Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument.
The Holocaust was one of the worst crimes of the 20th century. The Bloc Québécois therefore supports the bill to commemorate both the survivors and the victims. We believe that we must commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, but we also believe that we must continue the fight against anti-Semitism and all other forms of hate speech and discrimination. We have done so in the past, and we intend to continue that fight.
Anti-Semitism and all other forms of hate speech are contrary to the values of Quebec and Canada. They must be denounced publicly, without hesitation.
The Bloc Québécois has always acted to secure social peace and a public space without hatred, discrimination or violence. That fight is crucial for any society that claims to be democratic.
The purpose of the bill is to create a national monument in Ottawa to honour the victims and Canadian survivors of the Holocaust. To that end, Bill C-442 creates the National Holocaust Monument Development Council, whose five members will be selected by the federal government from a list of volunteer candidates. Candidates will have to show that they have a strong interest in and familiarity with the Holocaust. The council members will not be entitled to any remuneration.
The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, who is responsible for the National Capital Act, and the monument development council would supervise the monument’s design and planning. They would also select an appropriate parcel of public land in Canada’s national capital region, where the monument would be erected.
While the minister is tasked with designating the public land, the council would be responsible for a fundraising campaign to pay for the monument’s construction. It must be completed within three years of Bill C-442 receiving royal assent.
When we think of the Holocaust, the first images that come to mind are images of horror. All of us have seen pictures of the concentration camps that shocked the entire world.
In the wake of the political and economic crisis that hit Germany after World War I, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party singled out the Jews and blamed them for all Germany’s troubles. They became scapegoats and the worst lies were fabricated about them.
It is estimated that about three quarters of Europe’s Jews were massacred by the Nazis, representing approximately 40% of the world’s Jewish diaspora. Six million Jews died under the Nazi regime.
This mass murder was implemented by the Hitler regime, as well as by a number of bureaucrats of the Third Reich and many collaborators, both individuals and states. In addition to Jews, the Nazis also massacred gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people and Slavs from Poland or Soviet countries.
After the war, faced with the horror of the crime that had been committed by Germany, governments the world over agreed to incorporate into international law the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. These crimes have no equivalent in terms of their gravity.
The purpose of Bill C-442 is to establish a monument to serve as a reminder of this crime.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of establishing a monument to commemorate the Holocaust. Such a monument would serve as a constant reminder of the violence inherent in intolerance.
In order to preserve a public space of freedom and democracy, we have to fight against intolerance here at home. We cannot remain silent before words or actions that are anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist or racist and that aim at discriminating against fellow citizens.
We cannot help but be concerned when people are targeted and become victims of discrimination because of their religion, and more generally, their ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation or language.
Canada is not immune. According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s police forces have indicated that 785 crimes in 2007 were hate crimes. That was a decline over 2006 when 892 such offences were reported. Of those crimes committed in 2007, 185 were religious hate crimes. Again, that was a decline over the 220 cases reported in 2006.
This data shows a slight decrease in the number of hate crimes, which is good news. Nonetheless, the fact remains that such acts still take place, even though they are unacceptable in democratic societies like Quebec and Canada.
One religious hate crime is one too many. There must be zero tolerance. We must work on putting an end to such crimes. We cannot remain silent, on the sidelines or attempt to downplay the situation.
We must oppose anti-Semitism and racism. Anti-Semitism stems from profound ignorance. Thus, education is the most effective way to oppose it.
We believe that we must raise awareness and foster dialogue to build a Quebec that is even more inclusive and respectful of all its citizens. Priority must be given to education and prevention in order to eradicate beliefs and activities based on hatred.
Funds from anti-racism programs must be first allocated to groups that are victims of racism and hate crimes. All too often, acts of hatred target children in schools. These children very regrettably learn about violence or hatred motivated by race or religion.
In an effort to effectively combat anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism, the Bloc Québécois member for Châteauguay-Saint-Constant presented a concrete proposal in April 2008: she introduced Bill C-384, which was passed at second reading. This bill amended the Criminal Code and created a new offence to prohibit hate-motivated acts of mischief that target specific identifiable groups at institutions such as schools, daycare centres, colleges, universities, community centres, playgrounds, skating rinks and sports centres or any administrative, social, cultural, educational or sports establishment used exclusively or mainly by such groups.
The creation of this offence sends a clear message and reaffirms that society does not tolerate acts of violence against places attended or used by identifiable groups.
This bill-now law-sends the message that violence motivated by hate of a group or community is not tolerated. The specific offence allows us to denounce not only the material damage to a building, for example, but also, and above all, the fact that hatred of an identifiable group, which is the cause of the act, is morally wrong.
Such crimes fly in the face of the values of Quebeckers and the society we wish to create for ourselves. These crimes only increase tensions between members of our society. That is why we must do everything we can, still in line with our own values, in order to prevent such acts from ever happening again.
The bill introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for Châteauguay-Saint-Constant, is already receiving support from minority groups in Quebec and Canada. For instance, the Canadian Jewish Congress sees this bill as an appropriate response to the concerns of the Jewish community.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes the importance of the fight against discrimination and hate crimes. Such acts go completely against the core values that drive Quebec and our party, which always represents the interests of Quebeckers here in the House.
The Bloc Québécois has always opposed anti-Semitism and all other hate crimes, which fly in the face of the values of the Quebec nation.
What kind of shared values are we talking about? It is becoming increasingly necessary to remind people of the shared values on which the Quebec identity is based. The most important values, those that form the foundation of our nation, would, we think, include the following: gender equality-and it is no accident that that is at the top of the list; French as the official language and common public language; democracy; basic human rights; secularism; pluralism; and so on.
In closing, all citizens of Quebec have the same rights. Quebec citizenship is inclusive and unifying. It transcends differences by promoting a collective identity that focuses on civic identity.
In that regard, the monument in question, to be built outside of Quebec, in no way contradicts the values of Quebeckers, and the Bloc Québécois will be pleased to vote in favour of this bill.
To view the complete debate in the House of Commons click here