Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for choosing to honour me with your leadership award this evening. I’m particularly humbled since this organization’s namesake was a man whose commitment to the principles of freedom, justice and human rights is indeed world renowned. The famous Nazi hunter devoted his life to pursuing justice for the Jewish people, tireless in his efforts to track down the monsters who perpetrated the Holocaust.
As you know, in April of last year, I visited the Auschwitz Death Camp. It is a deeply disturbing experience. Yet, on the plane ride back home, I also reflected on the hopeful things that have emerged from that dark period: the indomitable spirit and strength of the Jewish people, most spectacularly demonstrated in the establishment and growth of the state of Israel. And the widespread, if not universal, recognition today of anti-Semitism for what it is: a pernicious evil, an evil that must be exposed, confronted and repudiated whenever and wherever it appears, an evil so profound that it is ultimately a threat to us all.
Our government, ladies and gentlemen, does not just pay lip service to our support for Israel and the Jewish people. Our words are reflected and mirrored in our actions and our deeds, and we follow them whether or not they have been popular or unpopular at the time.
Under our government’s leadership, Canada was the first country in the world to withdraw from the United Nations’ anti-Semitic hatefest masquerading as a conference against racism, Durban Two.
When campus radicals harassed Jewish students in Toronto, our Minister Peter Kent forcefully denounced their menacing tactics.
Under Minister Stockwell Day, we have taken proactive steps to protect synagogues and other Jewish community facilities at risk from hate motivated crimes.
And this week in Parliament, we’ll introduce legislation that will give victims of terrorism the power to obtain just compensation from those responsible for their suffering.
When Hamas formed the government of the Palestinian Authority, refusing to drop its objective to eradicate Israel and its people, Canada was the first country in the world to suspend ties and assistance to that government.
We have pulled and will continue to pull no punches internationally on the menacing actions and the malevolent declarations that come from the government of Iran.
And when Israel was beset by a volley of Hezbollah rockets, we unequivocally supported Israel’s right to defend herself.
And we do these things because the battle between a democratic state, the battle between a democratic state and a terrorist group, any terrorist group that refuses to accept the very right of the Jewish state to exist, this is not a matter of shades of grey. This is a matter of right and wrong.
Ladies and gentlemen, I certainly don’t need to tell the people in this room that the age-old hatred of anti-Semitism remains sadly present in our world today. As always, it’s rooted in lies, fuelled by paranoia. It is a vile affront to the values that unite all civilized people. Let me be very clear once again: the Jewish people, the state of Israel will always have a steadfast friend and stalwart defender in our government.
And I say that not just because anti-Semitism and hatred is a threat to all of us, although that is more than enough reason. It is also because Canada owes so much to its Jewish people. In every field of human endeavour, be it the arts, academia, business or any other endeavour, our country has been immeasurably enriched by the contributions of this community. Together we are building a better, stronger country, and together we will continue working to lift the darkness of intolerance and oppression from our world. Thank you again. Shalom.