Bernie M. Farber (born 1951) is a writer, commentator, and the former chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress and a social activist. He has testified before the Canadian courts as an expert witness on hate crime. He was appointed CEO of the Mosaic Institute, a Canadian NGO that promotes pluralism, peace and conflict resolution internationally, in August 2015 and has announced his retirement, effective October 1, 2017, though he will remain on the NGO's advisory board. Farber was previously CEO of the Paloma Foundation, an NGO which works with homeless youth shelters until his appointment with the Mosaic Institute. He also writes on human and civil rights issues for the Huffington Post and NOW Magazine, as well as various newspapers across Canada, and is frequently interviewed on these topics by the media.
Early life and education
Farber was born in Ottawa, Ontario. 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."
Farber received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton University 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.
He graduated in 1975 and found a job with the Children's Aid Society (CAS) and the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa-Carleton. 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.
Canadian Jewish Congress
Farber was employed by the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) from 1984 until 2011. He was appointed chief executive officer in 2005  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. He also serves on the city of Vaughan, Ontario's Mayor's Task Force on Community Safety & Security. Farber is also an associate member of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
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, the National Post, the Toronto Star, and others. He has expressed his own or the CJC's views in newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. 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.
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.
Alleged Heritage Front plot
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. One member had allegedly planned an attack on the CJC offices to "take some people out", with Farber believed to be the primary target.
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.
Farber, who is not gay, was mocked by columnist Antonia Zerbisias in 2009 for wearing a "Nobody knows I'm gay" T-shirt (sold as a fundraiser by a Jewish LGBTQ group) while marching in Toronto's Pride parade as a protest against the inclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in the march. The Canadian Jewish Congress filed a complaint with the Toronto Star against Zerbisias "outing" Farber. The newspaper's public editor ruled that Zerbisias' comments "fell short of the Star's standards of fairness, accuracy and civility," but subsequently modified her assessment and criticized Farber and the CJC since, in their complaint, they did not "think to tell me that [Farber], along with dozens of others who marched with the Kulanu group, had worn a T-shirt that made its own ironic quip. That's context I sure wish I had known" and conceded that Zerbisias' comment "was intended as sarcastic irony, stock in trade for this columnist and blogger."
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. Farber received 40% support but lost to Progressive Conservative Peter Shurman by 2,500 votes.
|Ontario general election, 2011|
|Progressive Conservative||Peter Shurman||20,971||46.71||+0.81|
|New Democratic||Cindy Hackelberg||4,024||8.96||+3.46|
|Total valid votes||44,896||100.00|
|Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots||239||0.53|
|Progressive Conservative hold||Swing||+1.10|
|Source: Elections Ontario|
Gemini Power Corporation
From 2012 to 2015, Farber was the Senior Vice President for Gemini Power Corporation, working in partnership with First Nations to help develop sustainable business economies.
In 1992, Farber was awarded the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal. The commemorative medal was awarded to 40,000 Canadians for their contributions to community and country. Farber also received the Charles "Chuck" Zaionz Award for Jewish Communal Service in December 2012 as well as the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal.
- "Canadian Who's Who, 1997 Edition".[permanent dead link]
- The Internet and Hate Promotion: The 21st-Century Dilemma Archived October 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- Score one against hate
- Farber Huffington Post Page
- Alumni profile: Fighting racism Archived 2006-10-13 at the Wayback Machine. by Alex Wooley, Carleton University Magazine, Winter 2004
- Puppets hold message of Jewish heritage
- CAS worker sees danger in closures, Ottawa Citizen
- CJC names new officers[dead link]
- Report of the Hate Crimes Community Working Group Archived 2012-04-29 at the Wayback Machine.
- Mayor’s Task Force on Community Safety & Security Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine.
- Putting books in the right hands
- Bernie M. Farber: Auschwitz — 65 years later[permanent dead link]
- Age should not be a shield against justice
- Canada Imports Troubles With Refugees
- Canada Called Haven for Nazi Criminals
- From Marches to Modems: A Report on Organized Hate in Metropolitan Toronto Archived 2010-03-07 at the Wayback Machine.
- Standing up to racism A new educational video, Toronto Star
- Canadian Jewish Congress questions Pope Pius XII’s move toward sainthood[permanent dead link]
- Singer, David (1996). American Jewish Year Book 1996. American Jewish Committee. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-87495-110-3.
- Racist group had 'hit list' of Metro Jews, Toronto Star
- Canada Neo-Nazis Plotted to Kill Jews, Forward
- Canada's Security Agency Accused of Spying on Canadians, New York Times
- "T-shirts and sexual orientation". The Star. Toronto. July 18, 2009.
- "I’d like to reply to that Editor’s Note", Mark Steyn, Macleans Magazine, May 6, 2010
- English, Kathy (11 July 2009). "'Gay' blog post was just not fair". Toronto Star.
- "Old principles and new media". Toronto Star. July 18, 2009. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
- Congress CEO takes leave after 27 years "Canadian Jewish News"
- "Official return from the records / Rapport des registres officiels - Thornhill" (PDF). Elections Ontario. 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2014.[permanent dead link]
- Medals to honor 40,000 Canadians, Toronto Star
- Former Congress CEO honoured by Community