Canadian Jewish Heritage Month Act

An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the month of May in each and every year as “Canadian Jewish Heritage Month”.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


March 28, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise again as the House considers Bill S-232, an act respecting Canadian Jewish heritage month. It has been an absolute privilege not just to be the sponsor of the bill, but to be part of and witness to the debate and discussion surrounding the bill in both the other place and in the House.

I want to acknowledge Senator Linda Frum, who has partnered with me in introducing the bill, and the members for Thornhill and Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who I have had the pleasure of working with to ensure strong multi-partisan support for the bill. I saw enthusiastic support as the bill was considered before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and I hope it will be mirrored by all members of this chamber as we debate Bill S-232.

I also want to take a moment to recognize the efforts of my friend and mentor the Hon. Irwin Cotler, who originally introduced the substance of the bill as a motion in 2015. I designate my work on this bill in his honour.

The bill came before the heritage committee soon after the committee heard from representatives of the Jewish community on the anti-Semitism that Jewish Canadians face. As we know, Jewish Canadians are consistently the most targeted group for hate crimes in Canada. Anti-Semitism, like all forms of discrimination, has no place in Canadian society. It is a testament to the long-standing advocacy of Jewish Canadians and Jewish civil society that we have come this far on this issue, but there is so much more to do.

While we know that anti-Semitism is a very real problem in Canadian society, we can all be proud of the distance we have come as a country. We no longer face the institutional, social, and political discrimination faced by so many Jewish Canadians over the course of Canadian history.

It is fitting that we have resumed debating the bill in 2018. This year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, in which approximately 4,700 Canadian Jews from across Canada fought for their country, in spite of the discrimination they faced at home. Samuel Waskey from Winnipeg joined the 44th Battalion as a private and lost his life at the Somme. To avoid what has been referred to as an “unpleasant experience” because he was Jewish, he changed his name to Waskey from Warshawsky. Other Jewish soldiers took a more drastic step and registered as Protestants.

Saskatchewan Jews were among the first to volunteer during both World Wars I and II, and many lost their lives fighting in Europe. The province honoured those who sacrificed their lives, including a number of Jews, by naming lakes after them. Among these eternal memorials to our fallen are Faibish Bay, after Jack Faibish from Markinch, Saskatchewan; Levine Lake, after David Levine from Swift Current; and Glansberg Lake in honour of Maurice Glansberg.

During the Second World War, over a third of all Jewish Canadian men over 21 served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. This was in spite of the discrimination and the many hurdles they faced. The year 2018 also marks the 70th anniversary of the end of Canada's notorious “none is too many” policy. From 1933 to 1948, under this policy, only 5,000 Holocaust refugees were admitted to Canada, the fewest of any western country. The most egregious example of this misguided policy was in 1939, when Canada turned away the MS St .Louis. Of the more than 900 Jewish refugees on board seeking sanctuary here in Canada and forced to return to Europe, 254 died in the Holocaust. We cannot turn away from this ugly truth and Canada's part in it. However, in 1949, Canada admitted 11,000 Jews, more than any other country except Israel.

As Canadians, we must remember the lessons taught by this awful period. The stories of Holocaust survivors who came to Canada are our stories as Canadians. I am proud that my riding of York Centre became home to so many Holocaust survivors who emerged from the ashes of Europe to begin new and vibrant lives here in Canada. They helped inform and build the modern Canada that we are all so proud to represent.

I want to highlight the success of the March of the Living, a two-week educational experience that takes hundreds of Canadian students each year to Poland and Israel. On Yom HaShoah, to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, these students undertake a three kilometre march from Auschwitz to Birkenau accompanied by a group of indomitable Holocaust survivors who serve as their guides.

This May is March of the Living's 30th anniversary. Over 12,000 high school students have taken part in this incredible project. I want to recognize the exceptional work of Rabbi Eli Rubenstein for his leadership on this initiative.

March of the Living illustrates the importance of Holocaust education as an essential part of our Canadian Jewish heritage. Projects like March of the Living connect our past to our future, with older generations educating our future leaders. The march has 12 goals, among them to never allow the unchecked rise of the menace of antisemitism; to never again allow any kind of discrimination directed by any individual or any group against any other to gain strength; and to inspire participants to commit to building a world of freedom, democracy, and justice, free of oppression and intolerance.

March of the Living has benefited enormously from the selfless work of over 100 Holocaust survivors, survivors like Max Eisen, Anita Ekstein, Esther Fairbloom, Bill Glied, and Pinchas Gutter, to name but a few. They give their time and energy, but most importantly, they open themselves up to reliving their immense pain and suffering so that future generations can learn from their experiences.

There is no replacement for the first-hand stories of Holocaust survivors. As their numbers dwindle, it is even more important that we hear and document these stories.

Nate Leipciger is one of the hundreds of survivors of Auschwitz who came to Canada, but he has returned to Poland 17 times with the March of the Living. I have personally had the privilege of listening to and learning from Nate, from his experiences during and after the Holocaust.

One of his most inspirational stories is from a year and a half ago. Seventy three years after having survived the lowest point of his life at Auschwitz, Nate returned there with the Prime Minister. He described his return to Auschwitz with the Prime Minister as triumphant. As Nate wrote, “When the Prime Minister and I shed tears together in Auschwitz-Birkenau, never have I been more grateful for the welcome given to me by my adopted land, never have I been prouder to be a citizen of our beloved country, Canada. It was one of the most uplifting moments of my life.”

The Prime Minister's experience is not unique. It has been shared by thousands of Canadians from all walks of life.

Jewish Canadians hail from all corners of the world: South Africa, Russia, Israel, Morocco, India, Iraq, Argentina, and many other countries. Their histories and experiences shape the Canadian Jewish identity and add to the very fabric of our nation.

I am a proud Canadian, and I am also a very proud Scottish Jew. Nothing gives me more pleasure than sharing my own heritage, like wearing the Jewish tartan, as I am today, or donning my kilt, as I did at our annual Robbie Burns supper on the Hill just a couple of weeks ago.

In many ways, the diversity of Jewish Canadians mirrors the diversity of our broader Canadian society, each of us bringing our own customs and our own traditions. These stories have played out in communities big and small across Canada. I am certain that every member of this House from every province and territory can point to the history of Jewish Canadians in their own communities.

While the largest Canadian Jewish communities are in Montreal and Toronto, the purpose of this bill is to recognize the role and highlight the stories of Jewish Canadians from coast to coast to coast, from St. John's to Victoria to Iqaluit and everywhere in between.

During the debate on Bill S-232, I have learned of the histories of Jewish communities in Cape Breton, Niagara Falls, and Hirsch, Saskatchewan. Each community has a rich history and a story to share, like Congregation Emanu-El in Victoria, Canada's oldest synagogue, in continuous operation since 1863, or the Jewish community of St. John's, which is one of the oldest in Canada, having arrived in Newfoundland in the 1770s. Even the very small Jewish community in Iqaluit, numbering just 20 people, adds to the fabric of our Canadian Jewish heritage.

The enactment of Canadian Jewish heritage month will ensure that the historic and ongoing contributions of Jewish Canadians are recognized, shared, and celebrated across this great country for generations to come. By choosing May as Canadian Jewish heritage month, we will see what currently exists in the United States and Ontario expanded to a national celebration across our great country.

As I close, I want to thank my colleagues for the support they have offered so far and encourage all of them to see this bill passed into law.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
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Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have two comments. First, I would like to thank the member for referencing the north. We have a great Jewish community in the Yukon. I can think of Rick Carp and Arthur Mitchell offhand, and a number more.

Second, I want to thank him for his tribute to my former seatmate, who started this bill. Hon. Irwin Cotler is a great world citizen. He has done so much for human rights in the world. He has received accolades and many awards from around the world for that type of work. I really appreciate the member's reference to Mr. Cotler for the great contribution he has made to Canada and the world.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have just learned more about another part of our great country and the contributions of the Jewish community. One of the joys of bringing this bill to Parliament has been hearing from all sides of the aisle, from all parties, the great and inspirational stories of Canadian Jews and their contributions.

I share with the member pride in the hon. Irwin Cotler and his contributions. As the chair of the subcommittee on international human rights, I lean on his learnings often. He is one of so many strong voices of Jewish Canadians in this country. Just down the hall, we have Justice Rosalie Abella, with her contributions to the Supreme Court.

I could go on and on, as I have done in previous speeches. This is the opportunity of Canadian Jewish heritage month. Every May, across this country, we are going to be able to celebrate and talk about the contributions of Jews to Canada. This is going to be especially important. My children are 18 and 16, and I look forward to their learning more and more about the contributions Canadian Jews have made as the years go on. It is a tremendous opportunity, and I thank my colleague for his support.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, like many communities across Canada, the Jewish community has been very active, particularly in support of those who are seeking resettlement here in Canada.

I know in my own community, Or Shalom has been very active in sponsoring privately sponsored families. Operation Ezra in Winnipeg has been doing fantastic work.

One of the things they have in common is that they are calling on the government to lift the cap on privately sponsored refugees. I wonder whether the member would agree with that and with supporting the Jewish community in its effort to show compassion and humanitarianism to those who are in great need.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of the fantastic contribution so many Jewish communities across Canada have made in supporting refugees, whether Syrian refugees or the Yazidi community. They have had an ongoing role in advocating for and supporting the refugees when they have arrived in Canada.

In my own community, several synagogues have banded together, particularly Temple Darchei Noam and Beth Emeth and a number of others, and have been active in supporting and advocating for refugees. In the Jewish tradition, this is something that is a priority. We want to lend our voices and our support to people who are in need. We want to make sure that we are giving people the opportunity.

I think that is something that, again, will be highlighted during Canadian Jewish heritage month, and I look forward to those lessons being taught to future generations as we move forward.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure to rise today to speak in support of Bill S-232, the Canadian Jewish heritage month act. This proposed legislation is the product of a partnership jointly sponsored by Senator Linda Frum and my hon. colleague from York Centre. I join in the multi-partisan support of Bill S-232 with the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.

The proposed legislation received unanimous support in the other place, and I hope that this House will follow suit. The preamble of Bill S-232 remarks that Canada is home to the fourth-largest Jewish population in the world of approximately 400,000 men, women, and children.

Some of my colleagues, or the folks watching at home, might have noticed that when Statistics Canada reported the 2016 numbers on Canada's ethnic makeup that more than half of the Jewish population in Canada who were reported in 2011 seemed to have disappeared. That 2016 StatsCan census report of a drop of almost 200,000 people would have been the largest such drop for any ethnic group in history, if it had been accurate. Leaders of Canada's Jewish organizations immediately protested that the shrinkage was grossly inaccurate, and they were correct. Subsequent investigation revealed that the problem was a product of StatsCan's own misdesigned survey, which left the term “Jewish” off the list of examples of ethnic origins for respondents to check off. The new survey design did not reflect reality, but it did reveal the very different ways that the community today answers the age-old question of how to define Jewish.

Members of the Canadian Jewish community self-identify in different ways across various levels of observance, whether individuals see their identity as religious, linguistic, ethnic, or as a cultural affiliation. Therefore, how do we get the community's numbers right as we consider this piece of historic legislation?

Jewish community leaders are asking Statistics Canada to redraw the 2021 census design and restore the term "Jewish" to the list of examples offered to respondents. By 2021, I think it is safe to suggest that the true measure of Canada's diverse Jewish community will be restored and shown to be approaching fully half a million. With that clarification on the record, I will address the significant contributions that the Canadian Jewish community has made to the growth and prosperity of Canada, even while enduring and overcoming tremendous obstacles.

Jews have lived in Canada for more than two and a half centuries. The first recorded arrivals settled in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1760. Most of the early Jewish families, who came from central and western Europe, settled in Quebec. In 1832, a full quarter of a century before Great Britain and its other dominions, the parliament of Quebec and the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada voted to enfranchise, give full rights, to Jews living in Lower Canada.

Jewish immigration to Canada increased after Confederation, with immigrants arriving from eastern Europe, Russia, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, and beyond, fleeing political turmoil and, of course, anti-Semitism. They settled in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg initially, building their own small businesses. From those humble beginnings with pushcarts and recycled rags, the schmatta trade developed major garment companies, employing thousands of Canadians in eastern Canada, but in the west as well.

Immigration slowed in the mid-1920s, as federal immigration regulations made it more difficult for Jews to enter Canada until after the Second World War when the world belatedly recognized the horrors of the Holocaust. This was the time of Canada's infamous “none is too many” immigration policy that was applied against Jews.

Between 1933 and 1948, for example, and this statistic has been noted a number of times, only 5,000 Jewish refugees were admitted to Canada, the lowest number for any western country at that time. When Canada finally properly reopened our doors to post-war immigration, thousands of Holocaust survivors, displaced from countries across Europe, came to settle in Canada. More than 12,000 settled immediately in Montreal and another 8,000 in Toronto.

Subsequent waves of Jewish immigration to Canada resulted from political persecution in their home countries, from Hungary after the 1956 revolution, from Iraq and from Egypt, from Romania in the 1960s, along with Sephardic Jews from France and North Africa. In the 1970s, Jews began to arrive from the Soviet Union, very often as a result of Canadian advocacy on their behalf. As well through the 1970s and 1980s, North African Jews, particularly from Morocco, arrived in a new wave of immigrants adding wonderfully to the spectrum of Canada's Jewish community, as anyone who has attended the exuberant post-Passover festival of Mimouna at Thornhill Sephardic Kehila Centre can attest.

Over the recent years particularly, there have been the arrivals of a high-tech generation of Jews from Israel and from eastern Europe. They are scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs who have come to Canada to share their skills, to grow their companies, to flourish in Canada, and to contribute to Canadian society and to our economy.

All of that said, despite the diverse and dynamic community of Jewish communities, the scourge of the original hate crime, anti-Semitism, remains. We were reminded in the most recent audits of anti-Semitism by B'nai Brith and Statistics Canada that documented the highest levels of nationwide anti-Semitism on record. Michael Mostyn, the chief executive of B'nai Brith Canada, said recently, “Canadians from coast to coast have seen the swastikas, heard the anti-Jewish hate speech, and now have access to the statistics”. Mr. Mostyn commended Statistics Canada for the release of data that will aid both government policy-makers and advocacy groups, working with police and prosecutors and government officials, to tackle the ever-persistent presence of hate crimes. Every member of the House would agree with that sentiment.

Finally, back to Bill S-232, as the preamble says:

Whereas the Canadian Jewish community has made significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of Canada while overcoming tremendous obstacles;

Whereas the month of May is meaningful for the Jewish community around the world;

Whereas, by designating the month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, the Parliament of Canada recognizes the important contributions that Jewish Canadians have made to Canada’s social, economic, political and cultural fabric;

And whereas Canadian Jewish Heritage Month would provide an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate future generations about the inspirational role that Jewish Canadians have played and continue to play in communities across the country;

For all of these reasons and for the powerful logic underpinning the initiative of Bill S-232, I would encourage all of my hon. colleagues to support this very worthy piece of legislation.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have this opportunity today to stand in the House in support of Bill S-232, which would establish May as Jewish heritage month.

I must admit that I am a bit surprised that such a bill has not yet already been passed in the House. The United States proclaimed May as the month to celebrate the contributions of the American Jewish community in 2006, and Ontario established May as Jewish Heritage Month in 2012.

I suppose it was not so long ago that Canada had the unofficial policy of “none is too many”. Anti-Semitism in Canada's immigration policy ultimately led to the admittance of only 5,000 Jewish refugees between 1933 and 1948. It is my sincere hope that passing this declaration and promoting the month of May as Jewish heritage month will allow for us as a society to ensure “never again”.

At this point, I would like to take a moment to recognize the strength and resiliency of the Holocaust survivors. On a number of occasions, I have had the opportunity to hear first-hand the stories from survivors and their families. Their stories are beyond inspirational. Their survival speaks to the greatest strength of all, and that is the strength of the human spirit. As we debate the bill before us, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to them.

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. An estimated six million Jewish people were murdered. This horrendous crime against humanity must never be forgotten.

In 2018, one might ask what action we can take today. One way to commemorate this genocide is for Canada to prioritize the resettlement of those who are faced with genocide today. Another way to honour the survivors and their families is to ensure that we do everything we can to combat anti-Semitism in Canada.

It is with dismay that I note that the Jewish community in Canada continues to be the most targeted group for hate crimes on an annual basis. In 2016, there were 221 police-reported hate crimes against Jewish Canadians, which is up from 178 in 2015. This fact should not be acceptable to anyone and it cannot be the path forward. It highlights the importance of a bill like the one before us and the fact that much work remains to be done in combatting hate in Canada.

I had the privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage during its study of systemic racism and religious discrimination. Committee members had the opportunity to hear from Canada's Jewish communities, such as the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, B'nai Brith Canada, and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. It was noted that once a crime has been reported and is being investigated, in some cases, that motivation, i.e., hate, was not being examined. David Matas, senior legal counsel for B'nai Brith Canada explained:

One of the problems we see with the police forces when dealing with hate-motivated crimes is sometimes—indeed, perhaps all too often—they will identify the crime without looking at the motivation. I mean, obviously if somebody paints a swastika, you can see the motivation, but if it's a simple assault, they may just go after the assault without looking at the motivation. The low figures we hear about hate-motivated crimes are in some instances the result of the police just not looking to see whether it's a hate-motivated crime. One of the things we could usefully do in terms of training is sensitize police forces, so that when there is a hate dimension to a crime, it gets noticed, it gets reported, and it gets acted on.

The difficulty in laying a hate crime charge, difficulties in having complaints responded to in a standardized and thoughtful manner, and the lack of trust that complainants will be taken seriously led to what many witnesses described as significant under-reporting of hate crimes in Canada. This is because official statistics rely only on police-reported hate crimes.

Shimon Fogel, chief executive officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs recommended that “the government establish uniform national guidelines and standards for the collection and handling of hate crime and hate incident data.” Going forward, I hope that the government will act on this recommendation.

That being said, Jewish Canadians have still created vibrant, long-established communities across Canada.

Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to participate in the candle lighting ceremony in celebration of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. I was honoured to light the seventh candle with Alycia Fridkin in Vancouver this past December. The Jewish community, like so many other communities, has unique practices and celebrations. In a rich and diverse multicultural society, it is truly our good fortune that we have the opportunity to learn about and experience these different practices.

In my time spent as an elected official municipally, provincially, and now federally, the resiliency and compassion of Canada's Jewish community always shine through. I believe this is part of how many Jewish Canadians attempt to embody the concept of tikkun olam, the Hebrew term meaning “repair of the world”. For many people of the Jewish faith, this is the aspiration to behave kindly, act constructively, and help those who are disadvantaged. The Jewish community's effort to showcase this belief is the beauty and strength of Canada's multiculturalism policy, and highlights why our diversity is such a strength for us.

At the immigration committee, whenever we study the issue of refugee resettlement, Canada's Jewish community has provided a voice with its expertise and desire to do even more than it already is. I was proud to bring representatives of Or Shalom Synagogue in Vancouver East to our study of the federal government's initiative to resettle Syrian refugees in Canada. Their humanitarian spirit and efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in Vancouver was incredibly inspiring.

To date, representatives of Or Shalom continue to call, write, and speak to me about their desire to do more and to call for the federal government to address the lengthy processing delays of their sponsorship applications. Back in July, after waiting anxiously for the arrival of its sponsored families, Or Shalom was finally able to host a Syrian resettlement initiative welcome gathering in celebration of the arrival of its sponsored Syrian families.

Whether it is Or Shalom's efforts in Vancouver to resettle Syrian refugees or the efforts of Operation Ezra in Winnipeg to resettle Yazidi refugees, I have been inspired time and again by the work and spirit of Canada's Jewish communities on these important humanitarian efforts. With more than 65 million people displaced due to global conflicts, these groups want to do more and are constantly advocating for the government to take further action.

They have called for and continue to demand that the government lift the artificially imposed cap on the private sponsorship of refugees. They have the capacity, resources, and the desire to sponsor more people and to allow for more people to rebuild their lives in safety here in Canada. Canada needs to lift the cap on privately sponsored refugee applications, and we need to expeditiously resettle accepted privately sponsored refugee applications. The outpouring of generosity and humanitarianism shown, not just by these Jewish communities but by Canadians from coast to coast to coast, should be celebrated and not stifled.

It is an honour for me to stand in the House to recognize the incredible efforts in refugee resettlement and interfaith dialogues of Canada's Jewish communities. I, along with my NDP caucus, will vote in favour of recognizing May as Jewish heritage month in Canada. We believe this will give Canadians an opportunity to reflect on the great contributions Canada's Jewish community has made and will continue to make in this country.

It will also provide us with the opportunity to reflect on a history of injustice, intolerance, and the tragedies that can occur if we allow for the politics of hate and division to win the day. We cannot stand idly by and allow for hate crimes to continue to increase, as we saw from 2015 to 2016. We must act. While the notion of none is too many might no longer be said about members of the Jewish faith, it is unfortunately not as uncommon as it should be to hear that type of rhetoric employed against other groups.

We must remember this history and redouble our efforts to ensure “never again”. The strength and resiliency of Canada's Jewish community is something I am very proud to celebrate. We must, with love and courage, continue this work to build a more just, inclusive, and equal Canada.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:30 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today to speak to Bill S-232 to recognize every May as Canadian Jewish heritage month. At the outset, I want to start by congratulating the member for York Centre for sponsoring this bill, and to say a short hello to Toronto to my son, Nitin, who is watching at home.

Bill S-232 would recognize the important contributions Jewish Canadians have made to Canada's social, economic, political, and cultural fabric.

Bill S-232 would also provide an opportunity to remember, celebrate, and educate future generations about the inspirational role that Jewish Canadians have played and continue to play in communities across the country.

Today, Canada's Jewish population is nearly 400,000 strong, making it the fourth-largest Jewish population in the entire world. Most Canadian Jews, as has been mentioned, live in Ontario and Quebec, followed by British Columbia, Manitoba, as well as the province of Alberta. Jewish communities in Canada have made a major contribution to the development of cities, particularly Toronto and Montreal, which today count 188,710 and 90,780 people of Jewish faith or Jewish origin, respectively.

Supporting this bill is important for our government because it is consistent with past decisions of Parliament aimed at commemorating and supporting the Jewish community, its heritage, and the important contributions that Jews have made to Canadian society.

During the 37th Parliament, in 2003, Bill C-459, an act to establish Holocaust Memorial Day, was unanimously and quickly passed through all stages by Parliament. During the 40th Parliament, Bill C-442, an act to establish a National Holocaust Monument, garnered unanimous support and was given royal assent on March 25, 2011.

It was also in this commemorative and educational spirit that on September 27, 2017, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Canadian Heritage participated in the unveiling ceremony of the National Holocaust Monument. The establishment of Canadian Jewish heritage month would provide an opportunity to commemorate the memory of the Holocaust and the important fight that continues to this day against anti-Semitism.

Over the last few decades, a number of awareness and commemoration initiatives were funded by the government under the community historical recognition program. These include the Wheel of Conscience monument inaugurated in 2011 at the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax at Pier 21 to commemorate the victims of the MS St. Louis incident in 1939. The importance of learning from history has been demonstrated again in this House, even today, in reference to some of the speeches made by my hon. colleagues and people talking about the importance of learning from the decision of the Canadian government of the time to turn away German Jews who were aboard the MS St. Louis.

The Government of Canada has also been committed for decades to combatting all forms of anti-Semitism, both at home and around the world. Canada became a full member in 2009 of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. That intergovernmental body supports Holocaust education, remembrance, and research both nationally and internationally.

Celebrations such as Canadian Jewish heritage month will resonate with many Canadians and help create vibrant and inclusive Canadian communities that foster and support our arts and culture. Proclaiming Canadian Jewish heritage month will give us the opportunity to recognize and commemorate the excellence and passion of eminent Canadians of Jewish origin who shaped our history and our culture and continue to do so.

Let us remember just a few of them: Leonard Cohen, the famous author, songwriter, and singer; Mordecai Richler, a novelist who wrote about my alma mater, McGill; Charles Rosner Bronfman, a businessman; Jessalyn Gilsig, an actor; Drake, known by many, the hip-hop artist and actor; Ruth Goldbloom, co-founder of Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21; Jane Jacobs, the journalist and journalism theoretician; Ezekiel Hart, the first Canadian Jew elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, as it was then known; and Cecil Hart, coach of the Montreal Canadiens, after whom the famous NHL MVP trophy is named.

The bill that we are debating tonight would also allow us to focus on Jewish heritage and important sites around the country. Allow me to highlight one located in my very own riding of Parkdale—High Park.

The Junction Shul, located in the neighbourhood known as the Junction, was called Congregation Knesseth Israel. It was established over a century ago in the northwest corner of my riding of Parkdale—High Park. At 56 Maria Street, a tract of land was purchased in 1911 by a small number of immigrant families, who also founded that congregation. The structure, which still stands to this very day, was completed in 1913. I am very proud to say that Knesseth Israel is the oldest synagogue in Toronto still in use, and the building was designated as an Ontario heritage site in 1984.

When we talk about the formal recognition of May as Canadian Jewish heritage month, we are also talking about Canada's multiculturalism policy, as referenced in the comments by my friend on the opposition benches. That policy is entrenched in our Multiculturalism Act and in the Canadian charter, and it plays a fundamental role in shaping our diverse, inclusive, and welcoming society.

The policy acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance, and share their cultural heritage. It also promotes the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and shaping of all aspects of Canadian society, and assists them in eliminating barriers to that participation.

That is what makes Canadians proud to stand in the House and talk about their heritage, whether that is Jewish heritage, Scottish Canadian Jewish heritage, or Jewish heritage that hails from other parts of the planet. That is what makes this country what it is. It is policies like this and bills such as this that reinforce that diversity and that strength.

This dual focus on valuing diversity and ensuring equity distinguishes Canada's approach from those of our global peers. It goes beyond a policy that simply tolerates minority groups. We actually celebrate different cultures and we actively seek to build an inclusive society.

Supporting the bill is also aligned with similar provincial initiatives, such as the declaration of May as Jewish Heritage Month by the Government of Ontario in 2012.

I am proud to stand in the House to indicate the government's support of the bill, but I am equally proud, as a parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism, to emphasize the important contribution Jewish Canadians have made to that multicultural fabric.

As a Muslim Canadian man, and a member of this government's caucus, I am equally proud to say that the fight against anti-Semitism, the fight to create a more tolerant and plural society, is a fight that we continue with vigilance, as we must. This kind of bill is important because it underscores that heritage. It underscores the fight to promote tolerance and pluralism, and it is something that this government and I are very proud to stand behind.

With Canadian Jewish heritage month, we will provide a welcome opportunity to look back at the thousands of Jewish Canadians who have come to this country over centuries and linked their fate and their futures to the fate and future of this country we call Canada.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
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Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to continue the debate on this private member's bill, Bill S-232, that we have been offered from the other place. The bill proposes to make the month of May Jewish heritage month.

May is a special month for my family. I have said before in the House that my kids are part Jewish. My father-in-law, who is from Singapore, is of Jewish heritage. Singapore is not an area of the world where people would think there were many Jews, and practising Jews for that matter. In his youth, he did practise many Jewish customs, but he did not realize they were Jewish at the time. His family only discovered its Jewish heritage when they came to Canada of all places and got to know their family a bit better.

May is also a special month for my family because my father-in-law was born on May 2 and my wife was born on May 2 as well. She was a special gift from my mother-in-law to my father-in-law and then to me many years later.

I thank the member for York Centre who sponsored this bill in the House. I have served with him on the foreign affairs committee. I am pleased to be able to debate this legislation because it does have special meaning to me because of my family relationship.

Many famous Jewish Albertans have made immense contributions to the province of Alberta. Many members know that I have a great love for Yiddish proverbs, so if they hold on, I do have one that I will share with them later.

We are going to be celebrating Purim very soon as well as Pesach, which are important holidays that I would encourage all Canadians to join in celebrating. People of Jewish heritage have been celebrating these holidays for thousands of years and I would encourage all Canadians to obtain a greater understanding of their deep meaning. These holidays have a very rich history and they have a very rich meaning to Jewish people.

I want to take a moment to talk about one famous Calgarian of Jewish heritage, Sheldon Chumir, who passed away on January 26, 1992. This gentleman was born in Calgary. He was a Rhodes Scholar. He was a tax lawyer, but I will not hold that against him.

Mr. Chumir founded the Calgary Civil Liberties Association. He was a tireless advocate for international human rights. He was elected as a Liberal MLA in 1986 for the provincial riding of Calgary—Buffalo. One might wonder why a Conservative MP is raising the political successes and the personality that was Sheldon Chumir. It is because he was important. He was important to Calgary.

The Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre is named after him. It is actually much more than a centre. It is a huge hospital that provides services in a downtown area of Calgary. It is well known and well respected. It carries his name because of the immense contributions he made to the city and to the province.

Mr. Chumir was one of those rare birds in Alberta politics. He was a Liberal who was re-elected, which is very rare indeed, but only once. He served in the Alberta legislature.

A large hospital bears his name and this speaks a lot to both his personal work and the work of the Jewish community to ensure that he was remembered properly and honoured for his contributions to the province.

Alberta's first permanent Jewish settlers came before Alberta even existed, in 1889, when it was just a territory. Jacob and Rachel Diamond, and there could be no more Jewish names than Jacob and Rachel, settled in Alberta.

I want to talk about the Yiddish heritage in Alberta. As I mentioned, I do have a Yiddish proverb, “Tasty is the fish from someone else's table”. In this case, the table was set by the other place, and now we have the opportunity to have this debate in the House of Commons. It is indeed tasty. I get to talk about supporters of the Yiddish language, of the Yiddish culture, who built the I.L. Peretz Institute in 1927. Calgary's first Jewish school was founded by people who cared for the Yiddish language and the Yiddish culture.

Unfortunately, after 1929, anti-Semitism was rising and during World War II a lot of Jewish people were discriminated against. There was a pervasive kind of cultural exclusion of them, both professionally and socially. This experience was not made any better by the Social Credit provincial government of the time which had some anti-Semitic members among it.

That was the experience of people around the world: governments and populations that discriminated against Jewish people who were living among them and making contributions. These were neighbours, co-workers, suppliers, and merchants, people who were building lives for themselves and who had proven themselves to be good, reliable, loyal members of the Canadian family.

The anti-Semitism and discrimination they faced is a lesson for all of us today. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately, it has happened. We have heard other members say that the Jewish population in Canada, Canadians with Jewish heritage, some who practise the Jewish religion, are still victims. The number one group targeted by hate crimes, by vile anti-Semitism, is the Jewish people.

One other thing I would like to mention is that last year, in October, I visited Budapest in Hungary. I met with members of the government there. They have a coalition government. They encouraged us to visit the Dohany Street synagogue, one of the grand synagogues in Europe. It is a beautiful synagogue. I went with my wife.

It is a solemn experience but also rich in its cultural significance and because of the Holocaust. Wherever people go, the Holocaust and the Jewish experience go hand in hand. It is something that is so fundamental, so deep, in the Jewish psyche. My in-laws have talked to be about it. My wife talks to me about it. It is something I share with my kids. For the Jewish population in Asia at the time, the persecution and the anti-Semitism was not quite like what Jewish people experienced in Europe.

The two cannot be separated. Today it is something people simply have to address. When it is spoken about it, we have to pay homage to it. We have to recognize what happened in that time period.

It is a beautiful grand synagogue in Budapest. Even in a country like Hungary, we had a government official encouraging us to visit it. We were able to share a little with some of them the Jewish successes in Canada and famous Jewish individuals.

We heard the name of Irwin Cotler, a former minister of justice in this House, a man I have met. I have great respect for him. I did not always agree with his politics, of course, but I deeply respect him for his work on international human rights.

I will go back to Calgary for my last few minutes. I have been to the House of Jacob in Calgary. I have attended the service there, and I will never forget it. Being Polish, people always assume, because I was born in Poland and I speak with a slight accent, that I am Catholic. When I say that I am not Catholic, the next thing they expect me to be is Jewish, especially with the curly hair. They ask how I could not be, and I always point to my wife. My wife is actually half-Jewish, half-Chinese-Singaporean. She is actually more Jewish than I am. She knows more about Jewish cultural practices.

One never knows. The person one meets could have Jewish heritage and might be able to share a story in Hebrew. They might be able to do a Shabbat properly. My Hebrew pronunciation has never been very good. I am still practising my Yiddish pronunciation.

This bill, this opportunity we have, this table that was set by the Senate, to go back to my Yiddish proverb, is an opportunity for all of us to share among ourselves the great stories, the great personalities, and the great successes of Canadians of Jewish heritage every single May of every single year. I know for myself, I will be celebrating my father-in-law and my wife and the contributions they have made here in Canada and will continue to.

I thank the member for sponsoring the bill, and I look forward to voting for it. I encourage all members in the House to do the same.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2018 / 6:50 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by expressing appreciation to my colleague from York Centre for the fine work he is doing in raising a very important issue. He is working with a member from the other House, and today we are debating the importance of our Jewish community. It is a community that has contributed to who we are as a nation. The idea of having the month of May designated as national Jewish heritage month in law is something that is long overdue. I applaud him for his efforts.

The speaker before me was commenting in regard to a connection. Winnipeg North has a very strong historical connection with the Jewish community, going back many decades. In the mid-30s, the population of Winnipeg North was not much more than 55,000 or 60,000. The Jewish community back then was made up of probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15,000 individuals. It played a very strong role in terms of who we are in the north end today.

I have had the opportunity to get better acquainted with the entire riding and the contributions, and the thing that comes to my mind is the fact that we live in a multicultural society. We have, I believe, 200 different communities from around the world that make up Canada. Out of that, over a dozen of those communities have over one million individuals. People of Jewish heritage are just under 500,000, and it is a growing community here in Canada. It has contributed and continues to contribute to every aspect, whether economic or social, all different levels of political, academic, and so on. Obviously, it is a community that is really a part of the Canadian identity in every way.

I have had a couple of individuals I have looked up to immensely in my political career. I would like to share a couple of those names. Some members will know Israel Asper. Izzy Asper was a friend of mine. I did not know him exceptionally well, other than the fact that he was a leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party for a short period of time. However, that is not really what he was known for. He went on to buy up a TV station. He built a media empire, but that was not necessarily what he was best known for.

I believe his best contribution was the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the first national museum to be located outside the nation's capital here in Ottawa. Now it is at the forks where the Red and Assiniboine rivers come together. Izzy's dream and vision of having the human rights museum became a reality. The city of Winnipeg never would have had that museum if it were not for the efforts of Izzy and the individuals he brought to the table in order to make it happen.

Today, his daughter Gail really picked up the ball after his passing. It is an absolutely beautiful museum. I am sure a number of my colleagues, especially from Manitoba, have had the opportunity to visit the museum. If members have not been to the museum, this is definitely a national treasure. We bring in people from around the world. That is something that is truly unique, and it is because of the efforts of Izzy Asper.

Another individual, who was referenced here earlier, is Irwin Cotler. Even though I did not get to know Irwin for a great length of time when I sat in opposition, I admired what he brought to the House of Commons. We could see it every time he made a statement in the House. He likely had more standing ovations than anyone else that I can think of. He was a human rights advocate second to no other. He is an extremely intelligent, able man. I believe he was even on the legal team for Nelson Mandela.

Whether it is politicians, individual community leaders, movie actors, there are so many of them to name, whether they are the economic drivers of big industry or social gathering points. In Winnipeg, we have the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the Asper Jewish Community Campus, and the community centre that kind of ties it all together. If members have not had the experience of being a part of Winnipeg's Jewish community, I would encourage them to get engaged with events such as the Folklorama. That is an activity in which people would find the Israeli pavillion to be one of the most popular pavillions. The lines get long as people try to get a better appreciation for Manitoba's Jewish community, or just the Jewish community as a whole. May is a significant month, as it recognizes the Holocaust, both in the province of Ontario and in the United States. I had the opportunity when I was in Israel to take a tour of the Holocaust museum.

I suspect I will get a bit more time when the issue comes up again before the House.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 4th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties, and I think if you seek it, you will unanimous consent for the following. I move:

That the Order made on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, pursuant to Standing Order 93(1), respecting the deferral of the recorded division on the motion for second reading of Bill S-232, an act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, be discharged and the motion be deemed adopted.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today to discuss Bill S-232 respecting Jewish heritage month. I want to recognize the work of my friend the member of Parliament for York Centre and Senator Frum for her work with respect to bringing this to Parliament to recognize Jewish heritage month and, more specifically, to recognize the important contributions that Jewish Canadians have made to Canada's social, economic, political, and cultural fabric, and to remember, celebrate, and educate Canadians about that contribution.

One might ask why an Irish Catholic MP from Ontario is rising on this. It is because throughout my own life, and certainly in my passion for political life in really all my adult life, I have seen first-hand the critical contributions of Jewish Canadians to the Canada we all enjoy today. Therefore, I will speak to that, much like my father John O'Toole who, as an MPP in the Ontario legislature, introduced a bill to recognize Irish Heritage Day. I think the fabric, the tapestry, of Canada is made better when we celebrate and acknowledge what produced it, which is a cross-section of people who have come here for the tremendous opportunity that Canada represents: the opportunity for them or their children to form critical parts of our political, cultural, and social history. Therefore, I want to congratulate my friend from across the way and my good friend from the Senate for bringing this today.

I also want to recognize a very important person in my life, my late uncle, Paul Goodman, for educating me on Jewish traditions, for allowing me to join them for Passover and a number of special celebrations in the community, and for being my first relative to really challenge me to think about the world and Canada's place in it. I am thinking of him as I stand here today, and my Aunt Jane, who remains a very important part of my life.

I think all parliamentarians have to have a great respect for Herb Gray, the first Jewish cabinet minister from the Liberal Party, who became a cabinet member in 1969 and by the time he left Parliament was the longest-serving parliamentarian. The “Gray fog”, as someone reminded us, was very effective at dispersing any criticism of the Chrétien government because he would get up and just dispel the Gray fog to much effect. I had the personal privilege of helping organize a dinner in Toronto a decade ago with the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy to celebrate him as our Churchill award winner for his tremendous contributions to our parliamentary democracy. I think his impact is still felt in this place. I am sure I can say that my friend from York Centre probably draws some inspiration from the life of Mr. Gray.

This is how it has impacted the Irish Catholic kid from southern Ontario. At that dinner I got to meet a hero of mine, Mr. Barney Danson, who was the first Jewish defence minister in Canadian history, very appropriately so as he was a veteran of the Normandy landings and fought with the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, our oldest regiment in continuous service. I just happened to be in its armouries last week as part of the Invictus Games. To have storied veterans like Mr. Danson serve with that regiment I think makes it and our country better. Like many veterans from World War II, he returned to Canada injured, with loss of vision in one eye. However, one did not see that impact his business career or certainly his remarkable public service as an MP or as a defence minister who understood the file from having worn the uniform of his country.

As a Conservative MP, it is important for me to say how proud I am that two parliamentarians, Senator Frum and the member of Parliament for York Centre, are bringing this forward, because the history of the Jewish community, like that of all Canadians, is not confined to the Liberal, PC, Conservative, or NDP parties.

I had the honour of meeting Larry Grossman before he died far too young, an MPP in the Ontario legislature and the first Jewish leader of the PC Party of Ontario. He assumed that mantle in 1985.

Of course, our Parliament saw David Lewis, leader of the New Democratic Party in 1971.

Last week, I joined many from the business community at the launch of Nuit Blanche at Toronto City Hall. Where did we see that exhibit? It was in Nathan Phillips Square, the namesake for a very important civic leader from Toronto, Mr. Nathan Phillips, a Jewish mayor of that city.

Also, I am very proud to say in the House that the first leadership vote I cast as a young PC, while still in the military, was for my friend Hugh Segal. He was not successful in his leadership bid, kind of like I was not successful most recently. However, he ran with honour and integrity, and with ideas for the future of the country. I was proud Prime Minister Martin later appointed him as a Conservative senator to our upper house.

We need only look at the wonderful investiture of our new Governor General yesterday to see how the arts community in Canada and around the world reverberate. Perhaps my favourite part was the spectacular rendition of Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen, someone from the Montreal Jewish community.

My previous experience with that song was hearing it sung at the opening of the Vancouver Olympics. It is now one of the most iconic and covered songs in the world, with its origins in Montreal.

Also out of Montreal, another contributor to the arts community, one of my favourite actors, is William Shatner. We were investing an astronaut as our Governor General. Who was the first space traveller we all looked to but Canada's own William Shatner.

I remembered when preparing this speech, my sendoff to my friend Arnold Chan, who passed and left us, was an exchange between Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Shatner and his famous Star Trek line, “I have been, and always shall be, your friend”. I was glad to see the Prime Minister also used it when he eulogized our friend Arnold.

Certainly, that iconic friendship was from a Canadian Jewish actor and an American Jewish actor. It resonates with me still to this day.

How else has it affected me? The tremendous business success that some members of the Jewish community have enjoyed has often led to outstanding, in fact trail blazing, philanthropy.

I am a graduate of the Schulich School of Law, the Dalhousie University law school. That is just one of five schools Mr. Schulich has endowed to ensure we educate Canadians, be they here for many years or a few weeks, to give them the tremendous opportunities many Jewish immigrants had when they came to Canada, to have success in our country.

Indeed, culturally, politically, from a philanthropic and business standpoint, we cannot look around modern Canada and not see the tremendous impact of Jewish Canadians on our country. That is why I am so happy my friends have brought Bill S-232 to this place to ensure we mark each year with a month for Jewish heritage.

My friends have have said this is a celebration, but it is also important to remember and educate. Those are critical. I applaud, as my colleagues did today, the Minister of Heritage who said in this place that the Liberals would rectify the designation at the Holocaust memorial.

I was proud, alongside my friend from York Centre and others, to condemn the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in the House, in which members of Parliament can try to show the creeping edge of anti-Semitism. If we look at recent statistics, it is still the Jewish community and anti-Semitism that ranks as the highest hate crime in Canada.

Therefore, as we honour, remember, and celebrate, let us also educate. It is important for Canadians to realize that this form of discrimination, anti-Semitism exclusion, can still creep into our society. It must be called out when we see it. Parliamentarians have a special duty in that regard for all types of intolerance.

Reading the newspaper, I learned that the Prime Minister may honour and remember the merchant ship St. Louis. We must remember that terrible episode from our past, from the one is too many era, where we denied 900 Jews fleeing Europe at a time we should have opened up to protect them.

We have much to celebrate. I have tried to touch on this, but as my friends have said, celebrate, remember, and educate. I am very glad we will be able to do that each year as Canadians, whether Jewish or Irish, to celebrate the tremendous contribution of Jewish Canadians.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
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Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to rise to support this bill to create a Jewish heritage month.

This bill recognizes that Canada has a large Jewish community and reminds us of the important contribution that Jewish people have made throughout our history. The bill seeks to designate a month, the month of May, to recognize, highlight, and celebrate Jewish heritage. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to talk about how important the Jewish community and its contributions are to Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Quebec has become what it is today because of the strength of presence of each of its citizens, people of all origins, of all faiths, and of all communities. Our society is built on the contributions that each and every man and woman who participated in our country's journey have made throughout history.

The Jewish community is an integral part of Quebec life. Jewish cultural heritage and traditions have over the decades woven into the fabric of Quebec and its culture. Jewish culture has been a part of Quebec for centuries. It all began surprisingly with one Esther Brandeau, a young Jewish woman from the Bayonne region in France, who arrived in New France in 1738 and declared her Jewish origins to the authorities, who were mainly from the Church.

It was not until Aaron Hart settled in Trois-Rivières in 1761 and the first synagogue in Montreal was founded on what is now known as the corner of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Notre-Dame that Jewish culture truly took root in Quebec.

The Jewish community also faced prejudices during the election of Ezekiel Hart, who was twice elected the member for Trois-Rivières, but barred from taking a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada because of his Jewish faith. The Jewish community would forever be part of Quebeckers' future when Louis-Joseph Papineau, one of the great figures of our history, had legislation passed at the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, on April 12, 1832, namely “An Act to declare persons of the Jewish Religion entitled to all of the rights and privileges of the other subjects of His Majesty in this Province”.

Thanks to the struggle waged by the Jewish community and the Hart family and the support of progressives in Louis-Joseph Papineau's party, Quebec became the first colony in the British Empire to emancipate Jewish citizens and grant them full rights. The Jewish community flourished and grew, swelled by waves of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. Each year starting in 1904, an average of 10,000 Jews settled in Canada from eastern Europe and other parts of the world. They continued to stream in throughout the 20th century and into the present day. Among them were the ancestors of many illustrious figures who have done much to define Quebec, its culture, and its contribution to the world.

These luminaries include Leonard Cohen, one of Montreal's greatest poets; Moshe Safdie, the architect who built monuments in all of our major cities, including Habitat 67 in Montreal, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City; Phyllis Lambert, to whom we owe the preservation and restoration of Montreal's architecture; and others, such as Pauline Donalda, David Lewis, Stephen Lewis, Irwin Cotler, and Victor Goldbloom, Quebec's first Jewish cabinet minister.

The motion we are discussing today is about the Jewish contribution to Canada's growth and prosperity. I would also like to emphasize their contribution to solidarity in our country, the labour movement, and the workers' defence movement. One person who comes to mind is Léa Roback, an activist, feminist, and union organizer who led job action such as the Montreal garment factory strike by 5,000 women workers. She also represented the 3,000 RCA Victor workers in Montreal, and she fought for abortion rights and housing and against apartheid and the Vietnam War.

The Jewish community and its culture have left an indelible mark on our city. Every street in Montreal is, in a way, a shared heritage, a place where time stands still. Montreal's Boulevard Saint-Laurent from the St. Lawrence to the CP rail line, past Sainte-Catherine, Fairmount, and Jean-Talon, is itself a living legacy, a true human monument to immigration and the heritage of the communities that built our city.

If there were only one public place in Montreal, just one meeting place for people and communities, it would be Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Like so many neighbourhoods, this boulevard is also un undeniable part of the Jewish community. Dotted with signs and landmarks that Quebeckers have come to know, Boulevard Saint-Laurent is now also home to the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

Montreal and its streets, shops, meeting places, and landmarks are also the stage for the characters and childhoods evoked by Mordecai Richler, who paints a portrait of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Saint-Urbain, among other things, in a collection of stories simply entitled The Street, and who chronicles, autobiographically, his youth in Montreal, Jewish life in Montreal in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, but also the life of the francophones, anglophones, Greeks, and Portuguese who were his neighbours.

It is impossible to talk about a relationship with people of the Jewish culture and faith in our country without talking about the darker days of humanity, the days between 1933 and 1945 in particular.

I am respectfully aware of the pain and trauma forever etched in the bodies, minds, and souls of the survivors, forming a permanent memory that is passed down from one generation to the next. However, it is important to talk about what happened to make sure that we never forget.

As citizens, we must remember and acknowledge the crimes of the Holocaust. I was able to do so on three occasions in recent years: first at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a reminder of the unthinkable built in the middle of Berlin; then, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which is just as heartbreaking and intimate; and then finally here in Ottawa, just steps from Parliament, where we finally inaugurated a monument in memory of the millions of Holocaust victims. We were the only country among the Second World War allies that did not yet have a monument to commemorate the suffering of the Jewish people, even though the Jewish community has deep roots in Canada.

Today, we have a place to remember the genocidal violence of unimaginable proportions that took place during those years. The monument also serves as a reminder of our dark role in those events, since our government, here in Ottawa, chose to admit less than 5,000 Jewish refugees during that time and turned away many others, despite the horrors that were occurring in Europe.

We have a duty to remember. This duty to remember is also expressed by our choices regarding the kind of society we want, our decision to be a country that wholeheartedly welcomes refugees who have been persecuted or are fleeing violence, our decision to form a society that is open to others and that celebrates diversity, because the future of our country lies in its diversity.

It is this blending of cultures that characterizes and brings to life Quebec and its streets, alleyways, public spaces, CLSCs, church basements, community centres, places of worship, newspapers, and radio and television programs everywhere on a daily basis. It is this mosaic, vibrant and pulsating, yet calm and peaceful, that has always been part of Quebec's history and will always be part of our reality, which is a good thing.

We are a diverse nation, or in the words of Boucar Diouf, who, like me, lives in Longueuil, a tightly-knit diverse nation. That is one of the things that makes Quebec so compelling and such a source of inspiration. It is also what has given us our reputation as a nation of peaceful coexistence, which has found expression many times over the years.

We have had many debates over the past few years about what it means to be a Quebecker, about politics and religion, about the place of different cultures, about secularism, about coexistence and the relationships between citizens born here and those born elsewhere. These are important, legitimate debates, and I have always fought tooth and nail to defend the right of Quebeckers and their representatives in the National Assembly to have these debates.

However, we must never forget that we are talking about men and women, about families, about people, about citizens, about our neighbours, and that our primary obligation is to welcome them with our words and with our hearts. All of us, particularly we who have been elected by the citizens to represent them, have a responsibility to express that welcome, a Quebec welcome.

In the face of both differences of opinion and differences in background, no matter what debate is happening in Quebec, we need to remember that we share one land, a land that binds us. We need to remember that every person in Quebec is a Quebecker, and all Quebeckers are at home in Quebec. To paraphrase a former premier of Quebec, no matter what is said or done, Quebec will always be the homeland of 8 million citizens from here and from elsewhere, unconditionally, regardless of their birthplace, beliefs, language, or background. This can never be said often enough, and I am very proud to be here to say it myself this evening.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2017 / 6:25 p.m.
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Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member for York Centre for sponsoring Bill S-232 to establish Canadian Jewish heritage month.

Preparing for this debate has made me think about what we would be celebrating, how we would be doing that, and that it would mean different things for different people, which is what I find so exciting about having Canadian Jewish heritage month. It would give us an opportunity to explore and learn more about our rich Jewish heritage here in Canada. When I think about Canadian Jewish heritage, I think about our history, food, and some strong Jewish women who have paved the way for us.

On the history, I recently discovered that only a few blocks away from my home are two of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Toronto. These are two small, fairly nondescript cemeteries we might not normally notice, but I am hoping that having a month like Canadian Jewish heritage month will give us an opportunity to learn more about these hidden spaces. One of the cemeteries is located on Pape Avenue, just south of Gerrard, behind the Matty Eckler Recreation Centre. This was the first Jewish cemetery in all of Toronto. It was established in 1849, before we even had the first synagogue in the city of Toronto. Its administration was taken over by the Holy Blossom Temple, and it has been closed since 1930. However, if members are walking along Pape Avenue behind the Matty Eckler Recreation Centre, they should take a peek, because it a little piece of our history.

The other historical cemetery is on Jones Avenue just south of Strathcona Avenue. As we walk along Jones Avenue, we can see some Hebrew writing on a wall, but otherwise we might not notice it is there. This is the second oldest Jewish cemetery in the city of Toronto. It was bought as farmland in 1883, and it was consecrated in 1896. It is where the city's first Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Joseph Weinrib, is buried. This cemetery is still in operation but on a very limited basis. In fact, the last burial was in 2008.

There are parts of our history that are also going to take us a moment to challenge the way we see our Canadian history and our path forward. When I say this, I think about the St. Louis, on which more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing the Second World War were seeking refuge in Canada in 1939. This story is fairly well known. We have talked about it here. The boat was turned away, because the feeling at the time in Canada was that none was too many. This is a dark moment for Canadian history, but I would like to bring us back to my community. There is a beautiful narrative arc to this story.

I recently learned that one of the survivors of the St. Louis made it to Canada and had a family, and members of her family are part of the Danforth Jewish Circle in my community. I see beautiful light in this story, and where we can learn lessons from our history is that the Danforth Jewish Circle has been active in sponsoring a Syrian refugee family. Therefore, we see this wonderful story of our own history of many Jewish people coming here as refugees and now returning that circle in sponsoring people and welcoming them to our country. I had the opportunity to meet the family that was sponsored, and they are flourishing due to their own hard work but also because of the support they are receiving from the community. Therefore, in retelling our history as part of Canadian Jewish heritage month, we also have an opportunity to learn from our lessons from the past and see how we can pave a better future going forward.

As a Canadian Jewish woman, I am proud of some of the strong Jewish women who have come before me and formed part of our heritage. The heritage committee, on which I sit, recently did a study on women and girls in sports, and that was tabled in the House quite recently.

When we look at women and girls in sports, we owe a lot to the leadership of female Jewish athletes. I recently got the updatedBook of Lists,, and in it I was happy to see that Abby Hoffman was included in Lanni Marchant's seven gritty and groundbreaking athletic performances by women. She says that when Abby was nine, she wanted to play in a boys' hockey league, so she cut her hair short and registered as Ab Hoffman. She was known for her speed, skills, and determination that matched her better than those of the boys with whom she played. She went on to compete in four Olympic Games between 1964 and 1976, and medaled at the Pan Am Games.

Abby's efforts helped to open the University of Toronto's Hart House to women after initially being an all-male facility, and that was a big change. She is part of the reason women can now be at Hart House. At the 1976 summer Olympics in Montreal, she was also the first woman to carry the Canadian flag in the Olympic opening ceremonies.

I would like to do a shout-out to take a moment to recognize some strong Canadian Jewish women who have contributed. I would like to talk about another strong Jewish woman, Justice Rosalie Abella of our Supreme Court of Canada. She was born as a refugee in Germany, coming to Canada following the Second World War, and now she serves on our highest court. Her story is inspirational. This year, she was named the Global Jurist of the Year for her defence of human rights. We need to recognize some of the strong Jewish women whom we have in our community, and that will be at the centre of so many of our stories when we are looking at Canadian Jewish heritage month.

It might be because of the hour of this debate and feeling a bit peckish at the moment, but I cannot talk about Jewish heritage without talking about food. Food is at the heart of any culture. One of my favourite Jewish foods, one that has an important part in Canadian Jewish heritage, is bagels. All through university when I studied at McGill, my late-night snack was at St-Viateur Bagel down the street. It was right around the corner from me. To this day, I love Montreal bagels.

Bagels are a Canadian Jewish treat. I tried to track down the history of the Montreal bagel, only to discover that it is shrouded in mystery and controversy. Who knew? The Canadian Encyclopedia says:

The Montréal bagel is one of Canada's most iconic and coveted snacks. Its origins are contested and murky.

Food and controversy: that piques my interest. I am not going to be able to resolve that controversy tonight, but I can let members know a bit about the history.

Some say that bagels were brought to Montreal by Chaim Seligman, who helped to set up St-Viateur Bagel bakery. That was where I bought my bagels during my university years. Others say it was Isadore Shlafman, who was the person who started the Fairmount Bagel bakery, another popular bagel shop, which continues to be managed by the same family. For the record, I also enjoy Fairmount bagels. It is just that they were a little farther from my apartment.

When we look at the history, we see the story of the establishment of the St-Viateur Bagel bakery is not at all murky, and it tells a touching story. The history draws a story of moving from a place of adversity to building a better future in Canada. The shop founder, Myer Lewkowicz, grew up in a shtetl near Krakow, Poland. He was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1942. Heartbreakingly, he apparently told a high school class about his experience at the concentration camp by saying, “At Buchenwald, all I dreamt of was a piece of bread.” After the war, he remained in Germany until 1952, when he was discovered by Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada and moved to Montreal. In Montreal, he got a job at a bagel bakery on Saint-Laurent, and in 1957 he set up the St-Viateur Bagel shop with Mr. Seligman. That is how we have the shop today.

When we celebrate, we celebrate people, we celebrate food, we celebrate moments in our history, and we take our lessons forward. There are so many aspects of Canadian Jewish heritage that we could focus upon once this bill passes to recognize Canadian Jewish heritage month. I touched on a few parts, but the magic to me is that the establishment of this month would allow us to learn so much more. I would like to take a moment to thank the member for York Centre once again for bringing us this opportunity. I look forward to it.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2017 / 6:35 p.m.
See context


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill S-232, a bill that proposes to establish the month of May as Jewish heritage month.

I want to discuss the Jewish history in Edmonton and particularly in my riding of Edmonton West.

I want to thank Debbie Shoctor and the Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton for their work in gathering together the history of Jewish Edmontonians. It is from this work that much of my speech is drawn or plagiarized.

This legislation is important to me as the member of Parliament representing Edmonton West, because two of the Jewish congregations in Edmonton, Beth Israel Synagogue and the Chabad Lubavitch, are in my riding. The two rabbis, Rabbi Friedman at Beth Israel and Rabbi Ari Drelich at Chabad, I count as two of my closest friends.

It is important to recognize as well the work of Rabbi Friedman as the council chair of the National Holocaust Memorial that just opened. Rabbi Friedman, who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, chaired the National Holocaust Monument Development Council, which raised $4.5 million for the design and construction of the monument.

Of the museum, Rabbi Friedman said, “It has been a very long work in progress, but we have reached the goal: It’s something I’m very proud of. It really symbolizes who we are as Canadians.” I thank Rabbi Freidman for his work.

Given the history of the Jewish people in Edmonton and the prominent role that Beth Israel and the Chabaud play in the community, I am pleased that this legislation passed the Senate unanimously, and I hope that my colleagues will do the same here.

Now, on to the history.

Abraham and Rebecca Cristall, Edmonton's first Jews, arrived in 1893, just a year after Edmonton was incorporated as a town. Their children, George and Rose, were the very first Jewish children born in Edmonton. Abe became a successful businessman and helped to bring more Jews over from his native Bessarabia.

Right from the beginning, the Jewish people played an integral part in the growth of Edmonton, dating back almost to the city's founding over a century ago.

In 1905, William "Boss" Diamond came to Edmonton after coming to join his brother Jacob, Alberta's first Jewish citizen, in Calgary. Even back then we had a rivalry with Calgary, and I will grant Calgary that point.

Together with eight other men, Boss Diamond and Abe CristaIl formed the Edmonton Hebrew Association in 1906. They hired Rabbi Hyman Goldstick of Pilton, Latvia to be rabbi for both the Edmonton and Calgary Jewish communities.

In 1907, Abe Cristall purchased land on the south side for a Jewish cemetery and the Chevra Kadisha was formed.

In 1912, the foundations were laid for the Beth Israel Synagogue on the corner of 95th Street and Rowland Road. Abe CristaII served as the first president, and William “Boss” Diamond served as the second, a position he held for 31 years.

In 1912, the Edmonton Talmud Torah Society was founded, with classes being held in the basement of the synagogue.

In 1925, the society erected its own building on Jasper Avenue, and it was incorporated as the very first Hebrew day school in all of Canada.

Note that it was not in Calgary.

One of my good friends Jamie and her husband Jonah have a young son named Benjamin. Jamie and Jonah plan on sending Ben to Talmud Torah for his education at this century-old institution, an example of the continuation of the work begun by Abe CristalI so long ago.

In 1928, a second congregation was started in the basement of the Talmud Torah building, which later became the Beth Shalom congregation.

A few years later, it was formally organized and they engaged Rabbi Jacob Eisen, who became the first English-speaking rabbi west of Winnipeg.

Also at that time, the new Yiddish school was opened in downtown Edmonton, enjoying a brief heyday before it had to close just before the war.

In 1938, just before the start of World War II, a 13-year old boy named Peter Owen became the only Jewish child let into Canada alone during the war years by a special order in council. He was sponsored by Edmonton lawyer H.A. Friedman, and was adopted by the family, eventually becoming a prominent lawyer himself and a permanent resident of the city.

By 1941, Edmonton's population had increased to 94,000, and the Jewish population stood at just below 1,500.

During World War II, 120 men and women from Edmonton's Jewish community served, with 11 of them giving their lives for our country.

The post-war years saw rapid growth in both the Jewish and general population of Edmonton. As a result, a new Beth Shalom Synagogue was built on Jasper Avenue. A new Beth Israel Synagogue building was constructed in 1953, as well as a new Talmud Torah building that same year, reflecting the population shift of the Jewish community from downtown to the west end.

In 1954, the Edmonton Jewish Community Council was formed as an umbrella organization for the community and served as such for the next 28 years. Later it merged with the Edmonton United Jewish Appeal and became the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, which still serves today.

Edmonton's booming oil-based economy brought increased Jewish immigration over the next two decades, with major influxes from other provinces in Canada as well as from places such as Hungary, Russia, and South Africa. The Jewish population tripled in size from 1951 to 1991 and now stands at about 6,000 people, many of whom reside in my constituency of Edmonton West.

All these new immigrants brought with them the organizations that contribute to Edmonton's vibrant Jewish community. The community's third congregation, Temple Beth Ora Reform congregation, was founded in 1979 and is housed in the Jewish Community Centre. Beth Tzedek, a new conservative congregation and offshoot of Beth Shalom, was started in 1989 and holds services at the Talmud Torah. In 1999, a new building for the Edmonton Talmud Torah was built in west Edmonton, and the very next year, a new Beth Israel Synagogue was built nearby, reflecting a further shift in the population of the Jewish community from downtown to west Edmonton.

In the fall of 2004, Edmonton elected its first Jewish mayor, Stephen Mandel. Mr. Mandel had previously served as a city councillor, continuing a long tradition of Jewish city councillors, including Dr. Morris Weinlos, Helen Paull, Mel Binder, Karen Leibovici, Tooker Gomberg, and Michael Oshry.

There has always been a strong tradition of civic involvement in the Edmonton Jewish community, with members serving on the boards and executives of many local arts, cultural, educational, and fundraising organizations as well as in the judiciary. Notable community leaders over the years include Tiger Goldstick; Joe Schoctor; the Ghermizian family, of course, of the West Edmonton Mall; and Darryl Katz, owner of our beloved Edmonton Oilers.

The Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta was founded in 1996 to preserve and promote the history of the vibrant Jewish community. I must thank it again for supplying much of the history I have just walked the House through.

I would also like to address the specific importance of a Jewish heritage month to acknowledge not only the contributions of Jewish Canadians to Canadian society but also the importance of teaching Jewish history to our younger generations, who will now be at least two generations removed from the horrors of the Holocaust and the Second World War. I make these comments in light of the recent anti-Semitic rallies in Charlottesville, which my Jewish friends described as sad but not surprising, as well as the growing strength of the BDS movement on our university campuses.

Hate crimes against those of the Jewish faith are still the highest per capita in Canada. A hate crime is a hate crime is a hate crime, and any number of hate crimes greater than zero is too many. We must not ignore crimes committed against one group. Otherwise, we normalize the hatred.

We see evidence of this attitude in the treatment of the BDS movement in this place. When a motion was brought forward to condemn the BDS movement in Canada, I was shocked that many in the House refused to vote for the motion to condemn BDS. The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement makes little effort to separate the Israeli government from those of the Jewish faith, and consequently, treats them as one and the same. It is fair to criticize the policy decisions of the government of the day, which we do in this place all the time. It is unacceptable to treat those of a certain faith as the same as a certain government. BDS fails to make this distinction and encourages unchecked hatred across Canada.

This summer I travelled to Auschwitz and saw first-hand this monument to human tragedy. I want to share with the House the overwhelming emotion I felt when I visited the death camp. I was struck by the simple mechanics of the Holocaust, the cold and mechanical efficiency of the Nazi genocide machine.

My son and I travelled to Warsaw as well, and we visited the site of the old ghetto. The destruction was so thorough that no buildings remain, just a small portion of the wall the Nazis built around the ghetto. My son has just entered university to study poli-sci, and I am glad he will be able to gain a necessary perspective about world history and the capability of humankind to commit truly unspeakable atrocities.

The BDS movement is particularly active in Canadian universities, and I am glad there will be one more educated voice on campus fighting this insidious form of anti-Semitism.

We cannot allow the atrocities of the past to be repeated. Remembering the contributions of the Jewish people to our country is a good step toward combatting anti-Semitism today. I am thankful for the contributions to Edmonton and to Canada by those of the Jewish faith. I am proud to stand today to support this motion to establish the month of May as Jewish heritage month.