Monument to situated in Ottawa
Canada is the only Allied country without a national Holocaust monument, the MP who spearheaded legislation to create a memorial in Ottawa told a packed room at North York's Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center last week.
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"Like many, I was surprised to learn that Canada remains the only Allied nation (countries that fought the Nazis during the Second World War) without a Holocaust monument in its national capital," said MP Tim Uppal, minister of state for democratic reform.
"As is the case in these other countries, with the passage of time, there are fewer and fewer survivors who can bear personal witness to the Holocaust here in Canada."
After a university student asked him about the absence of a national Holocaust memorial, Uppal introduced a private member's bill to create the monument.
The legislation was in danger of dying when the government fell in May but a last-minute public campaign guaranteed its passage with support of all parties.
"With the passage of this act, such a monument is now possible. It is an important endeavor in order to remember what happens when humanity and fundamental basic human rights are discarded," Uppal said.
While a specific location in Ottawa and a budget have yet to be determined, he said the monument is necessary to ensure Canadians remember Holocaust victims and survivors and ensure it never happens again, Uppal said.
"As time passes and the ranks of those who are able to tell those stories, dwindle, there comes a danger that this unparalleled crime will become just a part of history, something which may exist in a textbook bit whose real significance is lost," he said.
"The dangers we as a country now face are complacency and fatigue, to allow things like the Holocaust to rest in the pages of history. To do so invites a return to the terror of those dark years and losing those very things which we hold most dear."
Uppal also expressed appreciation for members of Canada's armed forced who continue to battle extremism and uphold values of freedom and justice.
Avi Benlolo, president of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said the memorial is long overdue.
"This monument will help our nation live up to the post-Holocaust vow to never forget. It will ensure that those whose lives were so brutally destroyed by one of the most racist ideologies ever conceived will be honoured and remembered," he said.
"It will be a sign of respect for those who survived the horrors of the Nazi campaign and, most significantly, it will serve as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against hate and in promoting tolerance and human rights for all Canadians."
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said it was fitting to discuss the monument at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose mission is to promote awareness of the Holocaust and advocate tolerance and social justice.
Rabbi Yoseph Zaltzman, of the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario, said the significance of the monument will reach beyond the Jewish community.
"I would say not so much the Jewish community because the Jewish community, I hope, knows and feels and remembers and lives the horror of the Holocaust," he said.
"I think this monument is for the world."
The Holocaust happened even though Germany was the most advanced nation in the world before the Second World War, Zaltzman said.
People must realize there is a higher being watching over our actions, he said.
"Every human being has to know there is an eye above who sees, an ear that hears" he said.