We’re all in it together: Welcome remarks at FAST – Fighting Antisemitism Together

Speaking Notes

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E.

Chief Commissioner
Canadian Human Rights Commission

“We’re all in it together” 

Welcome remarks at the Celebration event for FAST – Fighting Antisemitism Together

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Great Hall, Hart House, University of Toronto
7 Hart House Circle
Toronto, Ontario

5:30 p.m.


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Good evening everyone. 

It is a pleasure to be here with all of you, on the traditional territory of many Indigenous nations — including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat — which is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. 

I want to begin by thanking tonight’s organizers who have made this event possible. 

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day, a day that underlines the importance of fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate. 

I thank everyone here tonight for all you do everyday to fight antisemitism and all forms of hate in Canada. 

I am here to tell you that you are not alone in this fight, and that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission, the organization I lead, is deeply troubled by the rise in hateful, antisemitic incidents here in Canada, south of our border, and around the world. 

Just this past weekend, we were all left reeling from another senseless act of violence against the Jewish community. 

Here in Canada, antisemitic hate crimes remain the highest religious-motivated crimes reported to police.

This is in line with the reality around the world, and explains the sense of emergency among Jewish communities. 

This fight isn’t going away. 

As Canada’s national human rights institution, we have a responsibility to speak out against antisemitism and ALL forms of hate.

It is time for us to turn up the volume.

We are going to get louder.
We are going to be bolder.

We need to be bolder.

Because, as I have often said, denying the rights of one group of people puts the rights of everyone at risk. 

Two weeks ago, we released our 2018 Annual Report.

We chose the title “Speak Out.” 

It was our mantra for 2018. 

And it remains our mantra today. 

It is a call to action for Canadians.

It is a call to speak out against hate and intolerance. 

To stand up for the principles of equality, dignity and respect for all.  

We knew we needed an image that could boldly represent this idea. 

The picture we chose was taken at a peaceful anti-racism march in Montreal in 2018. 

The event included over 160 organizations from across Canada.

When we approached the father for his permission to use the photo, he told us that he had taken his four daughters to the demonstration because it was something he wanted them to experience.

To us, this is a picture of a father teaching his young daughter — the next generation — how to speak out.

…how to be socially engaged.

…how to counter racism and intolerance with peaceful opposition.

To us, this picture was the obvious choice.

But we were surprised by the backlash. 

We were surprised by the level of vitriol we received because of a picture.

News-stories and Op-Eds accused the Commission of:
…supporting terrorists.
…promoting the “oppression” of a young girl, and
…being anti-Canadian, anti-freedom.

We received numerous messages and social media comments from people who were angry about the cover. 
…Some spewing hate.
…Some threatening violence. 

In a sad way, the response showed the point we were making in the report — that hate, racism and religious intolerance are clearly alive in Canada. 

Thriving.

It is time to speak out

The only way we can build a future is to stand together. 

Education is going to be key.

That’s why FAST programs like “Choose your Voice” are so vital.

You are teaching young people the values of inclusion and acceptance, and empowering them to stand up, speak out, and help build a better Canada.

Many adults could be reminded of that same lesson: that we all have a responsibility to speak out, and to speak out loudly:

….for equality;
….for inclusion;
…and for respect.

Thank you for being human rights champions

Thank you for your vital contribution. 

I and the entire Canadian Human Rights Commission stand with you in this fight. 

We’re all in it together. 

Thank you.  Shalom.