“Should Canada Strengthen Laws Against Holocaust Denialism?”
In Canada, Jewish organizations are urging the Liberal government to remove perceived barriers to enforcing a relatively new Criminal Code provision against Holocaust denialism in light of a troubling increase in antisemitism. CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Shimon Koffler Fogel, stressed the importance of criminalizing Holocaust denialism, finding inspiration in similar laws in France and Germany.
New Criminal Code Provision
The Liberal government included an amendment to the Criminal Code in the 2022 budget implementation bill, which prohibits communicating statements that promote antisemitism by denying or downplaying the Holocaust. However, more than a year after the new criminal offence was created, there have been no charges or prosecutions under this provision, causing concern among the Jewish community.
Challenges in Application
Dan Panneton, a director at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, cited the difficulties that the Jewish community faces with Canada’s hate speech laws, emphasizing that seeking consent from a province’s attorney general to lay charges can be a time-consuming process. Critics argue that Canada’s legal system has not effectively responded to Holocaust denialism.
Calls for Stricter Measures
Many have suggested that better training for law enforcement and prosecutors is needed to effectively identify and address Holocaust denialism. Fogel emphasized that Holocaust denialism can take various forms, from outright conspiracies to minimizing the historical record, all of which seek to marginalize the tragic events of the Holocaust.
A Compelling Comparison
The discussion about Holocaust denialism has also sparked a conversation about Canada’s handling of other traumatic historical events, such as what happened in church-run, government-funded residential schools. Some have called for the criminalization of denialism of this tragic chapter in Canadian history as well, along with a comprehensive public education campaign.
While the criminalization of Holocaust denialism carries symbolic weight, experts argue that there is still a long way to go in effectively combatting hate speech in Canada. Despite the challenges, the call to criminalize denialism of historical atrocities like the Holocaust and the residential school system highlights a growing awareness of the importance of confronting and remembering painful historical truths. It’s a complex issue that requires careful consideration and a balance between protecting free speech and preventing the spread of harmful misinformation.