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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
moved that Bill C-250, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibition—promotion of antisemitism), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, before we get into tonight's debate on my private member's bill, I would like to acknowledge Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is actually today. Today is a time, I feel, to renew our commitment to combatting anti-Semitism in all its forms.
I am honoured today to rise and speak to Bill C-250, an act to amend the Criminal Code, prohibition—promotion of anti-Semitism, which is my private member's bill. Bill C-250 is modelled on subsection 319(2), “Wilful promotion of hatred”, in the Canadian Criminal Code. However, the bill focuses specifically on Holocaust denial because of the gravity of the event in our history. If the House chooses to pass Bill C-250, it will make Holocaust denial, which is one of the key indicators of anti-Semitism and radicalization, illegal in this country, and the offence will be punishable with incarceration.
B'nai Brith just released its 2021 audit of anti-Semitism incidents this week, and for the sixth consecutive year, records were set for anti-Semitism in this country. There was an increase, unfortunately, of 7.2%. Nearly eight anti-Semitic incidents occurred every day in this country in 2021. The actual number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded last year was 2,799. This marked the fourth consecutive year in which the 2,000 plateau was exceeded.
Heather Fenyes is a past president of Congregation Agudas Israel Synagogue, in my city of Saskatoon, a CIJA local partner, a Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights board member and the chair of the Concentus Citizenship Education Foundation. This is what she had to say about Bill C-250. “When the Holocaust is denied, Jewish people die. This malignant seed of hate left unchecked threatens Jews at home, in their synagogues and within their communities. Anti-Semitism, the most pernicious of hates, is the canary in the coal mine. Where hate is left unfettered, nobody is immune from its consequences; signalling a threat to all communities. Making Holocaust denial illegal is a step towards creating safer spaces for Jews in particular and building a healthier society.”
Kevin Sharfe, president of the Congregation Agudas Israel Synagogue and Jewish Community Centre, said, “ Holocaust denial is often a symptom of ignorance or intolerance. Sadly, denying the history of a people can lead to anti-Semitism, and more generally, widespread racism in our community. Healthy education is the way forward.”
The CIJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, made this statement: “ Holocaust denial is a dangerous form of anti-Semitism. We deeply appreciate the leadership of the member from Saskatoon—Grasswood who introduced a private member's bill to criminalize this insidious form of Jew hatred. Thank you to the member from Thornhill for seconding [this bill].”
Ignorance and intolerance must be confronted and condemned wherever they exist. Ideally, I would be happy if this Criminal Code amendment were never used. Punishment is the last resort. Criminalization is an imperfect tool, but it is also an important tool to stop a behaviour that we as a society consider offensive. Criminalization is also an important step toward changing attitudes in this country. Criminalization will help draw a moral limit on the erosion of history. It will be a message to those who wish to erase historical truths.
Suppression of anti-Semitism is not the goal. Education is the key to ending anti-Semitism and the hateful fallout that comes from ignorance. Education is the safeguard of history. Holocaust denial is not free speech; it is an abuse of free speech. It is an abuse of a freedom that we all cherish in this country. It is an attack on Canadian values and our respect for diversity. If we stand by and allow history to be erased by allowing the Holocaust to be denied, distorted or minimized, we allow democracy to be eroded.
Research has shown that people who learn about the Holocaust are more likely to care about other communities, develop anti-racist attitudes and oppose persecution. It is imperative that our future generations know and understand that, from early 1941 until 1945, six million Jewish children, women and men were murdered in a state-sponsored genocide we now remember as the Holocaust. We cannot allow this chapter in history to be denied, minimized or lost. We must continue to educate Canadians to face history with courage and to call out and confront intolerance and racism every time it emerges.
If we do not continue to educate Canadians about the horrors of the Holocaust and the dangers of anti-Semitism, we leave room for hatred, racism and radicalization to take root and grow more in this country.
I will point out two recent examples that come to mind. The first one is the case of Joseph DiMarco. He was a Timmins, Ontario, school teacher who was fired in 2019 after teaching Holocaust denial. The Ontario College of Teachers held a disciplinary hearing last year to deal with the allegations that he taught Holocaust denial theories in the years 2018-19. When DiMarco's teaching licence was pulled, Michael Levitt, president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center had this to say:
The disturbing actions by this former teacher demand nothing less than his inability to set foot in a classroom ever again. Instead of using the opportunity to teach about the Holocaust and [even] 9/11 and their lessons, he decided to spread Holocaust denial and antisemitism, doing an extreme disservice to his students.... Educators have a duty to not only provide students with factual information, but to also inspire them to be upstanding citizens who stand against hate and intolerance.
I think we would all agree that the most publicized case would be the James Keegstra trial a number of decades ago. For those who do not have the background, Keegstra was charged and convicted of hate speech in 1984 for willfully promoting hatred against an identified group by teaching his students that the Holocaust was a fraud and by promoting anti-Semitism.
Keegstra was a high school teacher in Alberta until he was fired in 1982. He expected his students to accept his views, and their grades suffered if they dared to oppose them. Keegstra, by the way, served as mayor of Eckville, Alberta from 1974-83, when his offensive and anti-Semitic views caused citizens to overwhelmingly vote him out of office in 1983. He appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court, where it was upheld.
Most Supreme Court justices believe that hate speech is not a victimless crime. They understood the potential of hate speech and anti-Semitism to be harmful and dangerous, and to promote violence.
Violence and radicalization cannot be allowed a space to grow in this country. We cannot overcome and overlook the obvious causes, and when these offences are being perpetrated by educators, they are especially egregious and very harmful. I understand that hatred and anti-Semitism are not eliminated by legislation, but legislation alone is one rung on the ladder.
I have heard the criticisms all over on this legislation. I have read media reports that imply that criminalization will only muffle anti-Semitism, but doing nothing is not a solution. It deeply concerns me that for some people doing nothing is an acceptable path forward. Paying lip service and making virtuous gestures is somehow seen as a substitution for action. I want there to be no mistake that education is the action that is needed and that criminalization is the tool to demonstrate that anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, minimization and distortion are not going to be tolerated in this country anymore.
A 2020 study on Holocaust awareness by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, conducted by Nanos, supports the notion of education. I will quote that study and I am happy to table the study if there is consensus among members in the House. The 2020 study on Holocaust awareness and education reveals that 59% of people in Canada's Prairies believe that young people are not taught enough about the Holocaust in school, and 73% believe young people are less aware of the Holocaust and its lessons today than in the past, while 92% of people in the Canadian Prairies say teaching about discrimination is either somewhat important or important and 96% believe teaching about the Holocaust is either somewhat important or important.
In a July 2021 report on hate crimes in Canada by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Statistics Canada data indicates an increase in hate crimes. Again I am happy to table the part of that report that says that. If we go back to July 27 last year, it stated, “Statistics Canada released hate crime statistics for 2020 today, revealing that police-reported hate crimes increased by 37 per cent last year and reached the highest number ever recorded, 2,669. According to StatCan's annual police-reported crime statistics report, the Jewish community saw an almost five per cent increase in hate crimes”.
I am going to move now to a person I have known for a number of years. He was an educator in the city of Saskatoon. Right now, he is the president of B'nai Brith, David Katzman. He is from Lodge 739 in my city. He made the following comments on a bill to criminalize willfully promoting anti-Semitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust. He described the Holocaust as the industrialization of the mass murder of over 11 million people, including six million Jews. As he said, condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust has always been the most powerful magnet for those who hate Jews, and most often these same haters have a long list of “others” who must be abused or banished. Canadians, he said, treasure our national commitment for all persons to live freely and safely.
The government has now taken the precedented step once again of appropriating the private member's bill I introduced as the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood. In the last Parliament, it took my bill and fumbled it, and then I actually held on to the ball and got it over the goal line. This time, though, it has taken the text of my private member's bill and parked it halfway through seven pages of potential future promises in annex 3 of the budget document. There is no commitment here, just a vague suggestion of future consideration.
I urge members to understand the difference between my bill, Bill C-250, and the version of this bill that the government has chosen to place into the omnibus budget legislation. Bill C-250 will have the teeth that the “budget lite” version will not have.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for his perseverance in bringing this important piece of legislation before the House.
I hope he will indulge me for just a moment. At the age of 19, as a student on a summer program in Europe, I visited Mauthausen, one of the concentration camps. I came away from that visit thinking either the site should be plowed up and planted with flowers or that every young person should be required to visit. I could not make up my mind.
I stand here, 50 years later, still unable to make up my mind, but I believe that the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood has convinced me that Holocaust denial is an important tool in inciting violence and hatred against the Jewish community and therefore it deserves criminalization. I know that he will agree with me when I say that it would make a great difference in combatting the rise in anti-Semitism that B'nai B'rith has documented again this year in its audit.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, when I pass a private member's bill, I know now how we get it through the House and the other place to become law. We have to be very specific. We cannot have a big bill going into the justice committee because the committee will tear it apart. In this case, this is just one piece because I know the important legislation that is needed in this country for Holocaust denial. It is a very small piece of legislation, but it is a start, as I mentioned in my speech.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for putting forward this bill.
Rarely has a date ever been so apt to debate legislation, as this evening is the beginning of Yom HaShoah.
Yom HaShoah is a sacred day. It is a day when we remember with reverence the over six million Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. It is a day when we remember all of the victims of the Holocaust, regardless of their origin, whether they were from the LGBTQ+ community, the Roma community or any other community. It is a day when we honour the survivors, including those many survivors who came to make their homes in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. It is a day when we thank the rescuers, the righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save others. It is a day when we remember atrocities, and it is a day when it is totally appropriate to talk about how we can prevent this from ever happening again.
On Monday I had the incredible honour of standing with my friends from Thornhill and Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke at the B'nai B'rith press conference, where it brought forward its audited anti-Semitic incidents for last year. As my friend from Saskatoon mentioned, there was yet another increase in incidents after multiple successive years, with many more violent and threatening incidents.
In my province of Quebec, there was a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
In British Columbia there was an important increase in anti-Semitic incidents. We as a country need to confront why this is happening.
Last spring, the month of May was when many of these incidents happened, which occurred as a flare-up from the war, or incidents of violence, occurring in the state of Israel when they were attacked by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization under Canadian law. For whatever reason, that turned into anti-Semitism here in Canada. It turned into rock-throwing in Montreal. It turned into a time when families in my riding were scared to let their children go to the park because they were afraid somebody would see them wearing a kippah and that they would attack them.
That same month, Holocaust survivors in my riding came to see me to ask if they should take down the mezuzah from their doors, for fear that people would see this Jewish symbol and find out they were Jewish.
I never would have believed that this could happen in Montreal, in Quebec, in Canada. That is unbelievable.
It has been 262 years since the Jewish community has been in Canada. We have contributed so much to this country in every facet, whether it is politics, the judiciary, the arts, sports or the military. Canadian Jews are not victims. We are strong and proud. It is unacceptable that in a great country like ours we see incidents of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.
One of the things that makes me very proud is that, when there are international polls about anti-Semitism, Canada always ranks among one of the lowest countries for incidents of anti-Semitism. Only about 8% or 9% of Canadians are anti-Semitic, versus much higher percentages in other countries.
Last week, when Angus Reid did a poll about how people perceive different religious communities in Canada, the Jewish community finished as the most favourable. How is it that, with so few anti-Semites in this country, 61% of religious hate crimes in this country are against Jews, when we make up only 1.25% of the population?
Something is wrong with this picture.
From the Protocols of the Elders of Zion through to disinformation online today, for some crazy reason, Jews are always the first victims but never the last. Somebody who is capable of disliking Jews is capable of disliking people because they are part of any group.
We know it sometimes starts with Jews but does not end with Jews.
We are all here to see what we can do to fight not only anti-Semitism, but also racism, francophobia and all forms of discrimination in our society.
It starts with education, but education is not always enough.
I always believe that we err on free speech. We always try to make sure that we do not unreasonably take away someone's right to say something, but it is clear from all kinds of evidence that denial of the Holocaust and minimization of the Holocaust is actually one of the most effective tools for increasing anti-Semitism and directing hatred and violence against Jews.
Our Constitution is clear. While freedom of speech is an incredibly important right, protected under section 2 of the Canadian Charter—
That right is also protected by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and many other charters in this country.
We, under section 1, have a right to place reasonable limits on freedom of speech. Hate speech is not necessarily free speech. The courts in Canada have determined that we are allowed to prevent people from inciting genocide and from inciting hatred against identifiable groups.
Today, when people go online and look at Holocaust denial on all of the platforms, it is but a start of where people go when they start hating Jews. I support this bill or whatever frame this bill takes, because it is so important to not allow people in Canada to minimize or to deny the Holocaust. It is a historical truth. It is not a subject for debate. Someone who claims that six million Jews did not die in the Holocaust does not know what they are talking about. It happened.
Everyone in Parliament has a duty here and now. Regardless of our political party, we are all united in saying that we do not want anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia or any other form of discrimination in Canada.
We may not always agree on how to go about it, but we agree that it should not exist.
Holocaust denial is one thing we can unanimously condemn. It is so bad and causes so much hate that it should be against the law.
I would like to finish by adding one other thing. Yom HaShoah comes on the eve of Yom Ha'atzmaut. Yom Ha'atzmaut is Israeli Independence Day. It happens next week. In Canada, part of the hate comes from the extreme right and part of the hate comes from the extreme left. Nobody has a monopoly on it. Everybody could be part of it.
One of the things that I have seen, and one of the things that I am the most afraid of, is that when somebody denies the existence of the state of Israel or incites hate against the State of Israel, it leads to anti-Semitism against Jews in Canada. Israel is a democratic country: it is the only Jewish majority state in the world. It has a right to exist. It has a right to exist behind secure borders.
I really hope that we can also join together, in addition to condemning anti-Semitism, to agree that BDS, all forms of Israel Apartheid Week, all forms of heinous attacks against Jewish students on campus, and all the places where hate of Israel leads should also not exist in this country.
I thank my friend for Saskatoon—Grasswood. He has brought forward an important issue that we all need to work together to confront.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, let me begin by reading the text of a motion unanimously adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec on May 26, 2021, nearly a year ago:
That the National Assembly strongly condemn the threats, violence and aggression against Jewish Quebecers, which have increased in recent weeks;
That it reaffirm that in a free and democratic society, all people may protest or express their opinions in a context of respect, safety and dignity;
That it reiterate the need to continue to hold a healthy and democratic debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
That, lastly, it recall that violence toward anyone is never acceptable.
Those are the words of the National Assembly of Quebec. As far as I am concerned, it is the supreme authority in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois is committed to defending these unanimous motions and will continue to defend them against all attacks. I read that out to illustrate that Bill  C-250 is part of that process. Bill C‑250 is not perfect, but it is part of that process.
Hatred is a venom in the veins of society. Inciting and promoting hatred is akin to injecting this poison into the veins of our society.
Quebec adopted a secularism law specifically to allow each and every religious faith to be practised voluntarily and freely, without the appearance of government criticism, favour or disapproval. We want the government to be secular, and we want people to be free to practise the religion of their choice. To us, in Quebec, this principle is sacred.
Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of anti-Semitic crimes. I saw that anti-Semitic crimes increased considerably in 2021, in the Montreal area in particular, but elsewhere as well, including the Vancouver area, as my colleague across the way mentioned, as well as in various parts of Canada and in the U.S. too, and probably throughout the western hemisphere. We have to work on not only reducing this disturbing trend, but stopping it in its tracks.
Obviously, it is not just hatred against the Jewish community that we must combat, but all hatred. Nonetheless, we have to start somewhere, and I think that the current situation deserves our attention.
There are different ways to promote hatred, and promoting Holocaust denial is one of them. There are no words to describe the Holocaust. I too visited some sites in Poland. I was speechless. The idea that a human being could do such things is unfathomable. I cannot even claim to be better than those who committed these horrific crimes. I think that, no matter how much we try to avoid it, these kinds of things can happen to anyone in any society. I understand that, in certain circumstances, any society can be faced with these types of dilemmas. I would almost say that I feel as sorry for those who perpetrated these atrocities as I do for their victims. It is unbelievable.
I feel a strong sense of solidarity with the Jewish community, and I sympathize with what it has to live with. It is unacceptable for anyone to deny the impact of the Holocaust, or sometimes the fact that it even happened, or to trivialize it. We must make sure that the Holocaust is never forgotten and that its importance is never diminished.
As I was saying, Bill  C-250 is not perfect. It proposes a definition of the Holocaust. As I mentioned, I visited sites in Poland. I saw what it was like. Even so, I find it somewhat difficult to explain what it is. It is something so inhuman and senseless that it is hard to imagine. Therefore, I want to hear from experts in committee.
Perhaps the definition being proposed by my colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood is fine, or perhaps it can be improved. I would like to hear from experts on how to define the Holocaust accurately enough so as not to diminish other genocides, yet highlight what happened at the time and ensure that it never happens again.
The committee also needs to hear explanations of the different potential definitions of the Holocaust as well as their negative effects. It is not that hard to guess, but I still want to hear from the experts.
My colleague across the way was talking earlier about someone in his riding who was wondering whether he should take down the mezuzah from his door and stop his children from wearing a kippah to the park. That is unacceptable. We certainly do not want that. These are the harmful effects of Holocaust denial and hatred of others. I want people to come talk to us in committee, people who might help us better understand the situation so we can respond to the problem more effectively.
We need to do all this while making absolutely sure that we do not fall into the trap of adopting provisions that conflict with the freedom of expression provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As my colleague said, freedom of expression is in the charter. It is also in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It is a principle we all hold dear, in Quebec as well as in Canada, and even throughout the western world. It is one of our most precious freedoms.
We have to be careful though. If I can put it this way, we will have to “handle” Bill C‑250 prudently and sensitively. This has to be dealt with. We have to address the situation, act on our responsibility and make sure we are responding to the concerns of the Jewish community. This community's concerns are shared by society as a whole in different ways and for different reasons. We all need to care about this. We cannot ignore what is happening in these situations.
We will have to be careful, but this is something that must be done. We also have to ensure that we do not duplicate what already exists in section 319 of the Criminal Code, which is quite clear. The provisions in Bill C‑250 may not have as broad a scope and may already be covered by section 319. If so, we will have to find a way to harmonize it all. We do not want to simply duplicate what is already in the Criminal Code; we want to supplement it, or to ensure that we have a text that the courts can interpret in such a way as to achieve the objective set out in Bill C‑250.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will be voting to send Bill C‑250 to committee so that we can work on it and so that, while we may never fully comprehend, we can strive for a better understanding of the tragedies that members of the Jewish community may endure, as well as the inhuman events that took place in the 1940s, particularly in the concentration camps in Poland.
View Blake Desjarlais Profile
NDP (AB)
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks today by thanking all members of the House for ensuring that we have a meaningful debate about the meaning and importance of today, about Holocaust remembrance in particular and about how important this bill truly is. The planning and carrying out of the destruction of six million Jewish lives is a terrible tragedy to reflect upon, particularly here in Canada, a place where we are not unfamiliar to this.
Today and every day, we are called on to remember the truth, the brutal truth, that six million Jews died simply for being themselves, for being who they are, for being true to that promise. Women, children and men were executed by the terrible and evil Nazi regime simply for being themselves. All Canadians deserve to be who they are. That is a basic principle that I believe our country can stand by.
Today we must not only remember, but challenge ourselves to go even further and do more. Families across our country are still grieving from the reality of this painful and lasting experience. We must acknowledge and recommit to the elimination of hatred, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in all its forms. We must combat the poisonous hatred that is anti-Semitism. It is our duty, but sadly anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada and around the world. Jewish people continue to face discrimination, prejudice and physical violence simply for being themselves.
I know the struggle of wanting to ensure that we are honest with ourselves and that this country has the protections to ensure it. It is our job as parliamentarians to ensure that we not only stick up and stand up for the things that our country has been able to achieve, but also go back and attempt to remedy all the things that we have not, including truly ensuring that anti-Semitism does not continue. Those who deny and condone the Holocaust should rightly face criminal prosecution. Their actions motivate hatred.
I am grateful to the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for his leadership in tabling Bill C-250, legislation that would finally ban Holocaust denial in Canada. I want to thank the member for that.
Canada has an obligation, particularly as a democracy and a vibrant one, to condemn and combat Holocaust denial in every way, shape and form. The Jewish community has truly suffered from the horrors of the Nazi regime, but it continues to suffer. That is truly a pain that all Canadians must bear. This unique and truly painful experience is one that we must learn from and overcome. The New Democrats welcome Bill C-250 and hope that it will finally tackle this long-standing denial, which puts today's generation at risk.
I want to take the opportunity to shed some light on Canada's deeply problematic and anti-Semitic history.
Frederick Blair is one of the most shameful taints in Canadian history. As a high-ranking immigration official in the Government of Canada in the 1930s, Blair deliberately worked toward formulating immigration policies based on racial purity. This also included the exclusion of Jewish people. Notorious anti-Semites were in control of our policies here in Canada toward Jewish people during the Holocaust, at the time they needed us most. In 1941, Blair wrote, “Canada, in accordance with generally accepted practice, places greater emphasis on race than upon citizenship.” It is no secret that many other elite officials and such people with power were openly hateful. I am deeply remorseful for this facet of Canadian history, among many, many others.
Instead of accepting Jewish refugees with open arms, Canada's immigration policy openly denied them safe refuge. When people were coming from every corner of the world to this place, they were seeking refuge. We denied them. When many other allied countries were accepting tens of thousands of refugees, Canada only accepted 5,000 during the entire duration of the Holocaust.
Liberal prime minister William Mackenzie King's political decision was to limit Jewish immigration in Canada. In one of many such moments of shame, when the MS St. Louis arrived in 1939 from Germany carrying 937 refugees, Canada turned them away. It is shameful. Eventually, 254 of those passengers would perish, simply because they were being themselves and the complicity of Canada. We had the opportunity to act, and we failed.
It is also a documented fact that, when a Canadian immigration agent in 1939 was asked about the refugees and if Canada would commit to admit, he replied, “None is too many”.
“None is too many”. Can members imagine fleeing a terrible and atrocious event in history, such as the Nazi regime, and being denied? This despicable and discriminatory hate was on display for the entire world to see, and it si something we, in Canada, must recognize.
How can we claim the moral authority on the international stage without rectifying these mistakes? Our past is truly filled with shameful instances, but I believe our country is willing to fix it. The fear is that those past haunts will continue to haunt existing generations, and the fear is for the next generation. We must ensure a place of safety for them here in Canada.
This year, shockingly, we witnessed violent and undemocratic protests right outside this building, this Parliament, which is meant to be a symbol of our democracy, our unity and our diversity. Among them, Canadians witnessed something terrible. They saw truly disturbing visuals of hate symbols, such as the Confederate flag and the swastika.
These groups are beginning to accumulate copious amounts of power, with explicit intentions to increase crime, division and a continuation of the undermining of our democratic institution. This is precisely how power works. Large displays of anti-Semitic hate symbols on Parliament Hill must not become mainstream elements of our society. We must deny them. The power to control that narrative belongs to us, to those who are elected to speak on behalf of others.
We must confront these harsh truths. As a country, we must radically shift the gears to never forget and never again, by force and by action. We must never forget the crimes committed by the Nazis and continued by horrid hate groups around in Canada today.
New Democrats have always, and will always, stand for fighting against hate, and I am proud of my incredible caucus members who have proven their solidarity with vulnerable communities and brought them stern legislation to outlaw hate.
I would like to take this moment to thank my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby for introducing the private member's bill that would outlaw hate symbols such as Nazi swastikas.
I want to conclude by thanking many of those Jewish Canadians who continue to fight for justice, continue to fight anti-Semitism. I stand in firm solidarity with Jewish Canadians across our country in ending anti-Semitism as it spreads.
View Melissa Lantsman Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-250, presented in this House by my colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood. I thank him for that, and I thank other colleagues for their speeches today.
I rise to speak to this bill on the eve of Yom HaShoah, a day that commemorates the six million innocent Jewish men, women and children who were systematically murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. On this eve, Canadians across the country reflect on the unique horror of the Holocaust and pay tribute to the innocent victims, honour the survivors and recognize the righteous who risked their own lives to save the lives of strangers. The Holocaust was one of the darkest chapters in human history and on this day, we are presented with a sobering reminder of that history, which is why Yom HaShoah presents a fitting opportunity to debate this bill.
I will admit this bill is not entirely clear-cut for me, nor for everyone in the largest Jewish community in Canada, whom I have the distinct honour of representing in this House as the member of Parliament for Thornhill. It is not entirely clear-cut for those connected to the Holocaust directly, either one generation removed or two generations removed, or indirectly as Canadians who, on this day, help dignify the memory of its victims, of the survivors and of its unthinkable horrors.
Remembrance is at the core of this debate, so that this never happens again. For many, the protection and promotion of free speech are paramount. Given my own world view, it is difficult to square the circle on the necessity in the face of ideological purity. Hate speech is not free speech. In an ideal world, Holocaust education, remembrance and research would be sufficient to ensure a future where the denial of history would simply cease to exist, but sadly, that is not the case.
There is an enormous amount of evidence, of survivor testimony and of eyewitness accounts from those who liberated death camps. There are survivors among us still, our grandparents, our friends, those who bore witness to what happened. In the face of all that, Holocaust denial and distortion persist. Because they persist, it is a necessity to fight with the tools of legislation when existing laws fail to protect the truth, the truth about the horrors of the Holocaust.
Denial and distortion need to be prosecuted successfully as a powerful deterrent to say that this is not acceptable, that this is not okay, that this is not allowed in this country. Countering Holocaust denial and distortion is necessary to combat the efforts of those who blur the facts of what transpired about those complicit in the horror of trying to rewrite history. We must combat the distortion that insults the victims and the survivors. We must combat the distortion that perpetuates anti-Semitism. We must combat the distortion that fans the flames of violent extremism.
We must combat that distortion not only for the Jewish community, but for the thousands of people who defied the rules set down by the Nazis, set down by Hitler, and collectively saved countless LGBT people, disabled people, Roma and other minorities from certain death. The perversion of Holocaust denial attempts to erase their bravery and courage against Hitler and his followers. We must combat the distortion so that it does not threaten our own ability to understand the past and learn from it. Most importantly, we must combat the distortion so that the distortion does not become history itself.
The bill ensures the successful prosecution of neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, and in the end should aim to prevent the resurgence of Nazism.
There is a rising tide of anti-Semitism. I have talked about it here in this House. I have talked about it outside of this House. It is not just rising out of the far right, and it is not just rising out of the far left. It is rising out of faculty clubs. It is rising on our university campuses, out of our social justice organizations and out of those very close to government.
There were 2,799 recorded anti-Semitic incidents of hate in 2021. One of the most common forms of that hate in attacking Jews was the denial and the distortion of the Holocaust. Almost eight incidents occurred every single day in 2021. That was a 59.8% increase from 2017. Those numbers should be alarming to everybody in this place, and those are not my statistics. They are from B'nai Brith's most recent audit, which we heard about this week. There is no question that they are under-reported, and that should be of concern.
The long history of the Jewish people has been characterized as a repetitious cycle: eras of oppression and darkness are interrupted by all-too-brief golden periods of liberation and flourishing creativity. However, as we know, the old anti-Semitism of persecution, pogroms and Nazi gas chambers has become a new, more subtle, but just as dangerous, cancer. It has an indirect genocidal goal that targets the Jewish national homeland.
Its proponents vilify Israel because it is the home of the Jewish people, and while this bill would not address that fact, there is no question that it is a driver of hate levelled against the Jewish people, and it is difficult not to acknowledge in a conversation about anti-Semitism in the House. Some members of the House have been complicit in fanning the flames of rhetoric against Israeli statehood that fuel the pernicious rise of a new anti-Semitism cloaked in Zionism, and they say to those who fan those flames outside of the House that this is okay.
Our former prime minister, Stephen Harper, talked about anti-Semitism in a speech at the Israeli Knesset. He was the first and only Canadian Prime Minister to do that. In that speech, he named a new anti-Semitism. It uses sophisticated language: words that are acceptable in polite society. That Prime Minister said, “I find it interesting that when I’m in Israel I’m asked to single out Israel. When I’m in the Palestinian Authority I’m asked to single out Israel. And when I am in half the other places around the world you ask me to single out Israel.”
The public displays of hate we have seen lately across Canada have yielded no action, and that is why this bill is important. They have been encouraged by those in the House, those close to it, and those in polite society singling out Israel, as described by the Prime Minister in his speech, as okay.
It was unacceptable to see the flag of the Hamas terror group at an anti-Israel protest in Toronto just before the last election, when Hamas calls for the genocide of Jews in its charter; to see an anti-Israel manual sent to the country's largest school board by somebody on the school board in Toronto; to see the overt Jewish hatred of kids playing hockey for the Avenue Road Ducks, in the largest organized sports league in the city I am from; to see the countless swastikas drawn on schools, playgrounds, parks and homes in my community and communities across the country; or to see an open display of anti-Semitism last week in the streets of Toronto, as a pro-Palestinian rally cheered enthusiastically for rocket attacks on civilians.
It is anti-Semitism dressed up as anti-Zionism and anti-Jewish statehood, and any suggestion that the two are separate is part of the problem. Through this bill, the understanding that the Holocaust is a very unique history and that its denial drives hatred, perhaps someone will choose principle rather than coddling prejudice the next time the opportunity for courage presents itself, and that opportunity will come very soon.
This law is necessary as the number of Holocaust survivors, eyewitnesses to the event, declines. It recedes into history and gets further and further away, and as these views become more mainstream and creep into popular culture, the law will be able to avoid the problem of proving the Holocaust in court before those who deny it are held to account. Members should be aware that this proposal has found its way into the budget. There have been seven years of inaction that have seen anti-Semitism become an even more pervasive problem in this country.
I hope this is not theatre. I hope members will support this bill. From what I have heard tonight, I think that will be the case. I will certainly trust the intentions of what is in the budget, but I hope that members will support this bill.
I will end with this: Ignorance fuels intolerance and, as my colleague said, education is the safeguard of history. We must continue to teach the truth. The passage of this bill would protect that truth.
View Marty Morantz Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I agree with the member. The symbols and messages of hate that have permeated these demonstrations are very concerning.
To that end, will the member be voting in favour of the bill put forward by my colleague for Saskatoon—Grasswood, which would make Holocaust denial and distortion a criminal offence in Canada?
View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my colleague, who is also from Manitoba, for his absolute disdain for the symbols of hate that have been flown during this illegal occupation. I would also like to thank him for his work around raising awareness around Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is dangerous and we must put an end to it.
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