22 December 2008
Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you Harold Finkleman for your kind introduction.
Mayor Bronconnier, colleagues from the Parliament of Canada, members of the Alberta Legislature, members of city council, honoured rabbis and honoured members of the Jewish community from across North America.
First, thank you to Rabbi Wineberg and Rabbi Matusof for inviting me to participate once again in this celebration of the miracle of Chanukah, sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am honoured to light the menorah and share in this ancient, joyful Jewish tradition.
I am especially pleased to be part of this ceremony here in Calgary, my home town, during this 20th anniversary year of the founding of the Alberta branch of Chabad Lubavitch. this organization’s education and outreach programs have made a tremendous contribution to strengthening the bonds of faith within our province’s Jewish community.
Participating in the lighting of the menorah has a special poignancy for me this year. in April I toured the Auschitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. And like all who visit there, I was moved beyond words by what I saw; to revulsion, anger and, most of all, a deep, aching sadness for the millions of innocents who perished.
But as I reflected upon it on the long plane ride home to Canada, I also felt hope. Hope because of the indomitable spirit and strength of the Jewish people. Hope that left behind the horror of the Holocaust and moved forward to build the thriving modern democratic State of Israel. And also hope because today most people in most civilized countries recognize anti-Semitism for what it is: a pernicious evil that must be exposed, confronted and repudiated whenever and wherever it appears; an evil so profound that it is ultimately a threat to us all.
Last month’s events however - the terrorist attacks in Mumbai - remind us that this evil is still very much alive in our world. I want to express my sympathies to the Chabad-Lubavitch family and all those who mourn the deaths of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and Rebetzen Rivka Holtzberg. At the same time, the immediate arrival of a new rabbi in Mumbai to carry on the work of the Holtzbergs sends a powerful message: The Jewish community will never bow to hate and violence.
Though darkness still reigns in too many places in the world, the light of the menorah burns brightly in Canada. Our peaceful, prosperous, pluralist society welcomes people of all faiths. Under my Government, our country will remain a staunch ally of the State of Israel, and a resolute defender of Jewish religious freedom.
In every field of human endeavour, our nation has been immeasurably enriched by the contributions of Canadian Jews. Together we are building a better, stronger country. And together we are working to lift the darkness of intolerance and oppression from our world.
Our Lord said let there be light, and the inspiring light of the menorah will help guide our way.
Thank you very much.