ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

At the signing of the Ottawa Protocol
Ottawa, Ontario, September 19, 2011

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Good evening,

I’m here tonight with my colleague, the Honourable John Baird, to mark a very important milestone in the fight against anti-Semitism.

While Canada is generally a tolerant and peaceful country, we cannot overlook the rise of this most pernicious form of racism.

Vandalism and graffiti have defaced synagogues and Jewish community centres. And even our university campuses experience anti-Semitic bullying.

Although Jews make up only about one percent of Canada’s population, they are the main target of hate crimes, with almost two-thirds of hate crimes targeting this religious group.

Any failure to acknowledge and address a rise in anti-Semitic actions – should we be so complacent – would be the same as condoning these hateful crimes.

When we see racism, intolerance and prejudice, we must take a stand. And I’m proud that Canada has become a world leader in combating anti-Semitism.

Canada had the largest delegation at the first meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism Conference in London in 2009. And last fall we hosted the second Conference in Ottawa.

By unanimous consent, parliamentarians there received the Ottawa Protocol. By signing it today, we demonstrate the Government of Canada’s support for it and commitment to its goals.

Among its commitments, the Protocol calls for leaders of faith groups to combat all forms of hatred and discrimination, including anti-Semitism.

It calls on governments to establish an international task force to identify and monitor hate on the Internet. And it calls on governments to record all hate crimes, including anti-Semitism. It also expresses a concern over anti-Semitism on campuses, and encourages local solutions to monitor and share best practices.

The Protocol also calls on governments to reaffirm and implement the United Nations’ Genocide Convention of 1948. The Holocaust was a crime against humanity unlike any other in human history, and fundamentally altered how the world views and treats acts of genocide.

As the Genocide Convention states, “in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, international co-operation is required.”

The Ottawa Protocol represents an important step in our overall strategy to help lead the global fight against anti-Semitism. This includes our membership in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.

To teach future generations of Canadians the lessons of the Holocaust and the effects of xenophobia, we have partnered with B’nai Brith Canada to invest in the National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.

The task force brings together scholars, legal experts, educators, Holocaust survivors, and community representatives to further Holocaust research and education in Canada.

Learning about the errors of our past ensures they aren’t repeated. But we must remain vigilant.

In Nazi Germany the Jews were stripped of citizenship, denied their natural rights, and their very right to exist was called into question. In contemporary times, there are those who are trying to strip the State of Israel of its citizenship in the international community, circumscribe its right to exist and attack its natural rights as a member state in international society.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a worrying new acceptance of the vilification of Israel and of Jews around the world. While criticism of Israel cannot in and of itself be regarded as anti-Semitic, if that criticism selectively condemns and denies the only Jewish state’s right to exist, it can create a hateful environment.

This coming Thursday, Canada will once again take a stand on the global stage against anti-Semitism, when we will refuse to participate in the 10th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, sometimes called Durban 3.

I’m proud to say that Canada was the first country in the world to withdraw from the United Nations’ Durban Review Conference, or Durban 2. We refused to participate in what was clearly a tainted process that would not combat the very real problems of racism.

This was based on our concern about what happened at the first Durban conference, which included examples of anti-Semitism, including the circulation of copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and explicitly anti-Semitic symbolism.

Our stand was vindicated when Durban 2 was used by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a platform to disseminate hate and intolerance, and when the governments of Israel, the United States and several European Union members also boycotted the conference.

Canada is committed to the fight against racism. We cannot support an agenda that actually seeks to promote racism and anti-Semitism rather than combat it.

Ladies and gentlemen, Canada has a proud history of promoting human rights and combating hate and discrimination. Today, we continue this tradition by signing the Ottawa Protocol.

In doing so, we affirm our commitment to fight anti-Semitism, both in Canada and around the world. And we affirm our position as a leader in the global fight against anti-Semitism.

Thank you

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