Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
National Holocaust Monument Act
     The House resumed from October 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument, be read the third time and passed.
    [Table of Contents]
Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP):  
    Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak about Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument.
    The idea proposed by our Conservative Party colleague is timely. With anti-Semitic incidents tragically on the rise around the world, I believe that it is necessary to understand the reality of the worst example in world history of where religious hatred can lead. Canada already has the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Montreal and the Holocaust Education Centre in Vancouver. This bill proposes that a Holocaust monument be built in the nation’s capital. I believe this to be the best way to mark the significance of this event in human history.
    Anne Frank’s house is in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. There is a commemorative centre in Budapest, Hungary. There is a Holocaust centre in Cape Town, the capital of South Africa. There is a historical institute that focuses on the Holocaust in London and a memorial in Hyde Park. Vienna, Austria, has the Judenplatz Memorial. Paris has the Mémorial des martyrs de la déportation. There are commemorative monuments in Berlin, Stockholm, Washington and Buenos Aires too. In short, many countries have recognized the importance of commemorating, of recognizing this major event in world history that influenced them. This is a way of recognizing that the Holocaust was the greatest tragedy inflicted on a group of people in human history.
    Bill C-442’s whereases are simple and eloquent, especially the first one, which states that, “there is no public monument to honour all of the victims and Canadian survivors of the Holocaust in the National Capital Region”. I just mentioned that there is a monument in Vancouver and another in Montreal, but none here in the capital.
    This is also a way to recognize the survivors—there are still some in Canada—their children and, most importantly and most relevant today, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and to show how important we feel this is. The children and grandchildren of anyone who was in the same situation as Anne Frank will know that Canada recognizes the importance of this event.
    The whereases sketch a brief history of the Holocaust and its importance to our society. The bill proposes building a monument to commemorate that. The proposed approach is relatively simple. It calls for the creation of a volunteer committee; nobody would be paid. It also calls for the monument to be built within three years. A committee would be responsible for deciding how to build the monument and what it should look like. The space would be provided by the federal government and the monument paid for by public donations.
    There are other countries that, like us, in certain other cities, have their own way of acknowledging the horrors of the Holocaust. In Germany, near Munich, we can still see and touch the reality of the Holocaust by visiting Dachau, one of the concentration camps in the interior of the country. There are a number of other camps in Poland. In France, there is the Oradour-sur-Glane memorial. People who know history know that, in terms of barbaric treatment, the Holocaust was one of the worst examples of everything that happened during World War II.
   (1750)  
    The very act of planning this monument, building it, having it in our capital makes it significant. The idea is so simple that we have to ask why no one thought of it before? It is never too late to do something good.
    Bill C-442 simply proposes a good thing and we support it.
[English]
    [Table of Contents]
Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):  
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased and honoured today to address Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument. I do appreciate the opportunity to be here and I appreciate the mover. We have been working on this bill for some time.
    The government sought to provide greater transparency and accountability in the establishment of the national holocaust monument by proposing a number of amendments at committee stage. The amendments proposed were also intended to ensure consistency in the roles, responsibilities and policies of the minister responsible for the National Capital Commission, NCC, and the commission itself. I would consider these very important principles, indeed, for any piece of legislation.
    For example, in this particular case, the government presented a motion that would have provided for the minister to direct the council to form a legal entity, which seems to be very obvious on the face of it. This proposed amendment is consistent with the requirement contained in Bill C-442 for the council to adopt bylaws, which of course are a corporate function, which itself suggests the value of a legal framework.
    The intent of this provision was to ensure that the council is properly structured to strengthen its corporate governance and accountability, which of course is the hallmark and pillar-stone of this Conservative government.
    The government also presented a motion providing that the council would oversee the establishment of the monument in consultation with the National Capital Commission with regard to where this particular monument was going to be placed.
    While this motion is not reflected in the present version of the bill, the government anticipates that the commission will be involved in fulfilling the objective of this bill. The NCC, of course, is a federal crown corporation that facilitates and assists in the design and placement of commemorations on federal lands in the national capital region, of which there are many.
    The responsibility actually flows from the National Capital Act, which obligates the NCC, the National Capital Commission, to approve all development projects on federal lands in the region.
    While the NCC acts as a facilitator in the realization of monuments, proponents are responsible for raising funds that cover not only the cost of the design itself but the construction and installation, and also the ongoing maintenance and preservation of the monument for future generations.
    Over the years the commission has overseen the installation of a number of monuments in the national capital region, as I mentioned, with strong participation by individuals and associations that have supported these initiatives in the past, as well as this particular initiative. We have no doubt there will be many.
    As amended by the standing committee and further modified to reflect the Speaker’s ruling, Bill C-442 proposes that the minister responsible for the National Capital Act would oversee the planning and the design of the monument in co-operation with a newly created council. The minister would be responsible for the construction of the monument in the national capital region and, of course, for the ongoing maintenance of the monument.
    Further, the national holocaust monument development council would be created through Bill C-442. The council would spearhead a fundraising campaign for the cost of constructing the monument.
    I must acknowledge that councils with dedicated mandates are not usually created in federal statutes; however, there is nothing objectionable to the government or, for that matter, common law to this proposal in principle.
    Although not specified in the present version of this bill, the government would expect that the funds raised by the council would sufficiently cover not only the construction costs of the monument itself but also the costs of planning, design, installation and maintenance of the monument.
    With the level of interest displayed by various organizations and individuals in Canada, I am confident that this initiative will generate adequate financial resources, in fact, I would suggest more than adequate financial resources, that can be applied in all aspects of the realization of the monument and its long-term preservation, which is so important to future generations of Canadians.
   (1755)  
    The bill also requires the council to submit an annual report on its activities to the minister and to the appropriate committee of the House. This provision will help to ensure that Canadians are informed of the measures taken in realization of this monument, which would be their expectation.
    The bill further provides that once the monument has been installed, it must be legally transferred to the NCC. With this clause, Canadians will be certainly afforded a permanent public symbol that honours the victims and the survivors of the Holocaust.
    I would like to once again underscore the importance of the bill to the government and to the people of Canada, and I have heard clearly this message. The Holocaust resulted in the unimaginable genocide of approximately six million European Jews. This was just during the second world war. Given the magnitude of these atrocities, it is absolutely crucial that we pay tribute to this crime, its victims and their families, no matter where they are.
    This historic initiative is indeed one which the government holds in high esteem as we remember and remind ourselves that such atrocities should never happen again and that we should never forget.
    [Table of Contents]
Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):  
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to third reading of Bill C-442, an act to establish a national Holocaust monument. I am very pleased to speak to the bill because approximately two years ago I introduced the same bill myself. It is a very important bill.
    Part of the bill’s preamble reads:
    Whereas the establishment of a national monument shall forever remind Canadians of one of the darkest chapters in human history and of the dangers of state-sanctioned hatred and anti-Semitism;
    And whereas a national monument shall act as a tool to help future generations learn about the root causes of the Holocaust and its consequences in order to help prevent future acts of genocide;
    As I said at the outset, this is not a new bill. In fact, during the last hour of debate on Bill C-442, the member for Abbotsford said:
    This is a long overdue bill. It was introduced by my Conservative colleague, the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, and I strongly support this new initiative to recognize the Holocaust.
    I want to reiterate that Bill C-442 is almost identical to a bill first introduced by my former colleague, the member for Thornhill, Susan Kadis. That bill, known as Bill C-547 died when the last election was called. Therefore, I reintroduced it as Bill C-238 on December 1, 2008.
    I was also concerned to see the sponsor of the bill, the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, use his last opportunity to speak to the bill to argue why the Conservatives deserved credit for their actions. This is not an issue of who supports a community more than others or who likes monuments better than others. This is an important non-partisan issue that all members of the House should support and should be supported by all Canadians.
    This is about how a country acknowledges the history of a genocide that had a profound impact on many of its citizens and of people in all corners of the world. This is a bill that, in creating a monument, remembers not only the victims of the Holocaust but its survivors. It is a bill to honour those who fought on our behalf. It is a bill to ensure that future generations do not forget.
    My colleagues and I in the Liberal Party are fully supportive of a bill to establish a national Holocaust monument in the national capital region that is built on public land with a plan, design, construction and ongoing maintenance funded by the Government of Canada. This intention is at the core of my bill, Bill C-238, and was at the core of Bill C-442 when it received the unanimous consent of the House at second reading.
    In committee members opposite, despite the unanimous support for the principle of public funding, amended the bill to take away the concept of public lands and funding for the development and maintenance of the monument. I was listening to part of the speech by the member opposite and I am not sure if he was speaking to the amended bill or the bill as it is today.
    Amendments were put forward by members opposite for every clause of the bill, which gutted the spirit of it. It was a bill with amendments that, on one hand, giveth and, on the other hand, taketh away. Fortunately, my colleague, the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, challenged the amendments and the Speaker subsequently ruled that they were out of order and ordered that the original version of the bill, which is what we are debating today, be presented.
   (1800)  
    I want to reiterate that it is a publicly funded bill on public land, design and construction, given in memory of those who survived and those who were victims of the Holocaust and honoured by all Canadians.
    Ultimately, some might suggest we did not even need a bill, that the government might have gone ahead and done this itself, with the minister instructing the National Capital Commission to erect the monument with existing funds.
    I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz, Dachau and Majdanek this past year. It was a profound experience. It reiterated to me the importance of monuments, symbols, obviously of a very different nature there. It reiterated the importance to me of having a tangible remembrance of what took place. The enormity of the tragedy is difficult to comprehend. The Holocaust was quite singular why biology determines the fate of individuals.
    It is important that all parties support the bill, that it receive unanimous approval. It will be a national monument that as the preamble says “shall forever remind Canadians of one of the darkest chapters in human history and of the dangers of state-sanctioned hatred and anti-Semitism”.
   (1805)  
    [Table of Contents]
Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP):  
    Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument. I think all parties in the House were very interested to see this bill move forward, in different ways of course. Through the debate that took place in committee, we have now come up with the final version of this bill.
    This bill is very important because it speaks to the need for a public monument to honour the victims and survivors of the immense tragedy of the Holocaust that came out of the second world war. It speaks to the conclusion of the second world war; to the role Canada played in the victory over the Axis to ensure that the Holocaust came to an end and that it would not occur again in that area of the world; to the tremendous blotch on human history; and to those very unfortunate people who, with their whole race, did not in any way deserve this.
    We now have a bill that will put forward a monument, but one might ask why we had some degree of debate in committee about it.
     I think the government recognized the importance of this, but as with recognizing the importance, there is also the understanding that responsibility goes with setting up a monument. I felt that the government worked very hard to take away the public responsibility to create the monument. However, certainly within committee, we worked very hard to keep the Government of Canada’s role in developing, designing and commissioning this monument as an important role. We can see this in the bill as it stands now, “The minister, in cooperation with the Council”, which he will establish, “shall oversee the planning and designing of the Monument….”.
    The minister will ultimately be responsible for the design and planning of the monument. The minister will work with a council that he will select from very worthy citizens, I am sure, who will come forward to serve on this council.
     The minister, in the end, will be responsible for ensuring that the design and planning of this monument are appropriate for Canada and for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. That is something that still remains in the bill, but it was something that was the subject of much debate in committee.
     I think the bill stands well as it is and will give a monument over time that the public can take pride in. It will be Canada’s monument to the Holocaust and to the survivors. I think that is a very important distinction that we have to keep within this bill.
    The terms of the bill are such now that I am very confident that the council that will be constructed to do the fundraising will be successful so that the bill will move forward. The minister can ensure that as well. He has the capacity to increase the funding to make sure this project moves ahead in good fashion. Also, the minister is ultimately responsible to ensure that sufficient funds are available through the council before the monument is commissioned.
   (1810)  
    Therefore the responsibility will lie with the minister to make this happen. I think that is something that is a very important difference from what the government wanted to do with its amendments. The end result of this is very much in speaking to the principles that the originator of the bill put forward.
    I want to thank that member for his work in doing that. His presentation at committee was excellent and was part of how the committee came to grips with making this happen.
    My father was a veteran of the second world war. He was in the European theatre for five years, engaged in supporting the bomber groups that ultimately were the ones that pounded the aggressor into the ground, we might say. The burden of doing that, which the Canadian army and air force had to take on to end the terrible conflict in Europe, is a burden that all those people carried throughout the rest of their lives.
    I think of the construction of this holocaust monument and the importance it has to the Canadian public and to all those brave Canadians who took on that burden, and with that burden perhaps to many of them came the knowledge that out of this they wanted peace, they wanted a settlement of war, they wanted to stop that kind of conflict and to put an end to that kind of human behaviour in this world.
    To me, this is a very appropriate time to construct a monument to this immense tragedy of humankind and to cast a light on the hope that can come from the end of this type of conflict, the hope that can come for all mankind.
    [Table of Contents]
Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP):  
    Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Bill C-442. I am very happy with the resolution of the bill thus far, although there have been some hiccups along the way. The last time I heard debate in this House on this particular bill, it was quite acrimonious, as I recall, but things seem to have calmed down.
    At the outset, I want to give thanks to the Conservative MP for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. He is the sponsor of the bill and, having done this before, I know there is an awful lot of work involved in getting a bill like this together. I recognize that the original impetus for this started elsewhere, but he carried the ball and took it this far, through what we saw during the last go-round here. It is surprising that we are all still standing after the battles involving this bill.
    In the beginning, we have Ms. Laura Grossman from Toronto, I believe, but who is a student here in Ottawa. She is actually the originator of the idea. She evidently went to her member of Parliament, who was in the cabinet of the government two or three years ago, and got him onside, and then of course he got the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park onside, because he was unable to introduce private members’ bills.
    There is a great amount of thanks and gratitude owed to Ms. Grossman, because she is a younger person and is going to carry on the fights long after we are gone. She is a full-time student at the University of Ottawa, a fourth year honours student in public administration with a minor in Jewish studies, and she has been working on this idea now for at least two years, maybe three years now. Congratulations to her for at least recognizing something that no one else did. This memorial probably should have been built many years ago, and it took a young person to recognize the need, to think it through and to push the idea through her member of Parliament and on to another member of Parliament. We should all wish that more young people would be inspired to take on projects like that and drive ideas like that forward.
    It has been mentioned by others here that Canada is the only allied nation without a Holocaust monument in its national capital, which also came as a bit of a surprise to me. The former member for Winnipeg North, in her speech to this bill on December 8, 2009, which goes to show how long we have been debating this bill, gave us a list of other memorials that exist around the world. She had indicated that there is a Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. There is the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. I think we have all heard of Anne Frank. We certainly studied Anne Frank when we were in public school. There is the Auschwitz Jewish Centre in Poland, the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service, the Beth Shalom Holocaust centre in England, the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest, the Cape Town Holocaust Centre in South Africa, the Dallas Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance, the Forest of the Martyrs in Jerusalem, the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum in Israel and the Holocaust project in Detroit. There are many other monuments to the Holocaust.
    The is not a lengthy bill but there are some interesting provisions, and I think there was some confusion out there about the provisions of the bill. I had the privilege and pleasure of travelling to Israel. I am due for another visit, because it was in December of 1986, 24 years ago now. It was a very inspiring visit that I made there. I was there only a week.
   (1815)  
    I was amazed to see the progress made by Israel in turning deserts into productive lands and cultivating crops in the middle of the desert.
    We had the privilege of visiting a kibbutz. We went to the Ein Gedi Spa, where I had my first sulphur and mud baths. I would recommend those to anybody who goes to Israel. Visiting Israel was a very inspiring experience, albeit 24 years ago.
    With respect to the provisions Bill C-442, we are dealing now with the amended version. The bill is an act to establish a national holocaust monument. The preamble reads:
    Whereas there is no public monument to honour all of the victims and Canadian survivors of the Holocaust in the National Capital Region;
    Whereas Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe led to the murder of six million men, women and children;
     Whereas the Nazis sought to eliminate vulnerable groups such as disabled persons, the Roma and homosexuals in their bid to establish the hegemony of the Aryan race;
     Whereas it is important to ensure that the Holocaust continues to have a permanent place in our nation’s consciousness and memory;
    Whereas we have an obligation to honour the memory of Holocaust victims as part of our collective resolve to never forget;
    I might remind members that the number of victims is diminishing every year as they age. It continues:
     Whereas the establishment of a national monument shall forever remind Canadians of one of the darkest chapters in human history and of the dangers of state-sanctioned hatred and anti-Semitism;
     And whereas a national monument shall act as a tool to help future generations learn about the root causes of the Holocaust and its consequences in order to help prevent future acts of genocide;
    The bill then goes on to describe how the monument would be structured and how it would be set up. What was contemplated by the member who sponsored the bill was that we were to set up a development council established by the minister under clause 4 and directed as such by the minister to form a legal entity in order to properly manage the functions and ensure good governance and accountability of said council.
    The idea is to involve people in the community, not only in the organization by forming the committee, but also to do fundraising, as I understand it, to help build the monument. Within one year after the coming into force of the act, the minister is to establish a council to be referred to as the national Holocaust monument development council, composed of not more than five members. The minister is to hold an open application process whereby members of the public who possess a strong interest in, connection to or familiarity with the Holocaust must apply to the minister to become a council member.
    In reading these provisions, all of this sounds very reasonable. How could anybody have any fight with these provisions? Yet we have seen that happen.
    The members of the council are not allowed to be paid any remuneration for acting as council members. The minister is also supposed to:
(a) oversee the planning and design of the Monument;
(b) choose a suitable area of public land in the National Capital Region for the Monument to be located; and
(c) hold public consultations and take into account the recommendations of the public when making any decision under paragraph (a) or (b).
    That, too, is an absolutely reasonable requirement.
    The minister shall be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the monument and the council shall spearhead a fundraising campaign to support the costs, planning, designing, constructing, installing and maintaining the monument and any other costs incurred by the council.
    I have a question about that. There seems to be a conflict here because it said that the council should be spearheading the fundraising campaign, but then, further on, it indicates that the minister has the option. There is nothing to prevent the minister from contributing funds for the costs of exactly the same things, planning—
   (1820)  
    [Table of Contents]
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    Order, please. I must interrupt the hon. member. His time has run out.
    For his right reply, the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.
    [Table of Contents]
Mr. Tim Uppal (Edmonton—Sherwood Park, CPC):  
    Madam Speaker, I thank hon. members from all parties for their support for the bill and for underlying the importance and need for a Holocaust monument in the nation’s capital. I specifically thank the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca for his work in the transportation committee. I also thank the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for his guidance and his support on the bill. As I mentioned before, he brought the idea to me.
    I also thank Laura Grosman for her work and dedication to the bill. She has been working on the bill for a long time with some different formations from different members. When she and the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs came to me, we sat down and discussed the bill and truly appealed to me. I felt that it was something the nation’s capital needed. I again thank Laura for her dedication to the bill. I also thank a number of organizations that came forward to give their guidance and support, the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’nai Brith and a number of other organizations that supported us in getting the bill to this point.
    This public monument would honour all victims of the Holocaust and the Canadian survivors, survivors like Anna Heilman who I had the opportunity to sit down and speak to about the proposed monument and the importance that she placed on this and how important it would be for us to pass the bill and have such a monument in the nation’s capital.
    It would honour the Canadian soldiers who fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice because of the atrocities that were taking place.
    When I went to Israel last year, I learned more about the Holocaust and the effect that it had on the Jewish people and on all those who were affected, and it made me feel stronger about this initiative and the importance of Parliament passing a bill for a monument in the nation’s capital.
    This monument would be a testament to the Canadian commitment and resolve to never forget and to always stand up for justice, human rights and equality for all.
    Once again, I thank all the members who have spoken to the bill and who have supported it. I would be grateful and hope that we can pass the bill tonight.
   (1825)  
    [Table of Contents]
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    The time provided for debate has expired. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
     (Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed.)