TORONTO — Canada will assume the chairmanship of the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research in 2013.
Former Davenport Liberal MP Mario Silva will chair the organization for that year. Chair countries hold the position for 12 months, during which time it hosts meetings for member states.
Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, made the announcement Dec. 15. “I am proud of the leadership role that Canada is taking to further Holocaust education and combat antisemitism together with all forms of racism and xenophobia,” Kenney said in a statement.
Established in 1998, the task force is composed of 31 member countries. Canada became involved with the organization in 2007 and was made a full member in 2009.
Silva has been active in Holocaust education for years. He was chair of the inquiry committee and vice-chair of the steering committee of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA).
He also helped ensure the success of the 2010 Ottawa conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA), which brought together parliamentarians and experts from around the world to “lead the fight against global antisemitism,” Kenney said.
The 2010 ICCA Conference produced the Ottawa Protocol, which called for leaders of faith groups to combat all hatred and discrimination, including antisemitism, “which is inextricably linked to the universal lessons of the Holocaust,” the task force’s website states.
Both Kenney and Liberal MP for Mount Royal Irwin Cotler are ex-officio members of the steering committee of CPCCA.
Cotler, who has championed human rights issues throughout his career, lauded Silva’s appointment.
“This is an important responsibility and Mario will be an excellent chair,” Cotler wrote to The CJN in an e-mail. “Canada will be playing a major role in Holocaust remembrance, education and research during its chairmanship in 2013 and Mario will be the right person to exercise leadership on Canada’s behalf.”
Silva, who lost his seat in the 2011 election to NDPer Andrew Cash, said he was inspired to become involved in combating antisemitism because of his personal history as an immigrant to Canada from Portugal.
“I see myself as a minority… and I see this [appointment] as part and parcel of my work on and support of human rights around the world,” Silva said. “We cannot be complacent when we have leaders like [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad spewing hatred and targeting [Israel] with destruction. We can’t stand by when an ally like Israel is being made out to be the scapegoat for every problem in the world.”
He said it is crucial to take on antisemitism around the world because it attempts to “dehumanize” the Jewish people and by extension “vilify” and “delegitimize” the State of Israel.
“I look forward to working with [Kenney and Cotler] to help define what Canada’s objectives will be while chairing the task force,” Silva told The CJN in a phone interview a day after his appointment.
He noted that both Kenney and Cotler encouraged him to accept the chair of the task force, believing him to be the best candidate for the job.