ARCHIVED - Speaking notes for Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration at a News Conference to Announce the Government’s support for a memorial project to commemorate victims of Communism
At a News Conference to Announce the Government’s support for a memorial project to commemorate victims of Communism
August 23, 2013
Minister, Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, I thank you for joining us today for an event that means so much to us all.
Today’s event coincides with Canada’s fourth annual national Black Ribbon Day, an initiative that was overdue when it began, but which will never be forgotten, I think, by any of those who were affected by one of the great scourges of the 20th century.
Each August 23rd, we mark a solemn anniversary. We remember that day 74 years ago when the now infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of Non-Aggression was agreed to by the communist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. This treaty ultimately led to the oppression and murder of tens of millions of innocent European men, women and children, and I think every student of history, every student of the 20th century knows that this moment on August 23rd, 74 years ago, was one of the darkest hours, one of the lowest points of a century that had many of them, unfortunately, tragically.
I served for six years in Moscow. I saw firsthand the extent to which this history has not been fully processed by governments, politicians, populations around the world. It is one of our responsibilities to help people understand the tragic implications of that pact. The spheres of influence that were decided arbitrarily in secret at that time affecting the Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, affecting Finland, affecting Poland, of course, and Romania, and the tragic decision of the Soviet government of the time to do a bargain with an arch villain that freed his hand to bring great suffering to Europe and brought the Soviet Union to the brink of a huge tragedy only just under two years later on June 22nd, 1941, when Stalin himself, because of the delusion that this pact represented did not know, despite overwhelming intelligence evidence that his country was about to face the most destructive invasion of its history.
In honouring those lost souls through a national day of remembrance, Canada joins the international community in paying tribute to the memory of those who suffered and died at the hands of the oppressive and tyrannical Nazi and communist regimes.
Black Ribbon Day is an occasion for everyone in Canada to reflect on a dark chapter of history and to learn from it so that such errors are not repeated in the future.
Let’s not forget our special responsibility in Canada as the new homeland, as the new foyer for so many peoples who were victims of these tragic chapters of the 20th century in reminding ourselves and reminding the world of these tragic events that led to untold suffering in the 20th century.
It’s also an opportunity, however, to celebrate those who managed to survive and make their way to Canada, to celebrate their accomplishments, to celebrate the achievements, the institutions they have strengthened in this country.
Canada is proud to have continuously served as a safe haven for refugees and displaced persons, including those who fled the communist oppression.
From Hungarians fleeing the Soviet invasion to the boat people of Vietnam and countless others before and since, the true North strong and free has been a beacon of hope and opportunity for those oppressed and victimized by regimes who view basic rights and human dignity as a privilege for the select few.
The profound effect that these survivors and those in our midst today have had on Canadian society is unquestionable.
In fact, they were the first to promote Canadian values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law—values for which they and their loved ones fought in other times and places.
These Canadians have seen at firsthand, through their family histories the tangible worth of the values that we are proud to uphold in this country, and they remain at the forefront of our national efforts to protect and enhance them not only in Canada, but around the world.
For years, my distinguished colleague, the Honourable Jason Kenney, has worked with many of these survivors, those who have been directly affected by the perils of communism and Naziism. And in 2010, the government announced our support for the establishment of a national memorial to victims of communism.
Without further ado, please welcome Minister Kenney who will give us an important update on this historic monument.
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