How the Na­tional Holo­caust Mon­u­ment unites us

Rabbi Daniel Fried­man apol­o­gizes for omis­sion of Jews on main plaque.

Edmonton Journal - - EDITORIAL - Rabbi Daniel Fried­man is Chair of the Na­tional Holo­caust Mon­u­ment Devel­op­ment Coun­cil.

Last month, Canada un­veiled our in­cred­i­ble Holo­caust Mon­u­ment. Let me tell you about my proudest moment that day. It wasn’t when, for the very first time, I walked into the awe-in­spir­ing mon­u­ment. It wasn’t when, along­side our prime min­is­ter, I ad­dressed the na­tion. And, de­spite my great rev­er­ence for them, it wasn’t when I met the hun­dreds of in­spir­ing sur­vivors and gen­er­ous donors.

My proudest moment was watch­ing Justin Trudeau step off­stage af­ter his speech. Just then, he no­ticed a fa­mil­iar face to­wards the back of the room, that of Tim Up­pal. Up­pal is the for­mer MP who in­tro­duced the Holo­caust Mon­u­ment bill in Par­lia­ment. When Trudeau spot­ted him, he strode up to the back of the room, grabbed Tim by the hand, and es­corted him to the front. At the end of the cer­e­mony, the prime min­is­ter turned and gave him a big hug.

That’s the epit­ome of Cana­di­an­ism. You see, Tim Up­pal was a Con­ser­va­tive MP. Trudeau could have snubbed his for­mer ri­val and basked all alone in the glory of his gov­ern­ment’s day in the sun. But he chose to in­clude him, mak­ing sure that he was very much a part of this his­toric hour.

That’s why Cana­di­ans de­serve the mon­u­ment we’ve built to­gether. Many in the world to­day pay lip ser­vice to erad­i­cat­ing ha­tred and pro­mot­ing love, re­spect and tol­er­ance for all hu­mankind. But they never miss an op­por­tu­nity to at­tack those who don’t agree with their views, at­tacks of­ten hav­ing lit­tle to do with any real mat­ter of sub­stance.

The mon­u­ment is the prod­uct of a part­ner­ship be­tween many or­ga­ni­za­tions. De­signed by the Lord Cul­tural Group and Daniel Libe­skind, built by the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Com­mis­sion, fa­cil­i­tated by Cana­dian Her­itage, and over­seen by the Mon­u­ment Devel­op­ment Coun­cil, a lot of peo­ple have co-or­di­nated their ef­forts to build this piece of our na­tion.

Along the way we had dis­agree­ments. Some big­ger, some smaller. Along the way, we made mis­takes. Some big­ger, some smaller. Along the way we switched gov­ern­ments, which meant a whole host of new play­ers and opin­ions en­ter­ing the fray. But we’re Cana­di­ans. And we fig­ured it out. We didn’t point fingers. We didn’t politi­cize things. We were proud of the fact that the Mon­u­ment bill passed unan­i­mously.

On the big day, we sud­denly re­al­ized that an egre­gious er­ror had been made. In amongst the de­bates over word­ing and plaque po­si­tion­ing, some­how the one plaque that in­tro­duced the oth­ers — and made no sense out­side the con­text of the plaques de­tail­ing the Nazi geno­cide of six mil­lion Jews along with ho­mo­sex­u­als, the dis­abled and oth­ers — ended up mounted all on its own on a sep­a­rate wall. Vis­i­tors to the site were rightly dis­turbed to en­counter this ma­jor in­jus­tice to the mem­ory of the six mil­lion Jews for whom the mon­u­ment was built. All of the par­ties in­volved are deeply re­morse­ful and we apol­o­gize un­con­di­tion­ally for the pain we have caused by this over­sight.

I want to thank the Trudeau gov­ern­ment for act­ing ex­pe­di­tiously to amend the plaque as soon as the er­ror was brought to its at­ten­tion. Mis­takes hap­pen; most can be fixed quickly and deco­rously. With­out ques­tion­ing, the gov­ern­ment did the right thing, which has been our ex­pe­ri­ence with Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment through­out. And that’s why when I saw his in­ter­ac­tion with Tim Up­pal at the un­veil­ing, my re­spect for our leader grew ever stronger. The man is a true Cana­dian. The man is a men­sch.

Cana­di­ans don’t look for fights. We seek op­por­tu­ni­ties to em­brace and boost other peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent from us, whether those dif­fer­ences in­volve po­lit­i­cal views, re­li­gion or skin colour. The last thing we would want to politi­cize is the Holo­caust.

The Na­tional Holo­caust Mon­u­ment was ini­ti­ated by the Stephen Harper gov­ern­ment. It was brought to fruition un­der the Trudeau gov­ern­ment. We live in the most tol­er­ant coun­try in the world, and prob­a­bly, of all time. Let us never take that bless­ing for granted. Let us be a lit­tle more for­giv­ing of one an­other. And let us con­tinue to work to­gether, across party lines, eth­nic lines and re­li­gious lines, to lead the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and make this world a bet­ter, safer place for all peo­ples.

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