Toronto city council passes motion proclaiming International Holocaust Remembrance Day

From left, Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Coun. Mike Colle, Avi Benlolo, CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Mayor John Tory and Coun. James Pasternak show off the motion proclaiming Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, at press conference in Toronto on Dec. 18. (FSWC Photo)

Toronto will join other jurisdictions in marking each Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

City council voted unanimously on Dec. 18 to set the day aside to commemorate and teach about the Holocaust.

Jan. 27 marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1945 and was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations in 2005.

The motion was introduced by Coun. Mike Colle (Ward 8) and seconded by Coun. James Pasternak (Ward 6).

In an interview with The CJN, Colle described the vote “as a very important one given Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and has the largest Jewish population in Canada.”

He said the annual day of commemoration will offer an opportunity “to teach more about the Holocaust and make sure the victims of the Holocaust are not forgotten.”

Toronto city hall. (Benson Kua/CC BY-SA 2.0)

The city will host a reception at City Hall with the mayor and members of council each Jan. 27 that will include Holocaust survivors and their families, “to say thank you and build awareness about the day,” said Colle.

The motion states that proclaiming International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be “an opportunity to create greater public understanding and awareness of this horrific period in history where over six million innocent Jewish men, women and children were systematically murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators from 1933 to 1945.

“Holocaust denial and other forms of anti-Semitic hatred have flourished in the digital age. Anti-Semitism is on the rise and an increasing threat not only in Canada, but all over the world. It is therefore critical that at this time, through this proclamation, we recognize the universal importance of the lessons learned from the Holocaust and encourage the citizens of Toronto, through their schools, institutions and libraries, to learn about the history of the Holocaust to raise awareness about this horrific genocide and ensure that nothing like it will ever be repeated.”

Colle said he hopes that Toronto’s move “will encourage other cities across the country, big and small. I think it’s another opportunity to reinforce the importance of remembering the Holocaust.”

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) said it “achieved a historic victory.” The organization said the city adopted the measure “after an ongoing advocacy effort by FSWC.”

Avi Benlolo, the group’s president and CEO, said, “It is critical that we commemorate the atrocities of the Holocaust, in order to pay respect to its victims and also to ensure that these events are never, ever repeated.”

On Nov. 18, Calgary city council passed a motion to “formally recognize, commemorate and proclaim Jan. 27 as our annual city-wide International Holocaust Remembrance Day.”