FAST provides antiracism and antisemitism educational programs free of charge to all Canadian schools, colleges and universities. We worked with a team of 20 curriculum experts at OISE-UT where we held the launch event in April 2015. Entirely free online for secondary schools, colleges and universities, it provides a wealth of information in 30 chapters with 30 original videos. The goals are to educate Canadians about the dangers of intolerance in all its manifestations, with an emphasis on antisemitism. Our bilingual resources meet provincial curriculum requirements in the areas of Social Sciences, History, Language Arts (English and French), Health and the Arts.
In 2004, after watching the news about anti-Semitic incidents happening in Canada, Elizabeth and Tony Comper decided to do something about. They felt strongly that antisemitism needed to be resolved by non-Jews. Along with other non-Jewish leaders, they determined that education is the best way to combat antisemitism, prejudice, racism and all intolerance.
The mission of Voices into Action is to educate Canadians about the dangers of intolerance, that hatred has no place in Canada and to not be a bystander. Voices into Action is directed to students in Canadian high schools, colleges and universities, teaching them to speak out and take action against racism, discrimination and all hatred. The public and adult learners may also access the online resources at no charge.
2004 was the worst year in more than half a century for vicious anti-Jewish activity in this country. The Compers believe antisemitism is the “canary in the coalmine for all hatred.” Through understanding past issues, students are given a context for current global events and can draw parallels. A big chapter in our initiative is devoted to understanding the harmful effects of cyber bulling and teaching students to become responsible digital citizens.
Making a Difference
Voices into Action is receiving wide acclaim from educators who say it helps promote harmony, respect and equality in their schools. Testimonials indicate improved student self-esteem and students become empowered to speak out against bullying and intolerance. To date, VIA has reached over 390,000 students in 1,300 educational institutions. Very serious challenges exist for educators trying to nurture a social environment characterized by a culture of respect, empathy, and acceptance. Our resources are successful tools in dealing with them.
After the team of 20 curriculum experts at OISE-UT developed the curriculum materials, the challenge was adapting them to an online format. Since our program is bilingual sources don't always exist in both languages, therefore research had to be done to find replacement. Another challenge is encouraging educators to register so we can track usage of our programs. Since the actual content within our resources is free, teachers don’t always see the need to register.
Vision for the Future
We are constantly working on ensuring implementation in the classroom and trying to reassure teachers that they can fit this program into their busy schedules and simultaneously meet curriculum requirements. We plan to continue working with all organizations with the same goals to combat racism and discrimination. Every year the FAST team brainstorms creative ways to engage students with the site. We are partnering with the Canadian Ukrainian Congress to help write the content on the Holodomor -Ukrainian Famine.
Educators say Voices into Action provides: -Tools to broach difficult topics, not always found in the mainstream curriculum. -Excellent material on the residential schools and rights of Aboriginals -Many moving video accounts and youth group discussions of discrimination in the Aboriginal, Black, Sikh, Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Muslim communities, victims of homophobia, new immigrants etc.
In 2004, former President and CEO of BMO Financial Group, Tony Comper and his wife Elizabeth founded FAST-Fighting Antisemitism Together®, in response to the documented increase in vicious anti-Jewish incidents in Canada. Led by a coalition of non-Jewish Canadian business and community leaders, FAST is dedicated to funding educational programs that help young people combat intolerance. FAST has grown a lot in the past decade and has staff in 6 regions: Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba-Saskatchewan and the Atlantic.