TORONTO, January 24, 2013 - On January 27 each year, the United Nations (UN) remembers the Holocaust that aimed at killing every Jew, wherever the Nazis could reach them, during World War II. This day is called the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
The day also commemorates when the Soviet troops liberated the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland on January 27, 1945.
The systematic murder of Jews by isolating, starving, shooting, gassing and working them to death was the primary aim of the Nazis. They, however, had no compunction about using their methods to murder whole groups of Roma, disabled persons, unyielding Christians and significant segments of Slavic populations, especially Poles and Russians and to enslave the others. It is estimated that 6 million non-Jews as well as 6 million Jews perished. The reverberations of these terrible crimes pass down the generations to all of us.
In taking a moment to remember all these victims, we would encourage Canadians to learn about how our own country was affected by the attitudes behind these murderous efforts. Negative attitudes and fear of Jews were so strong in some parts of the country and in the government itself that very few Jews were accepted here as refugees. Many who could have been saved from the Holocaust were not.
Over the years, the attitudes of fear and suspicion had also lead Canadian governments to intern members of Ukrainian, German and Italian communities during wartime. Chinese were heavily taxed to slow their immigration, followed by a complete prohibition for almost a quarter of a century under the Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, and persons of Chinese descent, including those born in Canada, were denied citizenship until 1947. In WWII, the Japanese Canadian community was completely uprooted, lost all their citizenship rights as well as their property and then were sent to internment and labour camps further east. Racist policies, practices and laws affected other groups such as Blacks and other Asians as well.
It is clear from our own history that once fear and hatred are unleashed on one group, these negative attitudes and acts can easily spread to others.
"The episode of the St. Louis and the infamous 'None is Too Many' response of F. C. Blair, Canada's then head of immigration, to the plight of the Jewish refugees is one of the things that come to mind on this remembrance day," said Albert Lo, Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. "It reminds us of some ugly examples of our history and the need for vigilance in dealing with the issues of our time."
"Indeed, the Government of Canada has over the years recognized and made efforts to redress past wrongs. The Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement of 1988 was perhaps the fist of its kind in Canada and lead to the creation of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation."
"We need to continue to remain vigilant to ensure all are treated with fairness and respect, so that such egregious transgressions against human rights are never repeated in Canada."
For further information:
Principal Operating Officer