The 2017 National Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony

“The facts and the universal lessons and stories of the Holocaust must be known by everyone. One of the most powerful ways that we can come to understand these truths and learn these lessons are by listening to the stories of survivors”.

Prime Minister Justin TrudeauThe 2017 National Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa

On May 8, 2017, the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem (CSYV) hosted the 2017 National Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony with the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, as a keynote speaker.

Fran Sonshine, CSYV National Chair and Bruce Kent, RBC Vice-President, Director & Portfolio Manager and CSYV Board member, chaired the event.

The theme of the 2017 National Remembrance Day Ceremony was “Survivors’ Testimonies”: The Fate of the Individual during the Holocaust”.

Prime Minister Trudeau, emphasized the importance of survivors’ testimonies, which stand as witnesses to unspeakable horror but also tremendous courage and resilience. Testimonies represent keys to shape a better world committed to the principle of “Never Again”, Prime Minister stressed.

In addition to the Prime Minister, other speakers were the Hon. Rona Ambrose, leader of the Official Opposition and interim leader of the Conservative party, the Hon. Thomas J. Mulcair, Leader of the NDP, H.E. Nimrod Barkan, Ambassador of Israel to Canada, Leslie Vertes a 93 years old survivor from Hungary and Rabbi Bulka former Co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Ambassador Barkan highlighted that the Shoah was an unprecedented phenomena in human history and shared his personal story ─ both of his parents were Holocaust survivors.

“Determination to systematically destroy an entire people is a unique event in history”, Ambassador Barkan.

Leslie Vertes expressed his hope that future generations will remember the Shoah, learn from its lessons and build a more peaceful society.

“Freedom is not free….silence is not an option….never another Auschwitz…never another Holocaust”, Leslie Vertes.

Rona Ambrose delivered a moving address in which she vowed her commitment not to allow another Holocaust and reaffirmed the values so dear to Canadians: freedom, tolerance and respect for universal human rights.

“Today, we gather to remember and to reflect and to rededicate ourselves to timeless values Canada will always stand for: freedom, democracy, the rule of law, religious tolerance and dignity of every man and woman”, Rona Ambrose.

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Thomas Mulcair emphasized the importance of Holocaust remembrance to prevent it from happening again.

“We have the obligation to pass on future generations that there is no hatred in our lives, we have to show love and compassion and understanding for all people on God’s earth no matter where they are from “ Thomas Mulcair.

Rabbi Bulka stressed our collective responsibility to pass the message to the next generation so that they stand for a just society.

“The only way that we can fight intolerance is by being welcoming… this is the obligation that is place upon us by the survivors and those who are no longer with us”, Rabbi Bulka.

Close to 700 guests attended the Ceremony including Holocaust survivors and their families, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, the Hon. Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons, H.E. Nimrod Barkan, Ambassador of Israel to Canada, over 50 representatives of diplomatic missions in Canada, Cabinet ministers, Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, close to 60 members of Parliament, and hundreds of students and community members from across Ontario and Quebec. Members of the Canadian government lit 6 candles on the Yad Vashem Menorah in memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Prior to the Ceremony, more than 190 high school students of varied faiths and cultures, from schools across Canada met with Holocaust Survivors to participate in “Ambassadors of Change” program. Survivors shared their first-hand experience of the Shoah and students participated in a discussion regarding the relevance of the Holocaust’s lessons in today’s world and ways they can promote tolerance and inclusion within their own communities. To learn more about the CSYV Ambassadors of Change program click here.

Special Thanks

The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem thanks the following members of the Zachor Coalition for their collaboration and commitment to Zachor: The Azrieli Foundation; Beit Halochem Canada, Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel; Boys Town Jerusalem; Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping (CAVUNP); Canadian Hadassah-WIZO (CHW); Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee; Canadian Race Relations Foundation; Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship; Chenstochover Aid Society; CIJA; Embassy of Israel; Emunah Canada; Facing History and Ourselves; International Christian Embassy Jerusalem-Canada; I Can Talk To Strangers; Jewish Federation of Ottawa; Jewish National Fund of Canada; Jewish War Veterans Of Canada-Ottawa Post; Lodzer Centre Congregation; Maramoresher Society of Toronto; The Memory Project; Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre; and Na’amat Canada.