National Holocaust Memorial Act
Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of private member’s Bill C-442, which has been tabled by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, respecting the establishment of a national Holocaust monument in the national capital region. It is a bill in remembrance of Holocaust victims, in remembrance of survivors, in tribute to those who fought so that our values may endure and in order to ensure, as the preamble to the bill puts it, our collective resolve never to forget, so that never again will not just be a matter of rhetoric but a matter of resolve and commitment to act.
May I cite from the bill’s preamble which underpinned my support for the bill last year and the support of all parties at that time. I am pleased to see the support of all parties this evening. I quote, “to ensure that the Holocaust continues to have a permanent place in our nation’s consciousness and memory…to forever remind Canadians of one of the darkest chapters in human history” to which the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord spoke so eloquently earlier this evening, “ and of the dangers of state-sanctioned hatred and anti-Semitism…and to ensure that future generations learn about the root causes of the Holocaust and its consequences in order to help prevent future acts of genocide”.
This is how the preamble speaks and this framed my support last year. I regret that a series of amendments were subsequently proposed by the government which undermined the bill, its objects and application and which I would not have supported then and would not support now.
I am pleased, therefore, that the Speaker ruled on the point of order raised by my colleague, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, to the effect that these amendments were indeed out of order, that they were at variance with the objects, purposes and intended effects of the legislation which were indeed supported by all members and by their constituents. I had discussed the bill as it was originally framed with my constituents and that is that to which they tendered their support and which I now continue to support.
At this point I will turn to the bill itself. As I said last year, but this bears reaffirmation, there are things in Jewish history, in human history that are too terrible to be believed but they are not too terrible to have happened; that Oswiecim, Majdanek, Dachau, Treblinka, these are beyond vocabulary. Words may somehow somewhat ease the pain, but they do not dwarf the tragedy. For the Holocaust, as colleagues from all parties have put it in this debate this evening, was uniquely evil in its genocidal singularity, where biology was inescapably destiny, a war against the Jews in which as Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Laureate, Elie Wiesel, put it so well, “not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims”.
As it happens, we meet this evening at an important moment of remembrance and reminder, of witness and warning, a moment that is appropriate to the significance of establishing such a national Holocaust monument. We meet in the aftermath of the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg race laws which institutionalized anti-Semitism in law in Germany at the time. We meet in effect of the double entendre of Nuremberg, the Nuremberg of hate, the Nuremberg of jackboots, as well as the Nuremberg of judgments.
On the eve of its 62nd anniversary, the Genocide Convention, which sometimes is spoken of as the “never again convention”, has tragically been violated again and again. In the aftermath of the 70th anniversary of the second world war, in fact, it is sometimes forgotten there were two wars at the time. There was the Nazi war against the allies and there was the Nazi war against the Jews. The Nazi war against the Jews sometimes overtook the Nazi war against the allies where the Germans diverted necessary supplies from the Nazi war against the allies to the war against the Jews.
We meet in the aftermath, and reference has been made to this, of the 70th anniversary of the doomed voyage of the St. Louis known as the voyage of the damned, where those who sought to enter our country Canada and those who sought to enter the United States were turned away, so that those seeking a safe haven were forced back into the inferno that was engulfing Europe.
This came a year after the infamous Evian Conference when nations of the world met to ask themselves what to do about the plight of the Jewish refugees at the time, those still living and wishing to leave.
It ended up that the world was tragically divided into two parts, those countries from which the Jews could not leave or indeed could not live in and those they could not enter, which took us down the road to the Holocaust.
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The Deputy Speaker:
I wish to inform the hon. member that he will have four and a half minutes to conclude his remarks the next time the bill is before the House.
The time provided for the consideration of private members’ business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
It being 7:44 p.m. this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).