Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in this place today. I would, however, rather have been at Auschwitz with the Minister of Justice and our wives along with the 20,000 other people who are participating today in the March of the Living in that death camp in Auschwitz, Poland.
Yom Hashoah is being officially and solemnly commemorated for the second time this year. The chosen date, the 26th day of Nissan in the Jewish calendar, is in remembrance of the Warsaw ghetto uprising that saw weak, famished and poorly armed Jews stand up to the powerful Wehrmacht, the German army.
On November 7, 2003, with a unanimous vote of this House, Parliament passed Bill C-459, establishing Holocaust Memorial Day.
I had made that suggestion after my friend lost his father, Albert Rudolph, who was a survivor of this tragedy. Because there are fewer and fewer of these survivors and heroes still alive, it is incumbent upon public authorities and parliamentarians to take over, so that the horror of what happened is not forgotten. Despite all the studies, books, documentaries and seminars, it is not always easy to properly understand, explain and talk about the Shoah because it is unspeakable.
It is unspeakable in part because, paradoxically, it has both unique and universal aspects.
I use the term universal, because, before the Shoah, and unfortunately also afterward, people all over the world have been the victims of degradation, humiliation, torture and murder because of their ethnic background. The list of these is unfortunately too long. We think immediately of Rwanda, for course, where 800,000 people were murdered with machetes within the space of six weeks. Then there is the former Yugoslavia. The situation in Sudan at the present time, where the Janjaweed are massacring the black Sudanese at will, is another example. How shameful that, after the example of the Shoah, the international community has not put an end to these massacres. Unfortunately, it is obvious that the lessons of the Holocaust have not all been learned.
The other unique aspect of the Shoah is that ant-Semitism is still far too evident today. Some consider this to be the most long-lasting hatred of all. There has been a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the world, according to a recently released study by the University of Tel Aviv. Over the past 15 years anti-Semitic acts have been on the rise in the world.
Its effects are felt in Canada and in Quebec as well. Here are some examples: May 19, 2001, a bomb in a Quebec City synagogue; summer 2004, synagogues and houses vandalized in Toronto; April 5, 2004, United Talmud Torah School set fire to; Chief David Ahenakew's extremely anti-Semitic remarks. Only a week ago, students of Royal St. George's College in Toronto lauched an openly anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi website.
If our youth are still doing such things, it is because we have been remiss as a society. As parliamentarians, we have not done our part to counteract racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism.
This Holocaust Memorial Day imposes two duties on us: first of all, to remember, so that history does not repeat itself; second, to react every time there is a racist remark or a racist act, to stand up and speak out against such things, and to put an end to this behaviour. These duties are imposed upon us by the six million innocent victims. They are a sacred trust.