Skip to main content
editorial

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

We seem to be hitting peak Holocaust rhetoric, with both the Conservatives and the Liberals hinting cynically this week that a wrong decision by Parliament, or a vote for the wrong party, could return Canada to the darkest days of modern history. This needs to stop.

On Monday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau chastised the Harper government's divisive plan to try to restore a ban on wearing a niqab – a head-covering worn by some Muslim women – during citizenship ceremonies. A federal court judge struck down the ban, but the government has made big noises about an appeal.

Mr. Trudeau is right that the Conservatives are focusing on a divisive issue for political gain. But the Liberal Leader then felt it necessary to add that "we should all shudder to hear the same rhetoric that led to a 'none is too many' immigration policy toward Jews in the '30s and '40s being used today."

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, rightly points out that the anti-Semitic policy Mr. Trudeau referred to was the "product of an era in which Jews faced extensive social and institutional discrimination in Canada." Muslims in Canada today are not banned from universities, or from working in certain companies, or from joining clubs, as Jews were in the 1930s and '40s. Mr. Trudeau, in trying to raise fears about about Harper government policy, stretched his metaphor too thinly.

Harper government ministers were quick to pounce on Mr. Trudeau, but then one of their own pulled the same stunt the next day. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told a committee hearing on Bill C-51, the new anti-terrorism act that will make it illegal to promote extremist ideology online, that "the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers. It began with words."

Again, a failure of context. Propaganda was a tool of the Nazis, but it took a lot more than words to murder six million Jews. That tragedy was the outcome of generations of anti-Semitism in Europe, racist government policies and poor diplomacy, among other factors.

This has been condensed from a previous version.