VANCOUVER — Grade 6 and 7 students in British Columbia will soon be exposed to Choose Your Voice, an anti-Semitism and anti-racism program launched Nov. 25 at Vancouver’s Sir William Osler Elementary School.
The program was created and funded by Fighting Antisemitism Together (FAST), a coalition of non-Jewish Canadian business and community leaders led by former BMO Financial Group CEO Tony Comper and his wife Elizabeth.
FAST’s goal is to fund educational programs that urge students to speak out against anti-Semitism and racism in Canada. Choose Your Voice was launched in Ontario in September 2005, and so far, 500,000 students across the country have been exposed to the program. According to educators, it helps to promote harmony, respect and equality in their schools.
“Nelson Mandela once said education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world, and it’s true – you kids can change the world,” Gerry Cuttler, chair of Canadian Jewish Congress’ Pacific region, told students, parents and teachers at the launch.
Tony Comper’s remarks were more sobering.
“I don’t expect anti-Semitism will disappear in my lifetime, but it can disappear in yours,” he said.
“In 2005, my wife and I realized that anti-Semitism is an evil that only non-Jews could make go away. Choose Your Voice confronts racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and all the other bigotries that affect our society. This may just be a first step, but it’s a giant first step.”
The launch included several touching performances by Osler’s school choir, including the song Stand Together, composed by Toronto music teachers Laurence Gilman and Ed Hayes, and Children of Hope, composed by Grade 7 student Kristine Hu.
Choose Your Voice was developed by FAST and the CJC’s charities committee and is designed to be incorporated into the social studies, language and arts curricula. It includes lesson plans, DVD segments, suggestions for exercises and resource materials.