Monday, October 19, 2009


By Trevor Suffield

Nov. 20, 2008

Three St. James educators will soon be heading to Los Angeles to take part in a prestigious tolerance workshop.

Gail Fishman, Tina Brown, and Marc Schaeffer of the Stevenson-Britannia Adult Literacy Centre will take part in the Glassman Tools for Tolerance Workshop, sponsored by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Toronto.

Fishman, Stevenson-Britannia’s education director for the past three years, said she’s excited by the opportunity to increase her base of knowledge and share that information with the community.

“Since I arrived, I’ve noticed the movement of a lot of new immigrants and refugees away from the core area of the city and into the suburbs,” Fishman said.

“Underscoring the arrival of many new immigrants to this area we feel we need to hone up on our skills on tolerance.”

Stevenson-Britannia is an independent agency that is partnered with the St. James-Assiniboia School Division. It provides assistance to adults looking to upgrade their literacy skills or complete their high school educations. It also assists new immigrants enrolled in English as an Additional Language programs.

The centre receives funding from the provincial department of education’s adult learning and iteracy program. It also receives support from the provincial government’s language department, community clubs, service clubs and community organizations. The centre has an annual operating budget of approximately $500,000.

The application process to participate in the workshop is quite thorough. Participants are required to chronicle their past and present community involvement, according to Fishman.

Once the two-day seminar is finished, Fishman and her colleagues will have to submit follow up reports to the Wiesenthal Center throughout the following year.

Susan Kendal, director of the Glassman Tools for Tolerance program, said that the FSWC is independent of the American Simon Wiesenthal Center and takes a Canadian point of view when discussing global issues.

“Everything we do is through the lenses of the Holocaust survivor,” Kendal said in a telephone interview from Toronto.

“We explain what Canada’s track record was in terms of the Holocaust, the new anti-Semitism and what’s happening today, and minority groups in Canada and how they’re faring.”

Workshop organizers accept only 30 applicants each year. The customized workshop will see participants tour the United Nations-recognized Museum of Tolerance, witness personal testimonies from survivors and former perpetrators of racial intolerance, and have discussions and reflection time led by experienced facilators.

Simon Wiesenthal was a Holocaust survivor who went on to track down Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice. He died in 2005.

Fishman said keeping track of the changing multicultural landscape is important to the growth of the community.

“I think the people of St. James need to the see the new milieu that is being developed in the community coming up,” she said.

“The schools are changing. There’s a whole new crew coming and that’s going to influence change.”

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