Canadian leaders return to communities empowered to counter antisemitism, hate and promote Holocaust education following journey through Germany, Poland and Israel

July 17, 2019

Media Release

Toronto (July 17, 2019) – A delegation of law enforcement, government and education leaders from across Canada returned to their communities yesterday empowered to counter antisemitism, hate and promote Holocaust education following an intensive and educational 10-day journey through Berlin, Krakow and Israel.

The trip, hosted by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, began with an emotional week in Berlin and Krakow, during which the participants visited sites such as Ravensburck concentration camp, the House of the Wannsee Conference, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Oskar Schindler’s Factory. A trip to Israel followed, with visits to numerous sites such as Yad Vashem, the Western Wall, the Knesset and the Golan Heights.

“The trip takes the leaders from darkness to light, educating them about the horrors of the Holocaust and effects of hate as well as introducing them to Israel – including its history, accomplishments and the threats it continues to face today,” said FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo. “The ultimate goal of the trip is to not only educate the leaders, but also empower them to use their power to make a positive difference in their communities, including taking action against antisemitism and discrimination, promoting Holocaust remembrance and education and standing up for human rights.”

The group of 25 participants included police chiefs, deputy police chiefs, mayors and heads of elementary and high schools. Since the inception of the program, FSWC has sent 300 Canadian leaders on this life-changing experience, creating a network of advocates across the country.

Statements from Compassion to Action 2019 participants:

“Our societal window of time to learn firsthand, document and accurately commemorate the experiences and history of the Holocaust first hand is swiftly diminishing as survivors approach the sunset of their natural lives. We are all responsible to never forget the horrors of history; steadfastly prevent similar history from repeating itself; accept new responsibility to safeguard the democratic freedoms we so often take for granted; and to protect all people from political and social tyranny.”

-         Mayor Tara Veer, City of Red Deer

“Compassion to Action reinvigorated my professional and personal responsibility as a senior Canadian law enforcement officer to challenge and defeat hate crimes and hate speech whenever they arise in my community. As police leaders, we have an obligation to those victims who suffered to never again allow hateful words to grow into an atrocity.”

-         Steve Rai, Deputy Chief Constable, Vancouver Police Department

“It is hard to encapsulate this experience in a few paragraphs - how emotional, educational, enlightening, engaging, and empowering it has been. The saying 'the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know' rings so true. Beginning with the facilitators from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, to Holocaust survivor Max Eisen, the tour guides in each major city, the supporters of the Centre who joined us along the journey, the Israeli political journalist, and others — each mentor helped to shape this experience for us with their in-depth knowledge, their own personal history and narrative. Their passion for their people and their culture was palpable. But above all, the common thread of a deep and abiding desire to pass on this knowledge and passion to others, beginning with what happened in our past, and for those atrocities to never occur again, was undeniable. The message to tell others so that we do not repeat the past, and continue to promote justice for all of humanity.

We were also asked to reflect on what we could do to carry forth this message as we navigate our daily lives. As a teacher, I feel that I will work within my circle of influence to promote and model the tolerance of all people. I will continue to nurture empathy within my classroom, and challenge stereotypes that society presents. When we as educators work to empower children to take responsibility in their community for the well-being of others, to look out for one another, to say that it’s not okay to be a bystander when wrongdoings occur - that is a pathway for tolerance to be nurtured and to grow.

We all share the responsibility to act as conduits for that message.”

-         Deborah Zablocki

“This trip was an in-depth educational experience that demonstrated the importance of leaders in all fields to continue rooting out all hate crimes.”

-         Norm Lipinski, Deputy Chief Constable, Delta Police Department

“As a representative of the front-line policing community in Canada, it was a tremendous honour to be invited to experience this meaningful Compassion to Action Mission. Getting a first-hand and solemn view of the sites of some of the worst tragedies ever visited on human beings, balanced with the hope and optimism we witnessed directly from the Israeli people, provided me with a perspective that will certainly influence my advocacy for Canadian policing personnel who are often the first to respond to modern cases of discrimination and hate crimes within our society. This trip served as a powerful reinforcement of my view that inclusiveness and acceptance must be the cornerstone of any healthy society.”

-         Tom Stamatakis, Canadian Police Association

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