“Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
On 5 March 2013, Canada assumed the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and committed to an ambitious campaign in the year ahead to raise Holocaust awareness and fight antisemitism. Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, along with this year’s Chair of the Alliance, Dr. Mario Silva, attended a ceremony in Berlin where Belgium handed over the Chairmanship to Canada.
“Our government believes it is critically important to be engaged in efforts to teach future generations the lessons of the Holocaust and help prevent future acts of genocide,” said Minister Kenney. “The Holocaust stands alone in the annals of human evil and has important lessons to teach all of us—universal lessons that must not be forgotten.”
Canada became actively involved with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2007, and became a full member in 2009. Canada will Chair the Alliance until March 2014.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is an intergovernmental body made up of government officials and experts from 31 countries. It is devoted to fostering and promoting Holocaust education, remembrance and research around the world. Each year, the Alliance nominates a member country to assume leadership of the organization.
“As Chair, Canada will work with all Alliance member countries to implement an ambitious, multi‑year work plan that includes research into Holocaust killing sites outside of major death camps, the development of educational resources for teachers, and strengthened relationships with international partners,” said Dr. Silva.
The handover ceremony was also marked by the restitution of a painting from the Stuttgart Gallery in Germany to the estate of the late Jewish-Canadian art dealer, Max Stern. With the Nazis’ ascension to power in the 1930s, the painting was part of a forced sale held by the Stern family. Today, the painting by the artist Master of Flémalle was returned to Concordia University in Montréal, which leads the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, one of the most recognized initiatives of its kind in the world.
Many events and initiatives in support of Holocaust education and remembrance will also take place across Canada this year, among them the undertaking of a national project to preserve survivor testimony, an Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education to recognize outstanding teachers, and an international poster competition for Canadian students in Graphics, Art and Design to support Holocaust Memorial Day activities. In addition, the development of a new Holocaust memorial in Canada’s National Capital Region is underway.
Canada is recognized as an international leader in the fight against antisemitism. In 2011, Canada was the first country to sign the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti‑Semitism, an international action plan to help nations measure their progress in the fight against antisemitism.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance will hold a Plenary meeting in Toronto in October 2013.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance was founded in 2000 under the name Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF).
Click here to read the speeches by Ambassador Deboutte, Minister Kenney, and Dr. Silva at the handover ceremony.
To learn more about the Canada’s initiatives on Holocaust education, remembrance and research, visit: http://www.cic.gc.ca/holocaust
More information about the painting from the Master of Flémalle and the Max Stern Restitution Project can be found at: www.concordia.ca/now/media-relations/news-releases/20130304/stuttgart-museum-hands-over-nazi-looted-painting-to-the-max-stern-estate.php