Fighting racism and discrimination have always been very important to me since I grew up in South Africa under the system of apartheid. Despite being unable to change the segregation we lived with, my parents taught me that all people are equal regardless of race, colour and religion. I immigrated with my family to Canada at the age of 12 and have lived in Toronto, Montreal, London, Italy and New York. In 1996 I moved back to Toronto with my husband and sons. After a career of 25 years in advertising and marketing, I felt the need to give back to community and do something rewarding with this expertise.
In 2005, FAST-Fighting Antisemitism Together® was founded by Elizabeth and Tony Comper, former CEO and Past President of BMO Financial Group, in response to a resurgence of antisemitic incidents in Canada. Along with a coalition of non-Jewish business leaders, FAST is dedicated to speaking out against all intolerance, with antisemitism as a specific manifestation of it. In 2008 I began working for FAST as a program coordinator for Ontario region. The following year my mission was to roll out the first educational program for FAST nation-wide. I assembled a great team of five regional coordinators throughout the country and was promoted to Executive Director two years ago.
Our first antiracism and anti-bullying educational program, Choose Your Voice, meets curriculum requirements for grades 6, 7 and 8 and has been distributed free of charge to Canadian schools (public, private and religious) in every province and territory. FAST won the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Award of Excellence in 2010. Being recognized in the fight against racism and discrimination acknowledged that our best practices for distribution were successful. An image of the CRRF award was included in the printed Teachers Guide. To date Choose Your Voice has reached over 2.3 million Canadian students and we’ve received feedback about the impact it has made within classrooms. It continues to be in demand by elementary and middle school educators.
In 2014, I worked with a team of 20 curriculum experts to develop the resources for Voices into Action, the second bilingual initiative from FAST, entirely online at no charge. It meets provincial curriculum requirements for secondary schools and is also being used by post-secondary institutions across the country. The topics explored within www.voicesintoaction.ca include: Aboriginal rights and the residential schools, the Komagata Maru, the Japanese Internment camps, the Chinese Head tax, the Black experience, homophobia, gender issues, rights of people with disabilities, the Holocaust and other genocides, islamophobia, slavery, apartheid, immigration policies, cyber bullying and more! 30 original videos are part of each chapter/unit as well as numerous and varied activities and assignments for students. Voices into Action includes outstanding teaching tools as well as curriculum links to many subjects.
At FAST, we strongly believe in our responsibility to make a better, safer world for all through educational programs aimed at developing the social awareness of students. The urgency for this kind of discussion continues to be a priority, as in recent years we have witnessed shocking incidents of antisemitism and other forms of bigotry in Canada and around the world. FAST resources connect students to the past and present, and encourage them to take action to abolish racism and hatred within their schools, communities and country. With the sad state of affairs globally, I feel my job to help keep Canada great, is more crucial than ever.