OTTAWA, Canada, Oct. 26 (JTA) The recent anti-Semitic remarks of
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad were on many peopleï¿½s minds as Canadaï¿½s
Parliament unanimously passed a motion last week establishing a national Holocaust day.
timing of this announcement could not be more appropriate," Frank Dimant, the
executive vice president of Bï¿½nai Brith Canada, said on Oct. 21. "Once again, the
Jews of the world find themselves at the epicenter of history, the targets of hate,
vilification, and ultimately, violence. The words may be different, as may be the tactics,
but the goals are the same."
Leo Adler, director of national affairs for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for
Holocaust Studies, said,"The fact that all five parties unanimously supported this
bill speaks volumes about Canadaï¿½s response to racists like Mahathir Mohamad."
But Prime Minister Jean Chretien was criticized for his failure to condemn Mahathir,
who told a meeting of Islamic leaders that "Jews rule this world by proxy."
Mahathir later said world reaction to his comments proved his point.
Adler said of Chretien, "It would have been nice for our prime minister to have
been with us as well. Perhaps itï¿½s symbolic in many ways that heï¿½s not here today.
Instead he chose to shake the hand of the Malaysian prime minister without condemning his
Instead, Chretienï¿½s foreign affairs minister, Bill Graham, spoke out against
Criticism of Chretien was overshadowed by the unanimity of support for the Holocaust
bill. Legislator Richard Marceau is credited by his cosponsors for being the initiativeï¿½s
"One of the most important things about this bill is that each and every
parliamentarian, the elected officials of Canada, regardless of their party affiliation,
passed this bill unanimously," Marceau said. "That is how strongly this country
feels the Holocaust should be remembered."
The bill is the first piece of Canadian legislation not dealing with parliamentary
business to pass by unanimous consent since at least 1990.
When asked about his reasons for proposing the bill, Marceau mentioned the father of a
friend who survived Auschwitz and then raised a family in Canada, putting his five
children through college.
"When he passed away a year and a half ago, I realized that while theyï¿½re tough,
Holocaust survivors arenï¿½t immortal." Marceau said. "Many of them are passing
away and itï¿½s up to us to pick up the torch and let people know what happened."