On May 8, 2017 Prime Minister Trudeau paid tribute to Holocaust survivors when he delivered a keynote speech at the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem’s National Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa alongside Leader of the Opposition Rona Ambrose and Leader of the NDP Thomas Mulcair.
The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem’s mission is to educate Canadians about the Holocaust through educational and commemorative programs while sharing the facts, knowledge and universal lessons of the Shoah.
Close to 700 guests attended the ceremony, including hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their families, Israel’s Ambassador to Canada Nimrod Barkan, over 50 representatives of diplomatic missions in Canada, Cabinet ministers, Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, close to 60 members of Parliament and hundreds of students and community members from across Ontario and Quebec.
The theme of this year’s ceremony was “Survivors’ Testimonies: The Fate of the Individual during the Holocaust”.
Members of the Canadian government lit six candles on the Yad Vashem Menorah in memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Prior to attending the ceremony, more than 190 high school students of different faiths and cultures, from schools across Canada met with Holocaust Survivors to participate in “Ambassadors of Change” program. Survivors shared their first-hand experience of the Shoah and students participated in a discussion regarding the relevance of the Holocaust’s lessons in today’s world and ways they can promote tolerance and inclusion within their own communities.
In 2016, Trudeau paid an emotional visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the former Nazi extermination camp in Poland. In the book of remembrance, Trudeau wrote: “Today we bear witness to humanity’s capacity for deliberate cruelty and evil. May we ever remember this painful truth about ourselves and may it strengthen our commitment to never again to allow such darkness to prevail. We shall never forget.”
The ceremony in Ottawa coincided with the release of the Annual Audit of anti-Semitic Incidents, which revealed that anti-Semitism in Canada increased by 26% from the previous year, making 2016 the worst year on record for anti-Semitism since B’nai Brith Canada began publishing the report 35 years ago.
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]