Work on Canada’s National Holocaust Monument can now proceed apace with the news last week that Ottawa will provide up to $4 million in funding to build the memorial.
Four of the five voluntary members of the monument’s development council were also named last week. The council is charged with fundraising and maintenance for the monument, as well as helping to choose the site where it will be built.
Its members are Rabbi Daniel Friedman of Edmonton’s Beth Israel Synagogue; Ralf Lean, a Toronto lawyer with Cassels Brock and Blackwell LLP; Alvin Segal, chairman and CEO of Peerless Clothing in Montreal, and Fran Sonshine, national chair of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem.
A fifth council member from British Columbia will be announced soon, Sonshine said.
Rabbi Friedman, the council’s chair, told The CJN it’s “high time” a tribute of this nature is constructed in Canada.
“This is an important step Canada has taken to recognize survivors in the Jewish community and for all Canadians,” he said. “We’re the only Allied nation without a Holocaust monument in the capital region. The government recognizes this is something important to all Canadians.”
The rabbi also praised Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal, whose private member’s bill to create the monument passed last year.
Uppal, a Sikh, has very close ties to the Jewish community. His wife, Kiran, even went on a March of the Living trip when she was a teenager, Rabbi Friedman said.
“My fellow council members and I are looking forward to moving this project along as quickly as possible,” he said.
Asked if the $4 million from the government might on its own be enough to finance the monument without additional fundraising activities, Rabbi Friedman said similar memorials around the world all cost that much, if not more.
He added that the government’s contribution was “extremely generous, but nonetheless appropriate.”
“This monument will be world-class and something that is an indelible mark on the Canadian nation for generations to come,” he said.
Rabbi Friedman said it was fortunate that the federal funding, pledged by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, was available.
“It warmed our hearts that minister Baird has found it in the budget to provide these funds,” he said.
When Uppal announced the formation of the council last week, there was no mention of funding for the monument and his private member’s bill was vague on that detail.
But Baird’s press secretary, Joseph Lavoie, told The CJN that the government “will match funds raised, up to a maximum of $4 million dollars, by the campaign.”
Sonshine said the National Capital Commission (NCC) has selected a few possible sites for the monument, and she and other council members have toured the sites and will decide on the one they think is best.
The monument’s design will be determined through a competition “launched on behalf of the minister of foreign affairs and the development council under the auspices of the NCC,” she said.
In an April 2 statement, Uppal said Canada has long fought against antisemitism and racism.
“We must never forget what happens when humanity and fundamental human rights are discarded, as this is the only way to ensure it will never happen again.”