OTTAWA – In another attempt to stamp out rising anti-Semitic sentiment, Holocaust denial is to be outlawed in Canada.
The federal government is willing to make it a criminal offense to make a statement denying or minimizing the killing of Jews by the Nazi regime, or the killing of Jews by the Nazi regime, except in a private conversation.
Ministers plan to use the budget enacting bill to rapidly replace the criminal code, budget documents show.
The move to outlaw Holocaust denial comes as a warning from lawmakers and anti-hate groups about the rise of white-supremacism and anti-Semitism in Canada.
“One percent of the Canadian population are Jewish Canadians, yet they are the target of 62 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes,” said Richard Marceau, vice president of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “We live in a time of rising antisemitism.”
Canada will join a string of European countries, including Germany, Greece, France, Belgium and the Czech Republic, that have already banned Holocaust denial.
During Hitler’s time in power, six million Jews were systematically executed in Nazi-occupied Europe, along with other groups such as the Roma.
“Holocaust denial and perversion is a brutal attack on memory, truth and justice—an anti-Semitic libel intended to cover up the worst crime in history—and thus a cruel and witty rebuke to Holocaust survivors and their legacy,” says Erwin Kotler said, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism.
The budget earmarked $5.6 million over five years to support Kotler’s office.
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said: “There is no place for anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in Canada.”
“That is why we have resolved to stop the deliberate promotion of anti-Semitic sentiment by condemning, denying or undermining the Holocaust,” Mendicino said. “The Holocaust was one of the darkest chapters in human history. We must preserve its memory, combat contemporary antisemitism and when we say: never again.
The government’s move to change the law follows the introduction of a private member’s bill prohibiting Holocaust denial earlier this year by Saskatoon Tory MP Kevin Waugh.
Waugh said the government’s proposal was “word for word” akin to his bill and that he was surprised to see it in the budget.
But the Conservative MP said pushing the government through legislation was a “win for all”.
He said that there is no place for casteism in this country.
Waugh said he would not withdraw his bill, which has a second reading debate in the Commons at the end of April, even though banning Holocaust denial would be part of the budget bill.
He said he wants to ensure that the changes in the criminal code are implemented at the earliest.
The budget did not say what the punishment would be for a person convicted of Holocaust denial. Waugh’s bill proposes up to two years in prison.
The NDP has said it will vote for the budget under the terms of its trust and supply agreement with the Liberals, which would mean the bill would pass through the Commons.
If the law is changed through the first budget bill, Waugh’s bill intended to prevent the denial of the Holocaust in statements would become redundant.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The budget set aside more than $70 million for initiatives that benefit Canada’s Jewish community.
This includes $20 million for the relocation and expansion of the Montreal Holocaust Museum and $2.5 million to support the Sarah and Chaim Newberger Holocaust Education Center in Toronto.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 8, 2022.
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