Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present a petition signed by many constituents who expressed strong concern regarding the remarks by the member for Willowdale on the subject of Iranian Canadians. This petition is itself backed by an online petition, which is signed by more than 2,400 Canadians.
Mr. Chairman, I am so appreciative of all my hon. colleagues being awake at this late hour to listen to the last speaker. Not that I wish it for myself, but as the last speaker, I have the pleasure of leaving the last thought this evening on this important debate.
As my colleagues have described, the troubling growth in anti-Semitism around the world is an urgent and pressing issue that we must face internationally and also here at home.
I would therefore like to focus my remarks on what we have done and what we must continue to do in Canada to prevent the spread of anti-Semitism in our own country.
Our nationally standardized hate crime data initiative indicates that Jews are the most likely religious group to be targeted for hate crimes, even though Jews constitute less than 1% of the Canadian population. Therefore, the government has rightly taken a firm approach to organizations that promote hatred of Jews, that publicly deny the historical reality and the extent of the extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust, or that apologize for terrorism.
Canada also realizes that too often not enough is done to ensure that our societies, and especially younger generations, remember the lessons of the Holocaust, and so the Government of Canada has undertaken nationally a series of important actions to educate Canadians and to protect at-risk communities.
Among the actions at the national level, in 2011 Canada created the communities at risk: security infrastructure program, which allows not-for-profit organizations to apply for funding to improve security infrastructures and systems in places of worship and community centres that are vulnerable to hate-motivated crime. This program has been leveraged by at-risk communities, including Canada's Jewish community, to ensure a greater sense of safety in places of worship and community gatherings.
Right in my own riding of Willowdale, a Jewish synagogue and Jewish schools were the subject of some racist remarks and graffiti. They have benefited from this program by strengthening their security on their perimeter and on their premises.
The Canadian government also continues to develop its systems for collecting data on hate crimes. Combined with law enforcement training, these systems allow the authorities to better address violence against groups at risk, including the Jewish community.
In addition to these measures, the government has examined Canada's own troubled history with anti-Semitism. In particular, it is important that Canada openly examine its role in implementing the so-called “none is too many” policy that blocked Jewish refugees from finding safe haven in Canada as they fled Nazi Germany in the face of state-driven anti-Semitism. This shameful Canadian policy was represented by the turning away of the MS St. Louis, whose passengers were Jewish refugees, many of whom ended up being returned to Nazi-occupied Europe to their deaths in the Holocaust.
The Holocaust is a key lesson in the history of anti-Semitism, a lesson we cannot forget. Canada's national Holocaust monument will be inaugurated in Ottawa this fall to remember the victims of the Holocaust and pay tribute to the survivors.
The monument will encourage Canadians to reflect on the responsibilities we each have to protect human rights and dignity. Moreover, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, which was opened in September 2014, houses a permanent exhibit devoted to the Holocaust.
I say to my honourable colleagues that people should not be singled out just because of their faith or ethnicity, and we cannot ignore the fact that unimpeded anti-Semitism leads down a very dangerous path, as demonstrated recently in Europe. As the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said two weeks ago at the United Nations in New York, those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a grave threat to all of us.
Let me end by saying that I also had the pleasure of accompanying the Prime Minister to Israel and walking through the Holocaust Museum. One of the most poignant messages that I saw said, “The Righteous Among the Nations”. In Hebrew it is “khassidey umot ha-olam”. It refers to non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from Nazi extermination. Let me just say that it did not include people from western Europe at the time.
China had two diplomats, Pan Junshun and Dr. Ho Feng-shan, who issued over 5,000 visas for Viennese to use as they transited to a third country.
In addition, Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara did the same for the Viennese at the time.
As Canadians and as non-Jews, let us take that as our example and guiding light. We need to stop anti-Semitism. We need to lead the way to save what we all cherish and to live in harmony in the world.
Mr. Chair, I am honoured to participate in tonight's debate and discussion on the global rise of anti-Semitism.
Tonight I will be sharing my time with the member for Willowdale. I appreciate his intervention as well.
As is well known, promoting and defending freedom of religion are key Canadian foreign policy priorities. We believe that societies that protect freedom of religion or belief are more likely to protect all other universal rights and fundamental freedoms. Through the Office of Religious Freedoms, established within the Department of Foreign Affairs and headed by Ambassador Andrew Bennett, Canada works internationally to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance on the basis of religion or belief.
The religious freedom fund is supporting three initiatives addressing anti-Semitism.
The fund is supporting the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights' mandate by providing $500,000 to promote religious freedom, particularly given the increasing anti-Semitism and discrimination against Christians and Muslims in some OSCE member states. This project aims to promote international standards on freedom of religion, focusing on communities in central Asia and the south Caucasus.
The fund also supported the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation by providing $400,000 to assist with the preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site, part of the UNESCO world heritage list.
The most recent project supported by the fund is UNESCO's 2015 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The aim of this $100,000 project was to mobilize decision makers in favour of policies that promote Holocaust education, genocide prevention, and Holocaust awareness through different educational tools. On January 27 of this year, many members of this House and our government participated in these moving ceremonies held throughout the world.
As some hon. members know, Canada became a full member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, IHRA, in 2009. Ambassador Bennett was appointed head of the Canadian delegation to IHRA in March of 2014.
Canada actively encourages all states to take a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. This can be achieved in part by becoming a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and supporting the principles outlined in the Ottawa protocol. The Ottawa protocol was in response to the alarming wave of anti-Semitism in Canada, especially on the campuses of many of our universities.
I would like to also recognize the member for Mount Royal tonight and thank him for his intervention in bringing some of those definitions and important measures forward for our understanding
The Ottawa protocol urges universities to combat anti-Semitism with:
...the same seriousness with which they confront other forms of hate. Specifically, universities should be invited to define antisemitism clearly, provide specific examples, and enforce conduct codes firmly, while ensuring compliance with freedom of speech and the principle of academic freedom.... Indeed, there should be zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind against anyone in the university community....
Canada must keep on fighting anti-Semitism by using all the tools at our disposal. I am pleased to add my voice in calling for zero tolerance not only on our university campuses but throughout the world. It is important that we reiterate “never again” to the Holocaust and to anti-Semitism. We must fight to bring it to an end with all the force we have available to us.
Mr. Speaker, with mushrooming processing times for family-class immigrants and too many unwarranted denials of visitor visas, it is hardly surprising that Conservative MPs hear complaints when they meet constituents on this topic. At one such meeting, the member for Willowdale actually told Iranian Canadians to go back to Iran.
Apology or not, will the Minister for Multiculturalism acknowledge that such comments have no place in Canada, let alone coming from his own parliamentary secretary?
The electoral district of Willowdale (Ontario) has a population of 129,356 with 94,934 registered voters and 270 polling divisions.
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