The federal government is replacing a dedication plaque used to inaugurate the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa last week after the original failed to mention Jewish people and anti-Semitism.
Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau inaugurated the new monument in downtown Ottawa, calling it a place “where families can come together to learn, to ask those tough questions, to grieve and to remember.”
“As we remember the millions killed during the Holocaust, we must acknowledge during that time, the Jewish community had no safe refuge,” Trudeau said. “We must also confront the ugly truth that anti-Semitism is not just a thing of the past in Canada. We need to stand up every day against the cruelty, hatred and the indifference that made the Holocaust possible.”
The prime minister acknowledged that Canada had turned away a boat carrying Jewish people seeking sanctuary 1939, which led to the deaths of 254 people in the Holocaust.
“May this monument remind us to always open our arms and our hearts to those in need and may it continue to reflect the true resilience of the human spirit as we pledge today to stay hopeful to never, ever forget,” Trudeau said.
However, on Tuesday, Conservative MP David Sweet questioned whether the Liberal government would replace a dedication plaque that forgot to mention Jewish people by name.
“Last week the prime minister inaugurated (the monument) with a plaque of his own. However, his plaque fails to mention anti-Semitism or the Jewish people by name,” Sweet said in 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?
“If we’re going to stamp out hatred towards Jews, it’s important to get history right. Will the prime minister commit to correcting this profoundly obvious omission?” Sweet asked.
The original plaque said the 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.”
“The monument recognizes the contribution these survivors have made to Canada and serves as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against hate, intolerance and discrimination.”
Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said the monument commemorates “the six million Jews as well as the five million other victims that were murdered during the Holocaust.”
“The plaque has been removed and we will replace with language that reflects the horrors experienced by the Jewish people,” Joly said.
The idea for a Holocaust monument was sparked in 2007 by a University of Ottawa student who complained Canada was the only Allied nation without such a monument.
The Conservative government took up the cause – a private member’s bill allowing for the monument was one of the last to get royal assent before the Tory minority was defeated in a no-confidence vote in 2011.
-with files from the Canadian Press