Aug. 4, 2020
The rise in antisemitic incidents has revitalized FAST.
Fighting Antisemitism Together, or FAST, was founded in 2005 by former Bank of Montreal CEO Tony Comper and his late wife, Elizabeth.
It had the backing of some 30 blue-chip non-Jewish business executives, including leaders of Toronto-Dominion Bank, Manulife Financial Corp., Bombardier Inc., Stelco, Bell Canada, and BCE Inc. Each executive put $10,000 toward the effort.
Over the past 15 years, FAST has fashioned free education programs geared to middle schools and high schools, and has reached 4.4 million students at more than 22,000 schools.
According to a recent report in the Globe and Mail, FAST is now joining the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA), a scholarly organization that publishes the academic journal Antisemitism Studies. CISA founding director Catherine Chatterley, who teaches modern European history at the University of Manitoba and edits the journal, is taking over as FAST’s chair and president.
Polls and surveys show that antisemitic incidents continue to rise in Canada, and that in Toronto and suburbs, Jews are the most targeted group for hate crimes.
According to B’nai Brith Canada’s most recent audit, there were 2,207 antisemitic incidents nationally in 2019 – more than six a day – an eight percent increase over the year before. It was the fourth consecutive record-setting year for antisemitism in Canada, and online harassment was up by 11 percent, the audit revealed.
“The obvious question is, if you’re doing such a wonderful job, why isn’t it having an impact on antisemitism?” Comper was quoted as telling the Globe. “The increase in the incidences justifies exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing and the need for it.”
The classroom is the ideal incubator for change, he said.
“To fundamentally change, you need to focus on education of young people and equip them with an alternative narrative to what they’re hearing either at home, or in the street or in the school yard,” Comper said.
He has promised to fund FAST for the next two years, and plans to stay on as an adviser working with Chatterley to build fundraising and administration.
CISA is “very pleased to be affiliated with FAST,” Chatterley told the CJR via email.
“We plan to build on FAST’s demonstrated success and ensure that all Canadian students have an opportunity to study this award-winning human rights curriculum with an emphasis on anti-Semitism,” she added. “We hope to work toward making these subjects a permanent part of the school curriculum in all regions of Canada.”
CISA one of seven institutes in the world dedicated to the scholarly study of antisemitism.