National Holocaust Memorial Act (Q&A)
Mr. Tim Uppal
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak this evening to Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument.
The horrific events of the Holocaust are a stark testament to what can happen when humanity and fundamental basic rights are discarded. This monument will serve as a symbol of Canadian value and diversity as much as it will be a memorial for the millions of victims and families destroyed. This monument will be a testament to the Canadian commitment and resolve never to forget, and always to stand up against such atrocities.
In addition to supporting the establishment of a national Holocaust monument in the nation’s capital as proposed in Bill C-442, the government also undertakes other efforts to ensure that Canadians remember the Holocaust. These initiatives are very important, especially in light of new forces of anti-Semitism.
The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah in Hebrew, resulted in the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during the second world war. With 40,000 Holocaust survivors settling in Canada after the war, our country has the third-largest population of these survivors in the world.
Our country’s Prime Minister, when he visited the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in the spring of 2008, commented that, on the one hand, he was deeply moved by the suffering of the innocents who died, but that, on the other hand, he felt hope from the spirit and strength of the Jewish people.
Worldwide, there has been an increase in the number of major violent manifestations that are anti-Semitic in nature. This increase is linked to Holocaust denial and questioning the legitimacy of Israel. Similar events are being reported here in Canada, and there currently appears to be less understanding of other cultures and religions.
The government does not tolerate public expressions of anti-Semitism. In support of this sentiment, we have created a fund that provides security-support grants for synagogues, Jewish schools, and other communities that have faced hatred or violence.
I would like to explain some of the actions that our federal government has recently taken to remember the Holocaust and thereby to underscore the importance of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Holocaust Memorial Day, which is also called Yom HaShoah, is determined each year by the Jewish lunar calendar. The Parliament of Canada has formally recognized this annual event through the Holocaust Memorial Day Act, which was adopted with the support of all parties. This Act, which came into force on November 7, 2003, reaffirms our country’s commitment to human rights and provides an occasion to focus on the lessons of the Holocaust. I should mention that all provinces and territories also have acts that recognize the Holocaust Memorial Day.
In 2005, Canada co-sponsored a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly, which led to the designation of January 27 as the International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust. This date is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. Shortly, we will join in the sixth annual international commemoration of the Holocaust.
In 2009, the Government of Canada became the 27th member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. This organization was established in 1998 and is mandated to promote national and international policies and programs in support of furthering understanding of the Holocaust.
One of the requirements for becoming a member of this task force is to complete a project with liaison partners. To fulfill this requirement, Canada co-hosted a conference with B’nai Brith Canada that was held in Toronto this past June. With 200 attendees, including representatives from other countries, this two-day conference focused on Canada’s restrictive immigration policy during the second world war, which led to the exclusion of refugees seeking sanctuary.
In February 2009, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, along with 11 other members of the Parliament of Canada, attended the inaugural conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism in London, United Kingdom. This conference was also attended by parliamentarians from 40 countries.
Following this event was the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism, which calls on governments and societies to affirm democratic and human values, promote respect and citizenship, and combat any manifestations of anti-Semitism and discrimination.
The Government of Canada is proud to have provided financial support to the Parliamentary Centre, which, along with the Inter-parliamentary Commission on Combating Anti-Semitism, will be hosting the follow-up conference here in Canada, November 7-9 this year.
In the summer of 2009, Canada was a signatory to the Terezin Declaration, which emerged from the Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference held in the Czech Republic. This declaration speaks to the need to take care of elderly Holocaust survivors to ensure that their last years are filled with dignity, and imposes a moral obligation to pursue the restitution of property and to attend to the needs of survivors.
The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was commended for his leadership efforts, and the Government of Canada was recognized for its commitment to Holocaust commemoration and education. As follow-up to this conference, Canada was among the 43 countries that signed the new restitution guidelines in June 2010 to deal with some outstanding issues related to property confiscated by the Nazis.
The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has also been taking concrete steps that further the recollection of the Holocaust on our own soil. In May 2009, the minister established a Jewish-Canadian advisory committee for historical recognition projects to review projects such as monuments, plaques, and exhibits for the Jewish-Canadian community. That same month, Citizenship and Immigration announced that it would contribute a total of $2.5 million to the Jewish-Canadian community for projects such as monuments, commemorative plaques, and education materials.
To date, of this total amount, $1 million has been contributed to assist in the operation of the National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Education, which brings together Canadian experts on the subject to learn from each other and improve co-ordination.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has also contributed $485,000 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the MS St. Louis incident. This will include a memorial, which will be installed at Pier 21 in the Halifax harbour. Renowned architect Daniel Libeskind has been selected by the Canadian Jewish Congress to design the monument. When describing his proposed design, Libeskind stated, “This work of memory will express the importance of eradicating the evils of hatred, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism”.
I should pause at this moment to recount the relatively unknown story of the ship known as the MS St. Louis. On the eve of World War II, this German ocean liner transported 900 Jewish passengers from Germany who were denied entry into Cuba, the U.S.A., and Canada. These individuals were eventually accepted by various European countries and subsequently over 250 lost their lives.
The Canadian Museum of Human Rights will also promote the remembrance of the Holocaust. The museum will include exhibits on the Holocaust, since it serves as an invaluable tool to teach people the extreme consequences of racism and the responsibility of everyone to promote societies based on respect, equality, and understanding.
I would like to turn my attention to Bill C-442. This bill is favoured by various stakeholder associations such as the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’nai Brith Canada, and others. Therefore, I would expect these associations to be extremely interested in participating in the work carried out to achieve the objective of this bill, possibly by providing advice to the national Holocaust monument development council proposed in the bill.
If Bill C-442 were to become law, which I certainly hope will occur, Canada would be one of several countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, and the United States, that have memorials or monuments to recognize the Holocaust.
It is also important to recognize the support of all parties for this bill. We as members of Parliament, through our support for a national holocaust monument, are taking a stand against hatred of the worst kind and saying to future generations, never again.
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Hon. Joseph Volpe (Eglinton—Lawrence, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious subject and I am glad the member finally turned his attention to Bill C-442. He spent the first part of his 15 minutes talking about initiatives of the country and of the government associated with the Jewish community. I might remind him that it is not the intention of the legislation for him to glory in rewriting history about Liberal initiatives with which he had the opportunity to cut a ribbon to commemorate.
I want to ask him how he feels today, seeing Bill C-442 restored by a decision of the Speaker and by an appeal on a point of order by myself. Did he support the bill in its original form or did he listen to the Prime Minister tell him to change it because he would not put any public moneys, nor public lands to the erection of a monument that he now thinks, or says, or claims is an initiative of his?
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Mr. Tim Uppal:
Mr. Speaker, it is quite unfortunate that with a bill such as this, an act to establish an national holocaust monument, we cannot put partisan party lines aside and look at the bill for what it is intended to do.
Great organizations like B’nai B’rith have said that not only did Canada fight as one of the allied forces in the second world war, but it has also become home to many survivors of the holocaust. As a victor in this terrible war and as a haven for its victims, it is only fitting that a marker remembering the millions of Jews and other victims of the Nazis be erected on Canadian soil.
We are talking about a national holocaust monument for Canadians to remember. Let us put the politics aside.
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Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I want to comment because I was in fact the sponsor of this exact same bill. I introduced Bill C-238 on December 1, 2008.
The bill has now been restored to its original form, a bill which the government will undertake to sponsor, to support, to build in co-operation with communities.
As my colleague said, I do not think any of us needed a litany or a listing of all that has been done for the Jewish community. As a member of that community I follow it closely and I watch carefully.
However, I, too, want to follow up with the member, and it is not a question of politics. I do not understand why he agreed to have his original bill amended in committee the way it was, stripped of its original intention. It really has done a disservice to those of us who are in the House and who want to honour the Jewish community and those who survived and perished in the holocaust.
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Mr. Tim Uppal:
Mr. Speaker, I agreed to some administrative changes to the bill. Some of those changes were brought forward in committee. Some were included in the bill and others did not make it into the bill.
Parliament needs to focus on the bill itself, which reminds Canadians of the horrors of the holocaust. I also believe it is a beacon of light to all Canadians and even new Canadians, people who come to Canada. They will see the tolerance we have for other people across Canada, the belief and our respect for fellow human beings. I believe this monument will be a beacon of light for that.