Non-Jewish Business and Community Leaders Launch New Classroom Program in Quebec to Combat Antisemitism, Racism and Hatred

MONTREAL, April 30, 2007 The Founders of FAST (Fighting Antisemitism Together) today launched their first Quebec education program before an audience of more than 100 students and educators at the École internationale de Montréal, a public school of the Commission scolaire de Montréal.

Choose Your Voice was created to educate students about the dangers of bigotry in all its manifestations, and was developed with the help of the Canadian Jewish Congress and educators.

“We hope Choose Your Voice will spark classroom discussion — and maybe even some discussion after class and at home — about how best to respond when children encounter incidents of bigotry and intolerance,” said Elizabeth Comper, FAST’s founder and a former elementary school teacher. “We believe that no Canadian children should ever have to feel afraid to be who they are.”

“The Choose Your Voice French-language program was developed in Quebec and is now available for use in schools in the province,” said Tony Comper, FAST founder and Immediate Past President and Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group. “We are asking parents, teachers — and all those who believe that antisemitism, bigotry and racism have no place in Canada — to take action to ensure that this important resource reaches children in our communities.”

More than 300,000 students in Ontario and elsewhere in the country have been reached by the program since its launch in 2005. The English language DVD and support materials are now also available in Quebec.

“We are proud to be involved in the development of the educational toolkit Choose Your Voice,” said Jeffrey K. Boro, President, Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region. Today’s children are the future of Quebec. We are confident that this program will constitute a remarkable tool that will contribute to a more tolerant and inclusive society.”

“The teacher’s guide was created by an experienced team of teachers for use by teachers. It is tailor-made to be easy for teachers to use while meeting Quebec curriculum requirements,” stated Elizabeth Comper.

Choose Your Voice includes the following teaching aids:

  • Lesson plans, cross-referenced to Quebec curriculum learning expectations,
  • Fact and information sheets for student use,
  • A series of short videos introduced by broadcaster/columnist Ben Mulroney,
  • Sample evaluation and assessment strategies,
  • Sample rubrics, listing curriculum learning expectations,
  • A glossary,
  • A student worksheet, and
  • A list of resources.

“The accompanying video should reach young hearts and minds,” said Tony Comper. “It is hard not to be moved by the testimonials of survivors of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, and the victims of hatred here at home in Canada, or by the regrets of a former white supremacist.”

Choose Your Voice includes four lessons, which provide an opportunity for students to construct a more stereotype-free and bias-free understanding of people’s similarities and differences. Students will learn more about the choices they make and the voices they choose.

Each lesson contributes to a better understanding of the ways in which we construct stereotypes and the ways in which prejudice and misunderstanding have contributed to our past and present in Canada. The experience of a range of minority groups including Jews, Muslims, and First Nations peoples is included; the emphasis is on how prejudice works on a systemic level, which is built from the misconceptions, fears, and biases of individuals in our families, schools and communities.

“The lesson plans and assessment tools can be readily adapted for students in other grades,” added Tony Comper.“We need your help to get Choose Your Voice into schools in Quebec and all across Canada,” said Elizabeth Comper. “Let’s get Choose Your Voice into every school.”

Pedagogy

  • Lesson One is designed to teach students the concept of stereotyping; students will understand how powerful and hurtful stereotyping is to everyone.
  • Lesson Two focuses on episodes in Canada’s past that involve racism and antisemitism; students will understand that acts of racism involve victims, bystanders and perpetrators.
  • Lesson Three develops an awareness of recent antisemitic and racist incidents; students will recognize the components of hate crimes.
  • Lesson Four moves from history into action; students will identify strategies for responding to prejudice and hate-filled incidents so that they can move toward a culture of peace.
    The four lessons, which can be easily modified for exceptional students and/or adapted for English-language learners, can be taught as a unit or each lesson can be taught independently. Depending on the needs of students, teaching styles and pedagogic preferences, each lesson can be adapted for a one-lesson session or for an integrated multi-lesson. The lessons can be taught over a school year, tied to different events such as Remembrance Day, Human Rights days, Black History Month, and Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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.

Note to Photo Editors
A photo accompanying this release will be available on the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca. Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited members of the media.

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Contacts:

Sabrina Bercovitch, Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region,
(514) 345-6411 # 3170 or (514) 512-9056

Ronald Monet, BMO Financial Group, (514) 877-1873 or (514) 594-2501