OTTAWA—It’s back to the drawing boards for federal bureaucrats after complaints that the plaque marking the official opening of the National Holocaust Monument failed to mention that Jews were overwhelmingly the victims.
The glaring omission was highlighted almost immediately after the striking monument, located just west of Parliament Hill near the Canadian War Museum, was unveiled Sept. 27.
“On the day the monument was unveiled, we noticed that the panel at the entrance conspicuously and curiously did not mention Jews,” said Martin Sampson, director of communications for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
“We raised our concerns with the government. They were very responsive, acknowledged the error and agreed to correct it immediately,” he said in a statement.
The omission centres on the plaque that marks the official unveiling by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself.
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It stated that the monument commemorates the “millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust and honours the survivors who persevered and were able to make their way to Canada after one of the darkest chapters in history.”
It said nothing about the fact that the Holocaust was the state-sponsored extermination of 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime.
Other interpretative panels within the monument — which forms the shape of the Star of David — do highlight that Jews were the target of Nazi ideology and that some 6 million were murdered — along with millions from other groups.
But Conservative Senator Linda Frum says those facts must be acknowledged on the official plaque.
“The Holocaust was a war against the Jews. It was an attempt to exterminate every single last Jew. So yes, I think it’s important to mention that,” she said in an interview Thursday.
Frum tweeted about the omission and in the wake of that, says she has been the recipient of an “incredible wave of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.”
“It only makes it that much clearer to me why it’s essential that you call things for what they are,” said Frum, who with husband Howard Sokolowski was among the donors to the monument, a project launched by the former Conservative government.
She noted that the Holocaust claimed many victims. “There is no hierarchy of suffering. Equally, there was this very targeted and specific war against the Jews. For educational purposes, we need to remind next generations of what happened.”
The offending panel has been removed and will be replaced “with language that reflects the horrors experienced by the Jewish people during the Holocaust,” Rachel Rappaport, a communications adviser in Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s office, said in a statement to the Star.
“This monument commemorates the 6 million Jewish people, as well as the 5 million other victims whose lives were extinguished during one of the darkest chapters in human history,” she said.
She said the monument stands as a “reminder of our collective responsibility to stand against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.”
The plaque screw-up only adds to Joly’s woes, who was already seeing her political fortunes sag in the wake of a widely criticized culture vision for Canada that had as its centrepiece a promised investment by American production giant Netflix.
That vision has been especially poorly received in Quebec, where critics say it doesn’t do enough to support francophone culture.