Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of the member for Edmonton-Sherwood Park and in support of his private member’s bill respecting the establishment of a national Holocaust monument in the national capital region. In remembrance of Holocaust victims, in recognition of survivors, in tribute to those who fought so that we may live and that our values may endure, and in order to ensure, as the preamble to the act puts it, our collective resolve never to forget, so that never again will not only be a matter of rhetoric but will be a matter of resolve and commitment to act.
I am now citing from the preamble: 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 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.
Such is how the preamble speaks and this frames my support. I must say that whenever I speak on the subject-matter related to the Holocaust, I do so with a certain degree of humility and not without a deep sense of pain, for I have neither the wisdom of the Holocaust scholar nor the horrifying experience of the Holocaust survivor.
But I am reminded of what my parents taught me while I was still a young man, the profundity and pain of which I only realized years later, that there are things in Jewish history, in human history, that are too terrible to be believed but are not too terrible to have happened.
Oswiecim, Majdanek, Dachau, Treblinka, these are beyond vocabulary. Words may ease the pain, but they also can dwarf the tragedy. For the Holocaust was uniquely evil in its genocidal singularity, where biology was inescapably destiny, a war against the Jews in which Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel put it, "not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims".
As it happens, we meet at an important moment of remembrance and reminder, of witness and warning appropriate that we should be, in fact, speaking to this issue now of establishing a national monument to the Holocaust. We meet on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg Principles, the double entendre of Nuremberg, the Nuremberg of hate, the Nuremberg of jackboots, as well as the Nuremberg of judgments.
On the eve of the 61st anniversary of the Genocide Convention, which we will be commemorating tomorrow, as it happens, sometimes spoken of as the "Never Again Convention", but which has been violated again and again.
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the second world war, in fact, there were indeed two wars at the time. There was the Nazi war against the Allies and there was the Nazi war against the Jews, and where the Nazi war against the Jews sometimes overtook the Nazi war against the Allies.
We meet on 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 at the time 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 Evian Conference when the nations of the world met to ask themselves what to do about the plight of the Jewish refugees at the time, of those living and wishing to leave. It ended up that the world was divided into two parts: those countries from which the Jews could not leave or indeed could not live in, and those that they could not enter which took us down the road to the Holocaust.
And so, on this anniversary of anniversaries, we should ask ourselves: What have we learned? What must we do? And why is this national Holocaust monument so important for that learning and for those lessons?
For reasons of time, I will share only two, and if time permits, three, lessons which the establishment of this Holocaust monument will serve.
Number one is the importance of Zachor, of the duty of remembrance itself. For as we remember six million Jews themselves defamed, demonized and dehumanized, as prologue or justification for the Holocaust, we have to understand that the mass murder of six million Jews and the mass murder of the millions of non-Jews is not a matter of statistics.
As we say on the occasion of the national Holocaust remembrance ceremony that this Parliament itself enacted as a bill for that purpose, as we say at that time and as we should say again today, unto each person, each person has a name. Each of the victims had an identity. Each one was a universe.
As our sages teach us, if we save a single person, it is as if we have saved an entire universe, but if we kill a single person, it is as if we have killed an entire universe. And so, the overriding imperative which should always govern us and which underpins this national Holocaust monument is that we are each, wherever we are, the guarantors of each other’s destiny.
That brings me to the second lesson; that is, the dangers of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and to genocide, that the enduring lesson of the Holocaust and the genocides that followed, in Srebrenica, Rwanda and Darfur, occurred not simply because of the machinery of death but because of state-sanctioned cultures of hate.
It was this teaching of contempt, this demonizing of the other, where it all began.
As our Supreme Court of Canada put it in words echoed by the international criminal tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, "The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers–it began with words". These, as the court put it, are the chilling facts of history. These, as the court put it, are the catastrophic effects of racism.
And tragically, we are witnessing yet again, in our own time, a state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide whose epicentre is Ahmadinejad’s Iran. I say Ahmadinejad’s Iran because I want to distinguish that from the people in Iran who are otherwise the targets of mass domestic repression.
Let there be no mistake about it. Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide prohibited under the Genocide Convention. Iran is already in standing violation of international prohibitions against the production and development of nuclear weapons, along with prohibitions respecting crimes against humanity which are being committed regarding Iranian citizens as we meet.
And so, the second lesson, namely, the dangers of state-sanctioned incitement to hate takes us down the road to genocide, as we have seen.
In fact, may I make reference to the unspeakable genocide in Rwanda? I say "unspeakable" because nobody can say that we did not know. We knew, but we did not act. Just as nobody can say, with respect to Darfur, that we did not know. We knew and we did not act.
This brings me to the last lesson: the dangers of indifference and inaction in the face of such incitement and mass atrocity.
This monument will be a monument to remember, a monument to remind us. It will be an act of remembrance. It will be, also, a remembrance to act so that never to forget, which is underpinning this monument, will be translated into never again.
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