With antisemitism on the rise, Canadian officials are moving to make it a crime to publicly deny or diminish the Holocaust. "The Holocaust was one of the darkest chapters in human history," said Irwin Cotler, special envoy on Holocaust remembrance and antisemitism. "We must preserve its memory, combat contemporary antisemitism and be unequivocal when we say: never again." Wording in a budget bill provides for quickly changing the national criminal code, CTV News reports. Private conversation would be exempt.
Organizations and lawmakers have warned of an increase in hate groups in Canada, including those espousing white supremacism. "Jewish Canadians comprise 1% of the Canadian population yet, are the target of 62% of all religiously motivated hate crimes," said Richard Marceau of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs. "We live in a time of rising antisemitism." The penalty for being convicted of denying the Holocaust was not specified, though similar legislation calls for a prison sentence of up to two years.
Surveys have found a lack of awareness of the Holocaust and its toll in several nations, including Canada and the US. A poll commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that 54% of Canadian adults surveyed didn't know that 6 million Jews were killed, a figure that rose to 62% among millennials. Overall, 57% said fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to. The Canadian bill includes funding for Holocaust education. "Holocaust denial and distortion constitute a cruel assault on memory, truth, and justice—an antisemitic libel to cover up the worst crime in history," Cotler said. (Read more Holocaust stories.)