Bernie Farber

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Bernie M. Farber (born 1951)[1] is the former chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress[2] and a social activist. He has testified before the Canadian courts as an expert witness on hate crime.[3]

Farber was on leave from the CJC's successor, the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy during his candidacy as the Ontario Liberal Party's nominee in the 2011 Ontario election in the riding of Thornhill.[4] Today, Farber is the Senior Vice President for Gemini Power Corporation,. He works in partnership with First Nations to help develop sustainable business economies.[5] He also continues to write on human and civil rights issues for the Huffington Post[6] as well as various newspapers across Canada.

Early life and education[edit]

Farber was born in Ottawa, Ontario.[1] His father was a Polish Jew who lost his first wife, two children and other family members in the Holocaust. Farber cites his father's experience as a major motivation in his life, saying, "the pain my father endured during the war is what drove me to fight for social justice today.”[7]

Farber received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton University[1] in Ottawa where he was involved in many social causes. He was a student leader with Ottawa's Jewish community and was also involved in the campaign to pressure the Soviet Union to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate. As the director of Ottawa's Jewish Community Centre, Farber also directed its day camp in the mid 1970s.[8]

Social work[edit]

He graduated in 1975 and found a job with the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) and the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa-Carleton.[7] While working for the Children's Aid Society in the early 1980s, Farber served as president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 454, representing over 300 social and child-care workers.[9]

Canadian Jewish Congress[edit]

Farber was employed by the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) from 1984 until 2011. He was appointed chief executive officer in 2005 [10] and had previously been executive director of the CJC's Ontario section and CJC's National Community Relations Director. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs absorbed the CJC on July 1, 2011.

Farber was appointed by the Ontario government to serve as a member of the Hate Crimes Community Working Group.[11] He also serves on the city of Vaughan, Ontario's Mayor’s Task Force on Community Safety & Security.[12] Farber is also an associate member of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.[7]

Farber has contributed articles on the Jewish political scene, human rights issues, the Holocaust, hate crime and white supremacy to newspapers including The Globe and Mail,[13] the National Post,[14] the Toronto Star,[15] and others. He has expressed his own or the CJC's views in newspapers such as The Washington Post[16] and The New York Times.[17] In 1997, Farber was the editor of and wrote portions of From Marches to Modems: A Report on Organized Hate in Metropolitan Toronto, commissioned by the Access and Equity Centre of the municipality of metro Toronto.[18]

Farber appears in the 1994 educational video Who is Peter Iswolsky?, conducting an anti-racism workshop for high school students. The film was co-sponsored by the CJC and the National Congress of Italian Canadians.[19]

Regarding the proposed beatification of Pope Pius XII, Farber has said it is improper to move the process forward until the Holy See's archives from the Second World War are fully released.[20]

Alleged Heritage Front plot[edit]

In December 1994, Canada's Security Intelligence Review Committee reported that the white supremacist group Heritage Front had developed a "hit list" targeting 22 Canadians for murder, most of them Metropolitan Toronto Jews.[21][22] One member had allegedly planned an attack on the CJC offices to "take some people out", with Farber believed to be the primary target.[23]

Over the preceding years, Heritage Front had been infiltrated by, and become largely directed by, Grant Bristow, an undercover agent of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). In August 1994, a report by the Toronto Sun exposed CSIS domestic spying including Bristow's undercover role in Heritage Front, effectively putting an end to any plot.[24]


In 1992, Farber was awarded the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal.[1] The commemorative medal was awarded to 40,000 Canadians for their contributions to community and country.[25] Farber also received the Charles "Chuck" Zaionz Award for Jewish Communal Service in December 2012 as well as the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal.[26]