Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP)
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to participate in the debate on Bill C-442, sponsored by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. I am honoured because this is a significant presentation to the House and one that ought to be adopted unanimously. In fact, I wish our procedures would allow us to seek the unanimous consent of the House to pass the bill at all stages and ensure that it becomes law immediately. I know it has to go through a process, and I understand there are some technical amendments that have to be made, but the essence of the bill is something very basic, something very fundamental around which there can be no disagreement, and that is the establishment of a national Holocaust memorial.
It is interesting that it was about six years ago this month that the House came together with all parties agreeing to a bill to establish a national Holocaust memorial day. With that bill and this bill today, the best has been brought out in people in this place. We have come together across party lines and we have done something important.
Today is a historic moment when together we resolve to deal with the fact that we are the only country among the allies from World War II that has not yet established a national Holocaust memorial in its capital.
We have heard about the range of memorials that exist around the world. I found it fascinating that there are many that form the basis for the establishment of such a memorial here in Ottawa. Just to name a few, there is the Ani Ma'amin Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Poland, the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service and the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in England, the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest, the Cape Town Holocaust Centre, Centre de la mémoire d'Oradour in France, the Dallas Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance, the Forests of the Martyrs in Jerusalem, the Ghetto Fighters' House in Israel, the Holocaust History Project in Detroit. The list goes on and on. I have named but a few of the memorials that exist in other parts of the world.
It is truly amazing that we do not have such a Holocaust memorial right here in Canada's capital city. Tonight with this bill we are actually making a significant attempt at redressing an oversight. I hope that we can accomplish this quickly.
The purpose of the memorial is no different from the bill establishing the national memorial Holocaust remembrance day. It is two-fold.
The first purpose is to remember the horrors of the past, the six million Jews who were killed, who were slaughtered, who were sent to the gas chambers by Hitler in Nazi Germany in World War II. It is a chapter in our history that must never be forgotten. It is in the establishment of a memorial that we have another way of remembering that sorry chapter in the history of our society. It is another way of ensuring that we never forget that horror that should never, ever be repeated. That is the fundamental reason for such a memorial.
The second purpose is to remind ourselves that apart from the Holocaust, the motivating factors behind the Holocaust, the hatred of Jewish people, the anti-Semitism, the discrimination, the vile nature of attitudes toward people of Jewish faith is repeated today, every day, in incidents that are increasing from accounts by many in our society. They must be part of our discussions today.
I am very pleased that I am part of a parliamentary coalition to combat anti-Semitism. That is an organization of all-party members in this House determined to come together to try to grasp the nature of anti-Semitism and to understand how we can stop the spread of it, and how we can actually ensure that people live in our society with a sense of freedom and security and identity without discrimination, without living under any kind of hatred or discriminatory attitudes.
It is an important initiative in Parliament, but it is one that is certainly in question today because of the fact that so much controversy has happened around mailings from Conservative members slandering Liberal members, accusing them in the most inappropriate way of anti-Semitism.
That has put a cloud over these hearings and in fact has given us all cause for concern. We are hoping that this sorry chapter here in Parliament can be resolved, that the cloud can be lifted and in fact that public apologies can be made.
I want to ensure that we continue with those hearings because we need to be able to say to Canadians that anti-Semitism in any shape or form is wrong. That does not mean, as we have said in our committee over and over again, that criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitic in any shape or form, or that constraints can be put on that debate.
However, we have to be sure at all times that we are in fact not giving audience to people allowing them to take this debate and to make broad or sweeping statements about a people suggesting in any way, shape or form that the Jewish people of this country or around the world do not have a right to their homeland, that being the State of Israel.
This is a difficult topic and a major issue before us today. I think the bill before us actually helps us to remember what we are here for and why it is important to stand up and say, “We will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism, or hatred or discrimination against anyone because of their sex, or race, or faith.
I know that time is limited, but I want to say that it is imperative that all of us in the House go back to our respective communities and speak about the need to stop anti-Semitism and hatred of any shape or form.
I want to reference the work that is happening in Winnipeg, in particular the work by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. It is a force, a committee, an organization that is vigilant on a daily basis to ensure there is awareness that the very purpose, the very reason, for the solidarity of our community in Winnipeg is not being threatened by signs of anti-Semitism and a regular occurrence of incidents of hatred that have to be stopped.
In fact, in a recent brief to one of our committee hearings on anti-Semitism, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg clearly documented a number of incidents that are hateful and growing and must be stopped.
I will conclude by citing the words of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to describe their concerns and why this bill is so important and why it is important we are vigilant every step of the way. The federation states:
Winnipeg Jewry over the past 40 years or more, has generally enjoyed both the physical and psychological security that comes from a sense of belonging to a free and democratic society.
That is the basis for pursuing all signs of hatred, for standing up in support today for the Holocaust memorial, because we want to ensure that people of Jewish faith, of Jewish background and Jewish identity are always able to feel that sense of belonging and to be part of a free and democratic society.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: National Holocaust Monument Act