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

At a National Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony

Canadian War Museum
Ottawa, Ontario
April 23, 2013

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Survivors, honoured veterans, distinguished guests, fellow Canadians:

Seventy years ago today, fighting raged in what we now know as one of the greatest triumphs of human freedom: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The Uprising was a moment of extraordinary defiance.

Defying insurmountable odds, young women and men of unthinkable courage rebelled against hopelessness. In choosing to fight rather than succumb, they struck a blow against the most evil tyranny in the annals of human history.

Their acts of bravery echo through time down to us today. They say to us that hope, dignity and freedom can overcome death, despair and depravity.

Their will to resist tyranny and genocide overcame famine, illness, desperation and horror.

These extraordinary acts of self-sacrifice inspire us today in the cause of justice and humanity.

We remember the defiance of those in the Warsaw ghetto, and others – both Jewish and gentile – who defied Nazi terror during those dark years.

Just as we remember today, at this commemoration of Yom Ha’Shoah, the sacred memory of the six million who perished. Each one created in the image and likeness of God. Each one the victim of a hatred that surpasses human understanding.

While we remember them, we give thanks for those who are with us here today.

Heroes. Survivors. Veterans.

Canadian descendants of the Righteous Among the Nations.

To the survivors, you are here in spite of insurmountable odds. You defied history. Your courage inspires us.

You did not fail, you were not defeated.

Despite unspeakable adversity, you survived, and stand as a living testament to the triumph of good over evil.

As Blessed Pope John Paul II said when meeting survivors in his native Poland: “You have become a loud warning voice for all humanity, for all nations, all the powers of this world, all systems and every person. It is precisely you who have become this saving warning. This is your special vocation to humanity.”

But long after all the witnesses are gone, and their warning voices stilled, we must – and will – continue to speak for them.

We must not allow the passage of time to make us indifferent to the reality of the Shoah, or the evil that animated it.

There are those who are guilty of what Elie Wiesel calls the perils of indifference – those who choose to look the other way rather than face the ugly reality of a resurgent anti-Semitism, in both its old and new manifestations.

But Canada will not look the other way.

Canada will not be indifferent.

Last year, on this solemn occasion, Prime Minister Harper declared: “While the Holocaust stands alone, it does not stand isolated. It is but the most hellish chapter in the long and continuing history of anti-Semitism… Truly remembering the Holocaust must also be an understanding, and an undertaking. It is an understanding that the same threats exist today. And it is an undertaking of a solemn responsibility to fight those threats.”

By gathering here today, we remember the Shoah and reaffirm the Prime Minister’s injunction.

We are saying not only that we understand the threats, but that we are undertaking to combat them.

As the new chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Canada is leading the world in preserving the memory of the Shoah.

Canada will also continue to lead the world in isolating those who threaten the very existence of the State of Israel – the modern miracle that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust as the first and final refuge of the Jewish people.

On this occasion, let us remember and pay tribute to the valiance of the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising who defied a powerful evil and resisted oppression.

We reify their spirit.

We pay tribute to those brave and determined survivors in our midst, pledging to them that we shall never be indifferent.

And in prayerful mourning, together we recall the words of the Kaddish:

‘oseh shalom bimromav
Hu ya‘ase shalom ‘alenu
v’ʻal kol yisra’el, v’ʼimru amen

May He who makes peace in His high places grant peace upon us and upon all His nation Israel, and say Amen.

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