A plaque at the Ottawa National Holocaust Monument which didn’t mention Jews is to be replaced with a new, “inclusive” plaque which will list Jews as well as other groups targeted by the Nazis.
The original plaque, unveiled by Justin Trudeau in September, read: “The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust and honours the survivors who persevered and were able to make their way to Canada after one of the darkest chapters in history.”
A firestorm of criticism immediately ensued from Jews and non-Jews alike. Conservative MP David Sweet asked at the House of Commons “How could the prime minister permit such a glaring omission of reference to anti-Semitism and the fact that the millions of men, women and children who were murdered were overwhelmingly Jewish?”
“In Justin Trudeau’s Canada the new Holocaust Monument plaque doesn’t mention Jews, Anti-Semitism or the 6 Million”, tweeted Senator Linda Frum.
The plaque was quickly removed by Heritage Minister Melanie Joly who promised to replace it with “language that reflects the horrors experienced by the Jewish people.”
Since then, Joly decided to make the Holocaust more “inclusive” and acknowledge the murder of other identifiable groups, including homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, communists, Afro-Germans and the disabled.
The groundwork for the Holocaust memorial was laid by the previous Conservative government who passed the National Holocaust Monument Act in 2011.
The Act called on the government to establish a memorial to “forever remind Canadians of one of the darkest chapters in human history and of the dangers of state-sanctioned hatred and anti-Semitism” which will act as a tool to help future generations learn about the root causes of the Holocaust and its consequences in order to help prevent future acts of genocide.
In 2009, the Harper government joined the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance whose mandate includes Holocaust education, remembrance and research in 31 member countries and around the world. A number of major research initiatives were undertaken during 2013, when Canada chaired the Alliance, which included preservation of survivor testimonies, a onetime Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education and development of a research guide to Holocaust related holdings at Library and Archives Canada.