Is Mark Adler really the first MP born of Holocaust survivors?

Former Liberal MP Raymonde Folco

York Centre Conservative MP Mark Adler’s long-held claim to be the first child of Holocaust survivors elected a member of Parliament is being called into question, The CJN has learned.

Adler’s claim, contained in the second sentence of his online biography – originally posted on his official website and repeated on his campaign site – is that he is “the first child of a Holocaust survivor to ever be elected as an MP.”

But the distinction apparently belongs to Raymonde Folco, who served as a Montreal-area Liberal MP from 1997 to 2011.

Folco was born Raymonde Goldgrav in Paris in 1940, two months before the Germans entered the city. She was hidden by two Christian families outside the capital during the Nazi occupation.

Her father escaped from an Auschwitz-bound transport, and he and her mother later fought in the French Resistance. Both her parents survived the war by several decades.

That would make Folco not only the first Canadian MP who was a child of Holocaust survivors, but also first child survivor to become a member of Parliament.

In an email to The CJN, Folco said she found it “disgusting” for Adler “to use the Holocaust in this way, for personal ends.” She later told The CJN that as an MP, she never publicized her status as a child of Holocaust survivors, while Adler is “profiting” from it.

“Whether he is the first or 15th, I should think it is your record that matters: what you’ve done and what you intend to do for Canadians, when elected.”

A screenshot from Mark Adler's former website


A screenshot from Mark Adler's new campaign site.

Adler, 52, first entered the House of Commons in 2011 when he defeated Liberal cabinet minister Ken Dryden. Adler is seeking re-election in this October’s vote.

Whether or not he is in fact the first child of Holocaust survivors to enter Parliament, as a Conservative MP Adler has often spoken out in support of Holocaust awareness and education.

Among the bullet points on his prominent re-election banner at his campaign office on Bathurst Street at York Downs Drive and on a sign at his constituency office at Sheppard Plaza is that he is the “son of [a] Holocaust survivor.”

In May, he introduced a private member’s bill, that would have made it illegal to buy or sell “personal property that was owned by, or in the possession of, a victim or survivor of the Holocaust for the purpose of wilfully promoting hatred against any identifiable group.” 

The sign outside Mark Adler's constituency office RON CSILLAG PHOTO

The bill aimed to amend section 319 of the Criminal Code, which deals with hate crimes, and envisioned punishment of a maximum two-year-prison term and forfeiture of the property.

But Parliament adjourned June 19 for summer recess and was dissolved when Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the federal election, leaving the bill and several others on the order paper. 

In an article entitled “Why Holocaust Education Is a Priority For Our Government,” published in the Jewish Tribune, in May 2013 and currently posted on his website, Adler said that as “the only member of Parliament who is also the child of a Holocaust survivor, I understand the deep and important responsibility I have to help raise awareness about the horrors that took place under the Nazi regime.”

He noted that in 2011, Canada was the first country to sign the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism, an outgrowth of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism, which met in the capital the year before.

He also pointed out that in 2009, Canada became a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an intergovernmental body that promotes Holocaust education, remembrance and research around the world.

Adler noted that in 2013, he hosted an event for parliamentarians and community leaders to mark the 30th anniversary edition of the book None is Too Many, by Irving Abella and Harold Troper, about Canada’s wartime response to Jewish refugees. He said he also took part in a conference in Ottawa on “Responsibility and Memory After the Holocaust.”

Adler did not return calls and emails seeking comment for this story, but he did issue a statement after The CJN's story was posted.

"Mme. Folco, like my family, faced unspeakable atrocities, and we will never forget the somber story that unites our experience," he said in the statement. "That is why I am doubly resolved to continue to be a steadfast defender of Israel, and champion of freedom for those facing persecution in an increasingly insecure world."

His campaign page was also changed Aug. 17 to omit references in his biography to being the first child of Holocaust survivors to be elected as an MP. Adler's campaign manager Georgeanne Burke told the National Post the claim was "an honest mistake," since Folco "never spoke publicly about her background."