
ralph.marranca@bmo.com,
(416) 867-3996