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A WINNIPEG organization committed to raising awareness about and combating anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination has partnered with a Toronto organization committed to doing the same.
By sharing research, programming and co-ordinating their efforts, the local Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism (CISA) and the Toronto-based FAST (Fighting Anti-Semitism Together) hope to counter a disturbing cross-country rise in racialized violence, vandalism and harassment.
FAST was created 15 years ago by Tony Comper, former chief executive officer of BMO Financial Group, and his wife Elizabeth, in response to an outbreak of anti-Semitic activity across the country. Although not Jewish themselves, the Compers were disturbed to learn that in 2004 B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights had catalogued the largest number of verbal and physical incidents against Jews in Canada in more than half a century. Determined to do what they could to reverse that trend, the Compers brought together a group of non-Jewish corporate and community leaders and created FAST.
FAST’s main focus has been on education. Its free curriculum-based human rights programs, Choose Your Voice and Voices into Action, have been implemented in numerous middle schools, high schools and institutions of higher learning, as well as in adult education and correctional services programs. To date, the program has educated more than four million Canadians about anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, homophobia, cyberbullying, residential schools, racism, and a range of related topics.
While FAST has been busy focusing on grassroots education, CISA has spent the last decade advancing scholarship on the subject.
"CISA’s mandate is to create and promote scholarship and education on anti-Semitism," says its founding director, Catherine Chatterley.
Chatterley, a modern European historian, has taught at both the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba.
CISA pursues its mandate through scrupulous academic research and a variety of instructional programs, including an annual public lecture series and a community classroom. It also publishes Antisemitism Studies, the leading academic journal on the subject of classic and current anti-Semitism.
"About a year ago, Tony Comper approached me about his ideas for guaranteeing FAST’s future as an organization and we decided that CISA would be a good choice to partner with FAST to help guarantee its continued success," says Chatterley, who recently assumed the role of FAST’s new president and chair.
That continued success seems more important now than ever. The alarming 857 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada reported by B’nai Brith back in 2004 pale in comparison to the more than 2,000 incidents of anti-Semitism that B’nai Brith recorded in 2019. The number of racist incidents targeted at other minorities in Canada have increased as well.
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