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1650 Yonge Street, Suite 103, Toronto, ON, M4T 2A2
Parliament Hill Office
106 Justice Building, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6
I am honoured to be included in the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s journal, Reflections on the Holocaust & Antisemitism, and to share this inspiring publication with you on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) is a non-profit human rights organization committed to countering racism and antisemitism. They are leaders in the fight for tolerance, social justice and Canadian democratic values. Thank you to everyone at the FSWC for the incredible work you do in advocacy and education.
The Holocaust reminds us all that hatred kills. We cannot be complacent. We cannot be cowed by those who would try to describe our fight against antisemitism and racism as ‘political correctness.’
As the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs for Canada, every day I advocate that Canadians have a moral obligation to speak up against racism. We have to educate ignorance, point out bias and prejudice, and do the work that prevents the learned hatred that feeds upon the ignorance, bias and prejudice.
I grew up in a Conservative Protestant family. We went to Forest Hill United Church. My sister and I belonged to a Brownie pack there, filled with young girls from Forest Hill and North Toronto who didn’t come to church with us on Sunday mornings. They were Jewish. My aunt was the Tawny Owl, and my role model. She could make anyone feel like they were the most important person in the room. Soon we were all singing Shalom Chaverim every week at Brownies. The Jewish girls felt included. I had new friends. They taught me about the prejudice they were fighting every day — about ‘antisemitism’. Prejudice is often born from ignorance. Having new friends changes your life. My new First Nations, Métis and Inuit friends have changed my life, as did my new friends at our Forest Hill Brownie pack.
Growing up in retail meant that our staff from varying backgrounds got to know the customers as people. Drivers and designers were thrilled to deliver to Oscar Peterson’s home. As soon as I could drive, I was conscripted at every Jewish holiday to make sure the deliveries arrived before sundown. I was learning and making more new friends.
As a family doctor, I learned every day about the effects of prejudice and firsthand stories of homophobia and ongoing antisemitism. I was astounded that people would still be subject to horrific slurs, be denied housing and employment, or even membership at clubs to which I had belonged. I sadly learned that our city and our country were still racist.
As a new Member of Parliament, I was honoured to become Chair of the Canada-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group. In seven trips to Israel, I have witnessed firsthand the importance of a secure Jewish state as an oasis from the antisemitism that bred the Holocaust. In every trip I am reminded that most of us who have grown up in Canada have known only peace. In Israel, almost every hour of every day, one can sense the fear, the need to defend against hatred.
One of my favourite places to visit in Jerusalem is the Museum on the Seam – a renowned museum dedicated to the goal of tolerance and co-existence. I remember watching as young Israeli children moved from the installations on the American Civil Rights movement, to Northern Ireland, to Kosovo, and finally to the Middle East. They learned about the horrific consequences of hatred. I was so impressed to see the values of inclusion and understanding being instilled in people at the youngest possible age.
Irwin Cotler has been totally inspirational to the world with his explicit articulation of the need to seriously deal with any incident that could be interpreted as ‘inciting hatred’.
Hatred kills. Racism kills.
The Holocaust reminds us all that hatred kills. We cannot be complacent. We cannot be cowed by those who would try to describe our fight against antisemitism and racism as ‘political correctness’. Thank you to the Simon Wiesenthal Center for being a leader in this fight.
As Edmund Burke said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Never again.
Applications for the 2017 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program will be accepted online from December 7, 2016 until February 3, 2017, with students starting their jobs as early as April 2017.
For more information on CSJ, including the eligibility criteria and application guide, visit Canada.ca/Canada-summer-jobs, a Service Canada Office, or call 1-800-935-5555.
REMINDER: Canada Summer Jobs 2017 application deadline is this Friday, January 20th. Applications for the 2017 Canada Summer Jobs program will be accepted online from December […]
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1650 Yonge St., Suite 103,
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House of Commons