Provincial Ceremony

Provincial Ceremony in Queen's Park

Queen’s Park Tribute to Ontario Holocaust Survivors
May 3, 2012


On Thursday, May 3, 2012, Premier Dalton McGuinty honoured 19 Holocaust Survivors. Speaking about the strength of the human spirit, McGuinty said, “The 19 extraordinary people we're honouring today didn't merely survive -- they truly lived, giving back to their communities through their time and talents. Their stories are a tribute to the human spirit, and we will always remember the lessons they've shared with us.”

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa alternated with MPP for York Centre Monte Kwinter in reading the honourees’ bios, as the honourees were called up to receive certificates of recognition from the premier. Minister Sousa said, "Ontario is home to many Holocaust Survivors who have contributed so much to the life of our province. Despite living through unspeakable horrors, they had the courage and determination to overcome tremendous challenges while raising their families, starting successful businesses, and planting new roots right here -- and Ontario is stronger for it."

Following the ceremony, the honourees were invited into the Legislature where the Members of the Provincial Parliament commemorated the Shaoh.

MPP Monte Kwinter recited the Kaddish in the Legislature after receiving unanimous consent from the House. Just before, Mr. Kwinter spoke about his and the Premier’s trip to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, where they laid a wreath on behalf of all Ontarians. Said Mr. Kwinter, “The Holocaust echoes through generations. The loss is extraordinary. At Yad Vashem, that loss is made real. It is concrete. You can touch it. In the Valley of the Communities, you stand before wall after wall, carved out of the solid rock, listing the names of more than 5,000 communities that lived, breathed, had life, in which men and women loved, married, raised children, worked, laughed and worshipped. Today, in most cases, nothing remains of these Jewish communities except for their names, forever frozen in the bedrock of Yad Vashem.”

MPP Peter Sherman spoke in the Legislature on behalf of the Official Opposition. He recounted his personal connection to the Holocaust: his grandfather Emil Shuermann, whose name he memorializes with his middle name Emil, perished with his wife Elfreide in Theresienstadt. He continued: “Some years ago, I visited the Yad Vashem Memorial in Israel. Many of you have done so. When you enter that dimly lit and very solemn area filled with ashes, you feel the breath leave your body; you cannot help it. And if you have a family history like my own, you cannot escape the question you ask only in your own mind: 'Are my relatives here?' The answer, in a very real way, is, ‘Yes, they are.’”

Cheri DiNovo of the NDP delivered a passionate speech. Saying “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa (my most grevious sin),” Ms. DiNovo accepted responsibility as a gentile Christian for the sins of her ancestors. She accepted responsibility for the debacle of the St. Louis, a ship with some 5000 Jews that was turned back on the shores of Canada to Europe, where most if not all of the Jews on board are presumed to have perished. She accepted responsibility for the Church in Germany, which, she mentioned, had only 1 to 2 percent who actually stood up for their Jewish brothers and sisters.

Said Ms. DiNovo, “The vast majority of the Christian Church in Germany hung Nazi flags, and people walked past them and worshipped them as well as the God they came to give homage to.” Continued Ms. Di Novo, “So that we can prevent it from ever happening again, we have to at least admit what we’ve done. In all religions and in the Christian religion too, there’s an order of service. First you say you’re sorry and then you get forgiven, but first you say you’re sorry. My role here today is to do just that.”

All in all, a bittersweet ceremony that evoked the pain of the past while celebrating the present and instilling hope for the future.

The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem is grateful to those members from our community who have nominated a Survivor, facilitating the important mission of carrying forth the survivor’s eternal legacy.

To read more about the Queen’s Park Tribute to Holocaust Survivors, please see the following articles:

Oakville Beaver, by David Lea - May 4, 2012

Jewish Tribune, by Joanne Hill - May 8, 2012

To nominate a Holocaust Survivor for the 2013 Tribute, please submit the name and story of the Survivor whom you would like recognized to the following:

Tel: 416.785.1333
Fax: 416.785.4536
Mail: The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem
265 Rimrock Road, Suite 218
Toronto, ON
M3J 3C6

Past Provincial Ceremonies