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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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Throne speech backs Holocaust memorial

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The federal government will support legislation to create a national Holocaust memorial in Ottawa.

Peter Kent

In the speech from the throne last week, the government announced: “It supports the establishment of a national monument to the victims of communism and it will support legislation to establish a national Holocaust memorial.”

The memorial will be created under terms of a private member’s bill that has already passed first reading and is heading for committee, said Thornhill MP Peter Kent, junior minister for foreign affairs.

“We have a variety of Holocaust memorials on a smaller scale,” Kent said. “A national memorial somewhere in the National Capital Region will be appropriate.”

The bill, now called An Act to Establish a National Holocaust Monument, was first proposed by former Thornhill MP Susan Kadis after it was suggested by Thornhill resident Laura Grossman. It is now being sponsored by Edmonton-area MP Tim Uppal, Kent said.

“It’s a wonderful gesture by the prime minister to include it in the speech from the throne,” he said.

Kent expects the bill to pass quickly, as it has all-party support. Once enacted, the National Capital Commission will designate a location and call for designs. “No federal money will go to it. It would be funded privately. That’s a minor challenge,” he said.

In another announcement, the throne speech said the government would take steps to streamline the process under which war criminals are brought to justice.

“Our government will also introduce legislation to speed up the revocation of citizenship of those who have concealed their war crimes,” the throne speech stated.

The legislation “will provide for an expedited consideration and decision process which will remove some of the legal foot-dragging and delay tactics,” Kent said, including the process in cabinet, where the revocation occurs.

The speech from the throne, in a section on immigration, said that “our government will introduce legislation to establish Pier 21 in Halifax – the site where so many began their Canadian journey – as Canada’s national museum of immigration.”

Jewish organizations are currently working on a memorial that will appear at the site documenting the policy that turned away Jewish refugees on board the St. Louis, sending them back to Europe where many were killed.

Canadian Jewish Congress lauded the throne speech’s announcements on immigrants.

“Today’s throne speech had a proper mixture of both justice and memory in dealing with past crimes, the need for justice to be done and the importance of remembrance,” said Congress CEO Bernie Farber.

“We are heartened by the government’s decision to introduce legislation that will speed up the revocation of citizenship of those who concealed their war crimes in order to gain Canadian citizenship. In particular, we hope that this legislation will finally bring to justice Nazi enabler Helmut Oberlander, a translator for a mobile killing unit during World War II that murdered tens of thousands of people, the majority of which were Jews. The Canadian Jewish community awaits the decision by cabinet in regard to Mr. Oberlander’s denaturalization and deportation. It is important that the words of the throne speech now be put into action,” Farber said.

“We are very encouraged by the government’s decision to establish a national Holocaust memorial. Congress has long advocated for such a memorial to help future generations recognize humanity’s capacity for evil. With such understanding comes hope for the future,” he added.

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