Canada becomes liaison to Holocaust task force

"Countries are impressed by what Canada is already doing, and that we're committed to doing even more," government spokesman says.

holocaust 88 (photo credit: )
holocaust 88
(photo credit: )
Although it has a number of residents with records as Nazi war criminals, Canada was accepted as a liaison to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research on Thursday. Canada's promotion came at the task force's plenary meeting in Berlin, where delegations from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and France were present, among others. "[The promotion] shows a commitment on the part of the government of Canada toward ensuring that the crimes of the Holocaust are not forgotten and are taught widely," said Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Canadian Heritage. "Other countries are impressed by what Canada is already doing, and that we're committed to doing even more." Despite Canada's curriculum of Holocaust education, dozens of Nazi war criminals live in the country. While Canada has deprived several former Nazis of their citizenship, they have yet to be deported or brought to trial. Even so, Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center in Israel, an organization specializing in the identification and extradition of ex-Nazis, said that many members of the task force have similar residency issues with Nazi war criminals. "There are countries that have a far worse record than Canada that are already in the task force," said Zuroff. "The current president of the task force is Austria, which has one of the worst records in the world. Membership in the task force was never linked to these countries' bringing Nazis to justice." But Zuroff added that Canada's wealth of other work on the Holocaust, as well as its efforts to prosecute its former Nazis, merit its inclusion in the task force. "Canada is one of the major western democracies and a country that has done quite a bit in Holocaust commemoration," he said. "On those grounds it deserves to be a member of the task force. They're one of the countries that is at least is doing something." In addition to its emphasis on Holocaust education, Velshi called Canada a world leader in the fight against anti-Semitism. While working toward membership in the task force, Canada's government has pulled out of the "Durban II" conference on racism on the grounds that it is anti-Semitic. "The current government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken an unprecedented leadership role in combating anti-Semitism," said Velshi. "Canada's seeking membership [in the task force] is part of that same trend, that of a government that is committed to recognizing and commemorating the crimes of the Holocaust as well as combating latter-day instances of anti-Semitism." As was the case in many western countries, Canada accepted most of its ex-Nazi citizens under the illusion that they were refugees from the communist bloc. While most of them have died of natural causes, Zuroff said that countries need to make a harder push to prosecute those that have survived. "Pressure has to be brought to bear on the countries in which these people live and the countries where they committed their crimes," he said. "The major problem we face today is not finding the Nazis but the lack of political will to bring these people to justice. Any person that has any morality realizes that just because these people are old is no reason to ignore their crimes." Due to the task force's plenary meeting, its officials could not be reached for comment.