TORONTO — Conservative MP Mark Adler has removed a reference in his online biography in which he described himself as the first child of a Holocaust survivor to be elected to Parliament.
The move came after an Aug. 17 CJN story revealed that Raymonde Folco, a Liberal who served as a Montreal-area MP from 1997 to 2011, preceded Adler in that distinction, and that Folco was herself a child survivor of the Holocaust.
The Adler campaign also changed a large building sign outside his campaign office that contained a reference to the candidate being the son of a Holocaust survivor, which was removed and replaced with a message about “keeping our taxes low.”
The York Centre MP found himself at the centre of controversy after Walrus editor Jonathan Kay tweeted a picture Aug. 16 of Adler’s original campaign office sign containing his claim about being the son of a survivor. “And who needs Yad Vashem when Holocaust awareness is now being promoted on partisan Conservative signage?” Kay tweeted with the photo.
Adler’s current online biography continues to describe the him as “a child of a Holocaust survivor… [who] has passionately dedicated his time to raise awareness about discrimination and antisemitism throughout the world.”
In a prepared statement, Adler said, “Throughout my life, I have advocated for Holocaust remembrance – so that all Canadians will remember the great evil of the Second World War and never forget. My father came to Canada after surviving the horrors of a Nazi death camp, and chose Canada based on the values that continue to unite us: democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law.
“I am proud to serve our country and deliver on the priorities of residents in York Centre – including advocacy for the security of the state of Israel, and the promotion of democratic values abroad. I share the concern of many residents who are alarmed by the global campaign to isolate and denounce Israel, and the moral relativism that was embraced by past governments who equivocated on the defence of the Jewish state.”
Adler’s NDP opponent, Hal Berman, a palliative care physician, criticized the MP on his own Twitter feed, saying, “Shame on you using #Holocaust for political gain. #yorkcentre deserves better – I am in this for voters.”
Ironically, Berman is also the child of Holocaust survivors. In his own web bio, the Montreal-born Berman points out “his grandparents and mother arrived to start a new life after the Holocaust.”
Meanwhile, Folco said she found it “disgusting” for Adler “to use the Holocaust in this way, for personal ends.” As an MP, she never publicized her status as a child of Holocaust survivors, while Adler is “profiting” from it.
“Whether he is the first or 15th, I should think it is your record that matters: what you’ve done and what you intend to do for Canadians, when elected,” she told The CJN.
Adler is far from the first politician to draw attention to unique circumstances in their personal background.
In Vancouver, Liberal candidate Harjit Sajjan, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces and received the Order of Military Merit, noted in his web biography that he “is the first Sikh to receive this award and continues to be a role model for youth across the country as he prepares to serve his country in new ways.”
Retired senator Vivienne Poy, a Liberal, is described on the parliamentary website as the “First Canadian of Chinese origin appointed to the Senate.”
She notes on her own website that she “was the first Canadian of Asian descent to be appointed to the Senate of Canada.”
High-profile NDP candidate Olivia Chow mentions her unique circumstances in her online biography as well: “Olivia was born in Hong Kong and moved to Toronto with her parents when she was 13. In 1991, Olivia became the first Asian-born woman elected as a Metro Toronto councillor.”
And south of the border, Hillary Clinton, the front-running Democratic Party presidential candidate, in a statement designed to appeal to new Americans, said during the campaign that her grandparents had immigrated to the United States. However, that comment was inaccurate. Three of her grandparents were born in the United States and the fourth immigrated to the country as a young child.