Canada prepares to officially make Holocaust denial a crime
Holocaust denial must be banned in Canada, in a further effort to stamp out rising anti-Semitism.
The federal government is about to make it a criminal offense to make a statement denying that the Holocaust took place or condoning or minimizing the killing of Jews by the Nazi regime, except in the context of a private conversation.
Ministers plan to use a bill enacting the budget to quickly amend the Criminal Code, according to budget documents.
The move to ban Holocaust denial comes as MPs and anti-hate groups warn of rising white supremacy and anti-Semitism in Canada.
“Jewish Canadians make up 1% of the Canadian population, but are the target of 62% of all religious hate crimes,” said Richard Marceau, vice president of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “We live in a time of rising anti-Semitism.”
Canada will join a series of European countries, including Germany, Greece, France, Belgium and the Czech Republic, which have already banned Holocaust denial.
Six million Jews were systematically killed in Nazi-occupied Europe while Hitler was in power, along with other groups, such as the Roma.
“Holocaust denial and distortion constitute a cruel assault on memory, truth and justice – an anti-Semitic libel to cover up the worst crime in history – and therefore a cruel and mocking rebuke to Holocaust survivors and their legacy,” said Prime Minister Irwin Cotler. special envoy of the Minister for the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism.
The budget called for $5.6 million over five years to support Cotler’s office.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said “there is no place for anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in Canada.”
#Holocaust denial – and minimization of #Nazi murder of #Jews – must be banned. #CDNPoli #Antisemitism
“That is why we are committed to prohibiting the deliberate promotion of anti-Semitism by condoning, denying or minimizing the Holocaust,” Mendicino added. “The Holocaust was one of the darkest chapters in human history. We must preserve its memory, fight contemporary anti-Semitism and be unequivocal when we say: never again.”
The government’s decision to change the law follows Saskatoon Conservative MP Kevin Waugh’s introduction of a private member’s bill banning Holocaust denial earlier this year.
Waugh said the government’s proposal was “word for word” the same as in his bill and he was surprised to see it in the budget.
But the Tory MP said the government’s push through the law was a ‘win for everyone’.
“There is no place for racism in this country,” he said.
Waugh said he would not withdraw his bill, which will be debated at second reading at the end of April in the Commons, even though the ban on Holocaust denial will be part of the budget bill .
He said he wanted to make sure the Criminal Code amendment is enacted as soon as possible.
The budget does not say what the sentence would be for someone 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 its trust and supply pact with the Liberals, which means the bill will go through the Commons.
If the law is changed through the budget bill first, Waugh’s bill to ban denying that the Holocaust happened in statements will be rendered redundant.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The budget set aside over $70 million for initiatives to 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 Neuberger Holocaust Education Center in Toronto.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 8, 2022.