THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, to which was referred Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, met this day at 11:30 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Jim Munson (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning. Before we begin, I would like to have our senators introduce themselves. I see we have new faces and replacements here today and it’s wonderful to have a full house. We will start with the deputy chair.
Senator Ataullahjan: Salma Ataullahjan, Ontario.
Senator Andreychuk: Raynell Andreychuk, Saskatchewan.
Senator Eaton: Nicole Eaton, Ontario.
Senator Martin: Yonah Martin, British Columbia.
Senator Hubley: Elizabeth Hubley, Prince Edward Island.
Senator Bernard: Wanda Thomas Bernard, Nova Scotia.
Senator Ogilvie: Kelvin Ogilvie, Nova Scotia.
Senator Pate: Kim Pate, Ontario.
Senator Hartling: Nancy Hartling, New Brunswick.
Senator Bovey: Patricia Bovey, Manitoba.
The Chair: Thank you, senators. I’m Senator Munson, from Ontario. My heart is in New Brunswick, but here we are. We have one housekeeping note this morning, so I would like a motion:
That notwithstanding the motion adopted in committee on December 11, 2015, reduced quorum for the purposes of hearing testimony for the period from May 15 to May 19 be any three members of the committee.
This may have to do with our trip next week on prisoners’ rights and Canadian correctional services
So moved by Senator Ataullahjan.
I think we will be okay now. It has been a very busy time and senators, of course, are members of other committees, but they will come back to join us next week after coming here for the Aboriginal committee.
Today we begin our consideration of Bill S-232, An Act respecting Jewish Heritage Month.
We are delighted to have three witnesses with us this morning to speak to Bill S-232, an Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month. They are, of course, Senator Frum, sponsor of the bill; Shimon Fogel, CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and from B’Nai Brith Canada, Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer.
I would assume that Senator Frum will be the lead speaker and after we are done this morning, we will have a short break and go to clause-by-clause consideration.
Senator Frum, welcome. The floor is yours.
Hon. Linda Frum, Sponsor of the bill, as an individual: Thank you chair and senators for this opportunity to testify in favour of Senate public Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month.
This is certainly my first time on this side of the hearing table. I had to resist introducing myself when we went around the table, but I’m happy to be here to speak in support of a bill that has already received so much support in our chamber. This bill is a result of a bipartisan, bicameral effort to formalize in law a time each year to celebrate the contributions of the Jewish community to Canada.
I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Michael Levitt, Member of Parliament for York Centre, who is responsible for initiating this bill. I would also like to recognize and express my appreciation for the support from Members of Parliament Randall Garrison and Peter Kent, along with Senators Wetston, Fraser, Jaffer and Gold.
Although Senator Jaffer is technically referred to as the critic of this bill, her eloquent words of endorsement during her second reading speech were particularly moving and heartfelt. It is apropos that this bill is being studied in the Senate during the month of May, a month that is meaningful to the Jewish community around the world. The month of May has been proclaimed by the United States as the time to celebrate the contributions of the American Jewish community, and has been ever since 2006, when President George W. Bush and Congress passed a resolution deeming it such.
In this his remarks celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month in 2010, President Obama had this to say:
This month is a chance for Americans of every faith to appreciate the contributions of the Jewish people throughout our history –- often in the face of unspeakable discrimination and adversity. For hundreds of years, Jewish Americans have fought heroically in battle and inspired us to pursue peace. They’ve built our cities, cured our sick. They’ve paved the way in the sciences and the law, in our politics and in the arts. They remain our leaders, our teachers, our neighbours and our friends.
Across the United States, you will find a wide range of activities during Jewish American Heritage Month, from lectures at the Library of Congress and National Archives, to cooking classes and Klezmer music performances in American cities throughout the country.
In Ontario, Jewish Heritage Month was established in 2012 and is also celebrated in the month of May. Since its adoption in Ontario, Jewish Heritage Month has received widespread support among citizens, community organizations and local governments across the province.
For example, a photo exhibit showcasing Jewish life in Canada is on display at the Vaughan City Hall for the duration of this month. In Toronto, the annual Jewish Film Festival is held during Jewish Heritage Month to celebrate and appreciate Jewish film making from around the world.
May is also the month that Israel celebrates one of its more joyful holidays, Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day.
Soon, we hope, with passage of Bill S-232, Canada will also have a national Jewish Heritage Month of its own. By establishing Jewish Heritage Month in law, Parliament formalizes that this month is to be recognized each and every year, in light of yesterday’s report by B’Nai Brith Canada, which we’ll be hearing more about shortly, that anti-Semitic events in Canada last year were the highest on record, this official embrace of the Jewish people and the Jewish culture by Canadians can only help to promote the values of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion.
Another advantage to setting this month formally in law is that it gives community organizations the lead time they need to plan events. The European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage hosts Jewish Heritage Week each year throughout Europe, bringing over 120,000 visitors to the many events across European cities. One of the keys to their success is planning and informing stakeholders far in advance of their heritage week.
It is my hope that once Jewish Heritage Month is enacted in law, community organizations here in Canada will be similarly empowered to plan in advance as well. Having that lead time is especially helpful because there is so much to celebrate and praise when looking at the accomplishments and contributions of the Jewish community to Canada.
The earliest Jewish settlers arrived in Canada in 1768; however, it was not up till the end of the 19th century that Jews arrived here in any significant numbers. Most Jewish refugees came to Canada with nothing other than a sincere desire to build a safer, more prosperous future for their children and to embrace the country that so openly embraced them.
Fleeing pogroms and anti-Semitism, primarily in Russia and Eastern Europe, Jewish exiles settled across Canada from coast to coast. In fact, the two oldest synagogues in Canada are in Sydney, Nova Scotia and Victoria, British Columbia.
Another significant wave of Jewish refugees arrived in Canada after World War II, when Montreal became the third largest centre of holocaust refugees in the world. In total, Canada accepted 40,000 Holocaust survivors. Today, Canada is home to nearly 400,000 Jewish people, the fourth largest Jewish population in the world after Israel, the United States and France.
To properly measure the immense and diverse contributions that have been made by Jewish Canadians to our society, you would have to survey nearly every aspect of human endeavour, be it in academia, the law, politics, medicine, business, philanthropy, science, art, entertainment and even food. It is my hope that with the establishment of Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, all Canadians, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, will have the opportunity to better understand the culture and history of Jewish Canadians, as well as to celebrate the integral role that the Jewish community has played in shaping Canada into one of the very best currents in the world in which to live. These celebrations will take the form of exhibits, concerts, book fairs, school assemblies and many other creative initiatives.
As a Conservative senator, I would be remiss not to mention that there are no costs or funding associated with enacting this legislation. The only foreseeable expense would be any events the government chooses to participate in; however, it has been the experience in Ontario that Jewish organizations typically host events themselves and invite the community at large to attend.
I am proud that this bill has received unanimous support thus far, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Frum. Gentlemen, do you have comments you would like to make before we ask questions? You are more than welcome to.
Shimon Fogel, CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs: If I could be permitted just a couple of observations while, first and foremost, acknowledging the leadership of Senator Frum and her colleague in the other place, Michael Levitt, for advancing this particular initiative.
Sometimes it feels as if Canada serves as one of the last bastions of multiculturalism, where we celebrate diversity and flank with pride the contributions of so many different communities — faith communities, ethnic communities — to the upbuilding of our great land. Yet, even here we are confronted with a shocking level of hatred and discrimination that’s directed at so many different groups, not least of the which is the Jewish community. I understand Michael Mostyn will be speaking to that, so I will leave it for a moment.
We put into place a number of different measures and instruments to try to protect against those expressions of hate. Most recently, Parliament is looking at a bill to enhance protections for faith-based and ethnic community centres and to extend the protections that are already accorded to places of worship. Those are good things. But for the most part, they really represent reactive kinds of initiatives, meant to protect and to enhance the safety and security of those who are most vulnerable.
The concept of heritage months offer a proactive approach to peeling back the ignorance that really serves as the engine or driver of the kind of intolerance that all of us would wish to see diminish and eradicated. It is in this context that I think they play an important role in helping other Canadians appreciate the shared values of specific communities; in this case, the one to which I’m proud to belong. They bring down that sense of suspicion and hostility that is born from a sense of ignorance about other faith communities.
As a final comment, and one that I think is as important, we also have to understand that heritage months offer another important value, and that’s to the communities themselves. On the one hand, a heritage month provides an opportunity to dispel some of the fallacies or misapprehensions about a particular community. On the other hand, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this whole enterprise is anchored in the contribution of a particular community to Canadian society.
By doing that, we are signalling to these communities that we value what they bring to Canada, but we want it to be integrated in a context that strengthens core Canadian values and enriches the lives of all Canadians and Canadian society. When we contemplate the idea of introducing a heritage month, we’re doing so with the hope that it’s going to be of benefit to Canadian society but also to the community, particularly to those communities that are newer to Canada, in helping them to understand that there is a place for them to make a meaningful contribution to our society and that doing so strengthens all Canadians.
I’m very grateful for the support that has been expressed for establishing Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, and I again thank Senator Frum and Michael Levitt for their work in advancing this particular initiative.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer, B’Nai Brith Canada: Thank you and good morning, honourable senators. I would first like to thank again Senator Frum for spearheading Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month. I’d also like to acknowledge and thank Michael Levitt, who is here from the other place today and who is really such a strong representative both for the Jewish community and the people of York Centre.
This act is most welcome. It will recognize the many achievements of Canada’s Jewish community, the members of which faced many hurdles from the outset of Canada’s original existence as a colony and yet were able to greatly contribute to the fabric of Canadian society. Despite facing systematic racism, our community has never seen ourselves as victims, viewing roadblocks as opportunities rather than obstacles. It is because of our perseverance and our willingness to stand up to adversity and better ourselves that the Jewish community was able to help build this country up, despite our small numbers.
The first Jewish immigrant to Canada was Esther Brandeau of France who arrived in 1738. In order to gain entrance into this country, Esther was forced to hide her Jewish faith. A woman of principle, she stood fast when her religion was revealed and refused to conform to societal and governmental pressure and convert, which ultimately resulted in her removal from Canada.
This is a hallmark case of anti-Semitism from early Canadian culture, where an individual faced discrimination on the sole basis of being Jewish. This was a harsh reality for many Canadians, including commissary officer Aaron Hart, who moved to modern-day Quebec in 1761. Unlike many in the community who were fearful of advertising their faith, Aaron Hart actively publicized his religion by becoming a founder of Shearith Israel synagogue in Montreal in 1768.
Our community’s political engagement began with Hart’s son Ezekiel, who stirred controversy when he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada in 1807 and swore on the Hebrew Bible instead of the Christian Bible. Hart was a pioneer, and it is people like him who are a testament to the strength and resilience of our community.
People like David Arnold Croll, elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1945 and who became the first Canadian Jewish senator in 1955. Then there’s Nathan Phillips, a former president of the B’Nai Brith Upper Canada Lodge, who was first elected to Toronto city council in 1926 and served as mayor of Toronto from 1955 to 1962. Mayor Phillips broke the trend of Protestant mayors that had led Toronto for over a century and marked the birth of the diverse and multicultural Canada we are all proud of today.
But it wasn’t just individual Jews who helped strengthen and develop this country. Members of our community often banded together on important initiatives when facing racist discrimination. For example, some of Canada’s most reputable health care centres were started as Jewish medical institutions after Jewish doctors were unable to practise medicine due to quotas restricting the amount of Jewish medical students allowed to study at Canadian universities. In the face of anti-Semitic discrimination, Jewish individuals united to create hospitals like Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, the Jewish General Hospital in Quebec and the Louis Brier Home and Hospital in Vancouver. Despite a foundation caused by anti-Semitism, today these centres are inclusive and accessible to all Canadians, regardless of their race, religion or creed.
The Jewish community has a long-standing tradition of emphasizing and supporting education. Similar to the negativity Jews experienced in the medical sphere, public schools also often treated Jewish individuals with prejudice. In response, we built our own schools, not only to avoid these issues but to ensure that we could design curriculums that teach important Jewish religious and cultural values — teachings that we hold sacred to this day.
Many Jewish entrepreneurs also found success in Canada through the establishment of successful businesses. Not too long ago, members of our community who graduated from law school could not find work because of deeply rooted anti-Semitism. Bora Laskin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, graduated from law school and despite being the gold medallist at both University of Toronto and Harvard, he could not get hired at a Canadian law firm. Eventually, the University of Toronto hired him as a professor because of his outstanding legal acumen. Jewish lawyers understood this trend yet rather than accept these racist hiring practices, committed to building their own firms where they could freely practise law and hired not only other Jews but other minorities to ensure they too had the opportunity to do so.
Our community’s long-standing accomplishments and developments are not a result of luck. They are the result of the hard work and dedication of people like Irwin Cotler, a lawyer professor and politician who contributed to anti-discrimination efforts in Canada and around the world, and worked with Nelson Mandela’s South African legal team at their request. Cotler is just one of many Canadian Jewish leaders who have added to the fabric of Canada’s landscape as it stands today.
Then there are the many Jewish artists who have contributed to Canadian artistry it in groundbreaking ways, some of whom felt compelled to hide their religious identity in order to be deemed legitimate. Canadians like Abraham Moses Klein, Leonard Cohen, Frank Gehry, Geddy Lee, Mordecai Richler, Eugene Levy, Paul Shaffer and countless others continue to give us beautiful forms of artistic expression that will influence and inspire for years to come.
The contributions that Jewish-Canadians have made to Canada’s social, political and cultural spheres are crucial to understanding the fabric of Canadian history. And while we are still targeted today, as B’Nai Brith Canada’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents shows, we have not allowed anti-Semitism to define us nor intimidate us. On the contrary, it is our faith, our culture and our heritage that drives us, along with our love of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people. Organizations like B’Nai Brith Canada have been giving back to Canada since 1875 and while there is a need for Canadian Jewish advocacy, as we continue our battle against modern forms of anti-Semitism, like the BDS movement, there is also so much that we have accomplished and so much that we can be proud of.
Yes, our community remains a minority but our success story is one of triumph over historical and modern obstacles. The month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month will celebrate how we’ve overcome these hurdles, as well as the diverse contributions and accomplishments that our community has made to our great country of Canada. Our strength has propelled us to continuously break down these obstacles by focusing on how we can empower ourselves and then help others around us. Instead of being victims, we have become a strong force of passionate, driven and caring individuals. As Hillel the Elder said, “If I am not for myself, who is for me?”
This is the notion the Jewish community has subscribed to in order to overcome the restrictions that were historically placed on us and support one another in creating a fully inclusive and diverse Canada for all Canadians of all backgrounds.
The Chair: Thank you for your compelling testimony. We will start with questions from the deputy chair.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for being here this morning. Are there any differences between legislation we’re considering today and the legislation that the Province of Ontario passed in 2012?
Mr. Fogel: I believe the short answer is nothing significant, if I’m not mistaken. Maybe Senator Frum can speak more specifically to it, but I believe that this initiative is modelled on the language and approach that Ontario used to bring forward heritage month at the provincial level.
Senator Frum: With the Ontario bill establishing the month, and our bill, the language is virtually identical.
Senator Ataullahjan: You just mentioned, and I also saw on the news yesterday, the rise of anti-Semitism. Do you think adoption of this bill would help combat anti-Semitism in Canada and to what do we attribute the recent rise in anti-Semitism? What has changed that we see more incidents?
Mr. Mostyn: Thank you very much for the question. Unfortunately, I think what we’ve seen, and what B’Nai Brith Canada longitudinal data has shown, is that we have seen a consistent level of anti-Semitism. I agree there is more reporting going on in the media and I think that’s very positive. Sunshine is the greatest disinfectant. If there is racism, we need to know about it as a society. If we don’t talk about it, we cannot deal with it. Education is key. One group understanding another’s group basic humanity is key.
Heritage months such as this spotlight the humanity of different communities, the accomplishments and the ways we can work together to build a better country will be very helpful in combatting this trend, I hope.
The Chair: Welcome back Senator Eaton. Glad to have you here.
Senator Eaton: Senator Frum, perhaps this is obvious, but why is May a special month to the Jewish people?
Senator Frum: As I mentioned, there’s significance to May in terms of the Jewish homeland of Israel; it’s the month of Israeli independence. But the reason we wanted to make May the federal national month is so that it is harmonized with both Ontario and the United States. So this will become something that is celebrated at the same time --
Senator Eaton: As the Independence Day in Israel.
Senator Frum: It's the same time as the Independence Day in Israel, the Jewish American Heritage Month and the Ontario heritage month. It makes sense that the Canadian month would be the same as the Ontario month, and I think the Ontario month was chosen because it is the same as the American month.
Senator Eaton: The Americans chose it because of Israeli independence.
Senator Frum: I don’t know if that’s the specific reason, but it’s probably a good explanation.
Mr. Fogel: It’s also a relationship to key events during World War II, the Holocaust. It is not coincidental that even though the UN declared January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day for particular historical reasons, there is an intense focus on dates in May that signal milestones — if that is what we call them — related to the Holocaust. I think heritage month is the most powerful and eloquent repudiation of that which drove the Holocaust forward, namely, the contribution of the community, the capacity to be welcomed and integrated, and so I think it had special resonance for the month of May.
Senator Martin: Thank you for your presentations. I didn’t realize that Victoria was home to the oldest synagogue so I will have to go visit one day.
You mentioned that Canada has the fourth largest Jewish community. The U.S. obviously has this month, does France also have a Jewish heritage month?
Mr. Fogel: In Europe, as with many things, especially now with the French elections, they do things in a more integrated way. There is an umbrella organization that represents numerous countries within the European community that host or sponsor a variety of heritage-related activities. They take place at different times of the year in different countries, but France is certainly involved. Spain is involved. Portugal is involved. It even goes into Eastern Europe. There is a collective coordinated approach to those kinds of events.
Senator Martin: I know in North America we often see this shared approach to commemorating or celebrating. So with the United States, I know they too have May as Asian Heritage Month, which we are celebrating.
Do you know if there is some coordination or synergistic activities that take place in the United States, in that we’re looking at stories of immigrants and their contributions? I wonder if there are things that happened there and how we may study that and look at making sure we’re supporting one another in all of these different celebrations.
Mr. Fogel: I’m not aware of any coordinated programming, but I would say that much of the successful heritage month-related programming, if you look generically, is done at the local level. There you find much more immediate partnership and collaboration between different communities. That, perhaps, could be one of the challenges we put forward, which is making it more meaningful by bringing in and sharing the experience with other communities that have a similar story to tell about their experience in growing their Canadian identity.
Senator Hartling: Thank you very much, Senator Frum, for sponsoring this bill and for coming here today and telling us more about your culture. I support the idea of having a time when you are honoured.
I come from a small community in Moncton, New Brunswick, where the Jewish population is there but very small, as well. One of my favourite volunteers was a female who worked hard with me in the early days when I started an organization.
My question today is about women in Jewish heritage and culture and the contributions they have made to Canada, but also, during this month, would there be a way to honour women during the month? That’s for whoever wants to jump in.
Senator Frum: I will refer, in a way, to Shimon’s answer to the last question which is yes, there is an infinite number of things you can do and there is no restriction on how this is done. I think that Senator Martin’s question, and your question, show that when you start applying your mind to how to properly celebrate these things, it brings out creativity about what is the right way to do it, whether it is co-sponsoring events with other communities or choosing to focus on a segment of your community, like the female contribution.
I guess I am the only one on this panel who can say this, but Jewish women are well-known for being a significant force in our community. I can’t imagine that this month could be celebrated without respecting that. That would be a problem.
Certainly, I can’t envision a Jewish heritage month without celebrating the contributions of Jewish women.
There are lots of Jewish female organizations that would also embrace the opportunity to celebrate the heroines of their movement and making sure that younger Jewish women stay very involved in the community. I know in Toronto I am involved in associations that do that.
Senator Hartling: You are probably one of those women.
Senator Frum: I know a lot of those women.
Senator Bovey: I want to thank you for this very important bill. As one who spent her professional life in Winnipeg and Victoria, I must underline the huge contributions of the Jewish community to the fabric of both those communities, especially the artistic community. I think you mentioned, Mr. Mostyn, some of the artists involved. We would be here for the rest of the week if we listed all the major Canadian artists of Jewish background.
I suppose it is not our place, but I have one observation. I would love to see more made of the historical and present-day contributions of members of the Jewish community represented in our education curriculum across the country. If we are to stem issues of hatred and racism, somehow we have to find a collective way to make sure that our young people also celebrate what has gone on before in a positive way. May this month assist in that.
Senator Bernard: Thank you all for your presentations this morning. I have found them very moving.
Let me start with a bit of background. I fully support the movement and the adoption of this bill. But I’m very aware of the fact that, like anti-Semitism, anti-black racism is on the rise in this country. Also thinking about our neighbours to the south, African American History Month has been celebrated in the U.S. since 1926 and in this country since the early 1950s. In 1995, the House of Commons adopted Black History Month and the Senate adopted Black History Month in 2008, led by Senator Oliver. So we have very vibrant celebrations every year. Many people look forward to them, but they don’t do much in terms of really addressing racism, and particularly systemic racism.
I would be interested in the ideas that you have in terms of how this bill might help move the dial just a bit more in terms of addressing the anti-Semitism and racism.
Mr. Fogel: I accept the premise of your observation, and I would go back to my comment earlier.
What will break down a lot of these barriers and what will enhance sensitivity to the challenges faced by a whole range of different communities is the peeling back of the suspicion and hostility and actually getting to know the other in ways that our tendency towards silos and insular living doesn’t allow.
What I would think is the most important feature of a heritage month is the opportunity to allow members of one group to engage more directly and fully with another. At least in my experience, what people discover is commonality and an appreciation for the specific challenges faced by the other and a real sense of desire to work together.
We have today mechanisms, technology and ability to touch and reach others that didn’t exist in previous generations, and I think that provides us with an opportunity to really accelerate that process of getting to know the other. If we can manage to do that, I think that what naturally flows from that is a shared resolve to improve things. We have this term in Jewish tradition called Tikkun Olam that has been used widely by others and it means to correct that which is broken in the world. I think that if we can use these events as platforms for engagement and for touching each other in a very direct and real way, we can develop the momentum to direct that kind of contact towards collective good.
Mr. Mostyn: If I could add to that briefly, because I agree with everything Shimon said, there is no point in any community holding a celebration for itself. We are all part of Canada and the essence of any heritage day has to be how we communicate the contributions of our particular community to other communities so they can understand that.
I think if communities will start thinking a bit more creatively and outside of the box than we all have been, we will find those clever ways. Really, it is a lost opportunity. If it is just a celebration, okay, great, we have been in Canada for a period of time, we have overcome some hurdles and done some great things in this country; many groups can state that. At the same time, recognizing the honest reality of the world today, how we can use that and our experiences in this country to overcome the next challenges and how we can do so together is probably something every community should be challenging itself to do.
Senator Ogilvie: As I was listening to the powerful arguments for this bill, it struck me that I had an example that illustrated what all three of you have focused on in your comments and that is how the Jewish community has integrated into society and made itself part of communities over time.
I am from Nova Scotia, and I am well aware that, in general, the community originating in Cape Breton has had a powerful impact in Atlantic Canada, usually without any cultural or religious reference — and its full integration into the community.
My first graduate student when I assumed my first position at the University of Manitoba, where I started my professional career, was Louis Slotin. His uncle had been involved in the nuclear experiments in the United States. It is an example that shows incredible heroism and great scientific brilliance to even be involved in what was a formidable development that is usually recognized in serious impact terms but still has the potential to benefit humanity in incredible ways.
It is known by most people of my age that the nuclear pile experiment got out of control at one point. An individual threw himself into the pile — Louis’s uncle of the same name. He had the knowledge of what was happening and also what would happen to him. He took the crucial step to shut down the runaway nuclear reaction, thereby saving countless lives, and, ultimately and directly, it led to a tremendous contribution to the knowledge of this incredible source of energy.
It is an example of the instinctive reflection of the contribution of members originally of the community to the greater community in this regard.
The Chair: Thank you very much. If we don’t have other senators who wish to speak, I want to make a personal observation, because the Montreal Jewish General Hospital was mentioned. If it hadn’t been for the Montreal Jewish General Hospital — I will put it this way, the care for my brother-in-law was incredible. I will just leave it at that. He is very much alive and happier for that. That is just a personal note.
On the other issue, we are the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, and you used the word “integration” and the humanity involved and education. We just did a study on Syrian refugees, and the marvel with all this is the fact that, whether it is the United Church or the Jewish community, there were a lot of startled Syrian refugees who discovered it was the Jewish and other communities that welcomed them. If anything is going to happen on May 2018, that would be a wonderful place of connecting. You say you can’t operate by yourself in celebration; this would be a wonderful gesture to the Muslim world and to the rest of the world about what we are doing in this country.
In closing, I am a firm believer in private members’ bills. Sometimes it takes time, but Senator Ogilvie’s Social Affairs Committee passed my private member’s bill about the world of autism. It took a while, but in that sense, the day that is April 2 has now galvanized that community. Across the country, they raise flags and talk. It’s more than just awareness or to ask, “why this day, week or month”; it is way beyond that.
I admire what you are doing.
Senator Pate: One of the questions I have is in regard to both the challenge, but as a supportive challenge, is that, given the history of human rights violations experienced by Jewish people throughout the world so often, it would be wonderful to see if we could combine, as others have suggested, ways of challenging and demonstrating where those human rights violations have not just been to Jewish people and not just during the Holocaust but in other areas where we have seen that kind of denigration of minority, vulnerable or marginalized groups. My question is: Are you thinking anything along those lines? If you are, how could others become involved?
Mr. Fogel: I don’t want to take too much away from your busy schedule, but not integrated into the concept of heritage month but something to be reflected in it is a long and proud tradition that Jewish communal organizations have. The chair referenced the experience recently with Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees who have been welcomed to Canada, not the least by sponsorship within the Jewish community from coast to coast, but the record of Jewish engagement on issues like Darfur, South Sudan and a whole range of other issues, even things like Ukraine over the last number of years. Those signal that the Jewish community takes to heart their own bitter lessons as ways of not only championing social justice issues but lending from their own experience to help others confront abuse, discrimination and the like, both here in Canada and abroad.
I take your point that it is something that should be reflected in telling the story and the contributions of the Jewish community here in Canada , but it can’t be limited to telling a story of what was. We focus on what can be, with the help and the participation of the Jewish community. Whether it is social justice issues here in Canada or ones that are unfolding elsewhere in the world, we are front and centre in advancing the issue of social justice, human rights and the like.
Mr. Mostyn: I would only add that both of our organizations have a long and proud tradition here in Canada of intervening all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of other groups on social justice and human rights issues. That’s because that is part of all of our heritage and our tradition. It is something that we are all continuing to do going forward into the future. It is important to us all.
Senator Frum: One bill that recently passed through the Senate on genetic discrimination and one that is before us now on transgender rights, CIJA, the organization that Shimon is the CEO of, has been one of the most active lobby groups on both of those issues. I know, because I have been lobbied by them. The position they take is about protecting minorities and protecting those people who have been historically discriminated against.
It is a deep part of our heritage and culture. Your question gives us the opportunity to talk about it, as will Canadian Jewish Heritage Month give us the opportunity to talk about what we do.
Mr. Fogel: Let me conclude with the second half of what Mr. Mostyn talked about earlier when he quoted Hillel the Elder when he said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” The second half of that statement was “If I am only for myself, then what am I?” I think the Jewish community has taken that message to heart over the two millennia since he articulated that dual challenge in terms of our responsibility for the other.
The Chair: That is the way we operate with the Human Rights Committee: together. The interventions that we have just both made have spawned other interventions.
Senator Andreychuk: We all want to be on the record. I want to be on the record to say that this community before us is one of the most organized, committed communities, and it has done a lot of work for Canada as well as their own community. The sooner we pass this bill — because they are well ahead of us — the sooner they can organize around it.
I want to thank Senator Frum, who is a great spokesperson in the Senate for her community but also across the world. I worked with Mr. Fogel and Mr. Mostyn for many years. They are well organized and ahead of us. Other communities have learned from them and continue to work with them.
Let’s pass the bill.
Senator Ataullahjan: As a Muslim, I have to express my gratitude to you. You are the first who stands up and speaks on behalf of Muslims when they face discrimination. I don’t know if you hear it from the Muslim community, but there is a lot of gratitude there. We are honoured that you speak on behalf of all of us. Senator Frum knows that I am very supportive of this bill. I thank you for the work you do.
Senator Martin: Briefly, I am inspired. I want to say on record how much I support this bill and appreciate what the Jewish community has done. You are a model community for other groups that are looking at how to become a stronger community within Canada’s mosaic. I want to say that I wholeheartedly support the bill.
Senator Eaton: As chair of the Pontifical Institute in Toronto, one of the four in the world, I want to say that I keep reminding people that Jews, Christians and Muslims are all Abrahamic religions. We all come from the same root. We should all be educating each other about each other, because we are all one family. We are just different chapters.
The Chair: In closing, being a Maritimer — and understanding all my Cape Breton friends — we should take an example of what has happened in Sydney, Nova Scotia, with all the friends I know there that are Cape Bretoners. It is important to have the three of you here today. Thank you very much for your presentations.
If there are no more questions, is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the title stand postponed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the preamble stand postponed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall clause one, which contains the short title, stand postponed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall clause 2 carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the preamble carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the title carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the bill carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Does the committee wish to consider appending observations to the report?
Hon. Senators: No.
The Chair: Is it agreed that I report this bill to the Senate?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: That is what I will do. Thank you very much. We are adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)