Canadians ‘must not be complacent’ as antisemitism, hatred rise: Trudeau

Click to play video: 'Holocaust remembrance day: Trudeau says ‘dark corners’ of antisemitism on the rise in Canada'
Holocaust remembrance day: Trudeau says ‘dark corners’ of antisemitism on the rise in Canada
Speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial in Ottawa on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned about growing antisemitism across the country and complacency in times of peace. “Lately, we have seen hateful and antisemitic rhetoric coming from dark corners of our society. Canadians were horrified to see Nazi flags brought to Ottawa last year. It had a chilling effect,” Trudeau said, referencing a Nazi flag flown during the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests last February. Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre called on Canadians to fight what he called the “evil” that led to the Holocaust – Jan 27, 2023

Canadians cannot be complacent as antisemitism and hatred grow across the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

Speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial in Ottawa on Friday, the prime minister warned that in times of peace, people “look back at this atrocity, bewildered at how it could ever have been permitted to happen.”

“We wonder what could ever have driven people to such cruelty. But hate never overtakes us all at once. It creeps up inch by inch,” Trudeau said.

Lately, he added, “we have seen hateful and anti-Semitic rhetoric coming from dark corners of our society.”

“Canadians were horrified to see Nazi flags brought to Ottawa last year. It had a chilling effect,” he said, referencing the Nazi flag flown during the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests in February.

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“Hate is being amplified online and on other platforms. And so we cannot and must not be complacent. All Canadians, especially those of us here who are leaders, need to stand up and call it out plainly and loudly.”

According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes targeting the Jewish community have been on the rise. In 2021, there was a 47 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes against Jewish people. Of the 884 religion-based hate crimes reported to police that year, 487 of them targeted the Jewish community.

On top of that, there have been high-profile incidents of antisemitism in popular culture in the last year. Rapper Kanye West publicly praised Adolf Hitler in a spate of antisemitic posts online that spurred a fierce wave of condemnation.

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre also spoke at the ceremony, and called on Canadians to fight the “evil” that led to the Holocaust “every day.”

“We must, every time we hear these utterances of hatred and antisemitism, speak out strongly and unequivocally against them,” he said. “When we do that, and only then will we live up to the privilege and the honour it is for us to live here as Canadians.”

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Click to play video: 'Honouring International Holocaust Remembrance Day'
Honouring International Holocaust Remembrance Day

A study commissioned by Canadian charity Liberation75 last year found that one in three students of the 3,000 surveyed believed the Holocaust was fabricated or not reported accurately.

Earlier this month, Ottawa police charged two high school students with public incitement of hatred, criminal harassment, and mischief following an incident in which they were accused of displaying a hate symbol and using antisemitic language.

“It was hellish,” said B’nai Brith Canada in a statement on Friday marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Yet, today, the type of hatred and antisemitism that inspired the Holocaust is surfacing at an alarming rate worldwide, including in Canada. History often repeats but it is our mission to make sure this ugliness does not return. Never again.”

To make sure an atrocity like the Holocaust never happens again, education is “critical,” according to Noah Shack, who is vice president at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

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But, Shack added, teaching the history of the Holocaust isn’t the only priority when it comes to combatting antisemitism — Canadians must also acknowledge what’s happening now, he said.

“I think it’s really important to understand that learning about the Holocaust doesn’t necessarily mean that you understand what’s happening with regard to antisemitism here and now in Canada today,” he said, speaking with host Alex Pierson during an interview aired on 640 Toronto Friday morning.

Click to play video: 'Family doctor mailed antisemitic death threat'
Family doctor mailed antisemitic death threat

The radio program is part of the Corus Entertainment network, which is the parent company of Global News.

“It’s a frightening time to see this kind of hatred come out of the woodwork, something that I never thought that I would experience in my lifetime,” he said.

“It requires listening to people who know what they’re talking about, expert voices.”

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If Canadians turn a blind eye to antisemitism — not just in relation to the Holocaust, but in its smaller, less extreme forms — the hate will “build and accumulate,” creating “fertile ground” and the “possibility for violence, Shack said.

“We’re seeing that accumulation happen and we’re seeing violence taking place,” he said.

“You can’t go to a Jewish community gathering whether it’s for prayer, or for schooling, or for youth programing, you can’t go to a gathering like that without security outside.”

— with files from Global News’ Caryn Lieberman

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