Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the United Jewish Appeal Top Gifts Dinner in Toronto
Thank you Alex, for that warm introduction. I was privileged to know Barry and Honey, and I’m so pleased to be here tonight among so many of their friends, and it’s so moving to see you Alex, carrying on the example of community leadership set by your parents.
Hello everyone. Thank you for coming out tonight. It's wonderful to see so many friends here. Good to see you here Mayor Tory. Thank you for being here. Thank you all for gathering. This week, we were delighted to welcome President Rivlin of Israel to Canada. As of course you know, the president had to cut his visit short because of personal reasons. We wish him and his family and especially Nechama very well.
I’d also like to thank Adam Minsky, CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and his entire team for organizing this event.
I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the ties that unite Israel and Canada. Ahead of tonight, I've been giving some thought to this idea of friendship between nations -- about what binds us together. In 1948 Canada was one of the very first countries to formally recognize Israel. And more than 70 years later our friendship endures. Our understanding of each other deepens, our affection for one another grows. That's not a coincidence, it's a choice. And to understand why Canada continues to make that choice; why our two countries are so deeply committed to standing with each other, one must first look at Israel's leaders.
President Rivlin has not only dedicated his life to the people of Israel, he's been a leader who brings to life the words of Israel's Declaration of Independence by advancing the vision of a democracy based on freedom, justice, and peace; with equal rights for all. Under his leadership, the Canada-Israel relationship -- a natural partnership rooted in shared values and a shared vision for the future -- has continued to grow and thrive. But our ties are also made stronger by Canadians and Israelis who have long nurtured our friendship. Indeed, Canada's Jewish community has played an essential role in this journey, from raising awareness about the challenges facing the Jewish homeland, to giving young people the chance to visit Israel, to creating more opportunities for greater cooperation. You have given countless Canadians the ability to better understand Israel, the Jewish community, and its importance to Canada.
But beyond that, the Jewish community has played and continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the Canada that we know today.
Jews have made Canada their home for over 250 years. That represents more than 250 years of contributing to our country. Having grown up in Montreal, I had the chance to discover and enjoy Jewish culture throughout my city. The music of Leonard Cohen, the words of Mordecai Richler, the streets of Côte Saint-Luc or Hampstead. There are numerous examples, and the same can be said about Toronto and many other communities right across the country.
Jewish Canadians are our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues, our fellow compatriots helping the most vulnerable, repairing the world; Jewish values are Canadian values.
Through our relationship and friendships, we've gained a better understanding of Jewish identity and the unique challenges facing your community. But as Alex mentioned, it hasn't always been this way. Indeed, we have grown to be much more compassionate and more supportive than we once were. There was a time when we let antisemitism take hold in our communities and become our official policy. A time when we turned our backs on the Jewish people in the most desperate of moments. Canada's ill treatment of the Jews, before, during, and even after the Second World War, is well-documented. And while this is a dark, shameful chapter of our history, it is one Canada needed to confront.
Last November, our government issued a long overdue apology to Jewish refugees and the passengers of the St. Louis we turned away during the Second World War. That day, we vowed not only to remember, but also to act on the painful lessons of our past. Something we must do every day. Today, antisemitism is a tweet inciting hate. It's a threat in the comments section. It's graffiti on a high school near High Park. It's an abhorrent attack this past November on Jewish teens wearing kippahs. It's the horrific murder of Jews in Pittsburgh, in Paris, in Jerusalem, and around the world. Antisemitism is on the rise. And a hallmark of its latest iterations is a deep-seated hatred for Israel. Or as my friend Irwin Cotler, who has done incredible work on this subject, put it well to me a number of years ago and continues to… Irwin are you here tonight? I heard Irwin might be… no, not here tonight. There we go.
As he told me a number of years ago, the new antisemitism features the three “Ds”: demonization of Israel. A double standard around Israel. And a delegitimization of the State of Israel. That's why a movement like BDS or the so-called Israel Apartheid Week has no place in Canada.
When Jewish students are made to feel uncomfortable on campus because of their identity. When people don't feel safe davening in shul. That is unacceptable. Period. And it's un-Canadian.
And I can assure you that this is a message I proudly bring wherever it must be heard. Canada will always condemn hatred of any kind against any community and Jewish leaders have echoed this message time and time again. Any movement that calls into question Israel's right to exist or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, is promoting antisemitism. It is an attack on our Israeli friends, on Jewish Canadians, and on the values we share. An attack on the foundation of the Canada-Israel friendship and on everything we stand for.
That is why we will continue to stand up against antisemitism. To raise Israel's voice and stand alongside her including at the United Nations.
More than ever, countries like ours that share the same values of peace and democracy must stand united on the international stage. Israel is a democratic state in a dangerous region. Canada fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah who target civilians.
Canada has also sought to increase cooperation with Israel through many bilateral initiatives, from trade to innovation, to science, to technology, to security. Ambassador Lyons often jokes that her mission is the most visited of any mission around the world and it's easy to see why. Countless Canadian groups from business leaders to civil society organizations, to community groups, visit Israel every year and since November 2016, 13 high-level visits have been held by Canadian leaders of all orders of government. I myself traveled to Jerusalem to attend the funeral of the great Shimon Peres. I had the chance... I've had the chance a couple of times now to see with my own eyes why the city has been so central to the religious, national and cultural identity of the Jewish people for thousands of years. And it's a place I very much look forward to visiting again.
My friends, Canada and Israel share a special bond -- one rooted in mutual respect, a shared history, and common values. But our bond is made strong by people like you who seek to bring us closer. You do tremendous work to sustain and promote our partnership. And Canadians are better for it. President Rivlin’s visit this week attests to Israel's desire to deepen our ties. We know that we have more than an ally in Israel. We have a real trusted friend on whom we can count and who can count on Canada to continue to stand by its side through thick and thin.
Thank you all for inviting me here tonight to join with you.
Thank you for being here, everyone. Thank you very much. Thank you.