The CHA supports B’nai Brith Canada in a letter sent to the relevant Canadian Federal Ministers
September 27, 2023
The Canadian Historical Association | La Société historique du Canada supports the release of historical records pertaining to the Holocaust that contain information on Nazi war criminals and collaborators that settled in Canada after the Second World War. These records are currently in the possession of the Government of Canada.
Founded in 1922, the CHA | SHC is the oldest and largest association of professional historians in Canada, representing the interests of historians in French and English Canada.
Because access to archival records is essential to the writing of history, the CHA | SHC encourages the Government of Canada to release historical records pertaining to the Holocaust and to fulfill its obligations under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
As outlined in B’nai Brith Canada’s 1 August 2023 submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance:
The IHRA’s 2000 Stockholm Declaration commits the signatories, including Canada, to “take all necessary steps to facilitate the opening of archives in order to ensure that all documents bearing on the Holocaust are available to researchers.” In 2017, IHRA’s Monitoring Access to Holocaust Collections Project recommended that governmental archival institutions “release Holocaust related records, irrespective of any personal identifying information or national security classifications.”
As of August 2023, Canada has not fulfilled its obligation as a member of IHRA. To do so, it needs to release historical documents pertaining to the Holocaust. As a member of the Canadian delegation to IHRA, B’nai Brith would like to see a fundamental shift by the Government of Canada towards this critical issue.
In a 4 July 2023 op-ed in The Globe and Mail, David Matas, Senior Legal Counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, stated that,
We need access to the report written by Alti Rodal for the Deschênes Commission, titled Nazi War Criminals in Canada: The Historical and Policy Setting from the 1940s to the Present. It was written to be public in its entirety but has been released subject only to inexplicable extensive deletions.
Part II of the Deschênes Commission report, addressing individual cases, has not been made public. And the hundreds of Nazi war crimes files originally held by the Department of Justice and Royal Canadian Mounted Police are inaccessible.
The CHA | SHC agrees with Mr. Matas: Canadians not only deserve, but require, access to these records.
To achieve this goal, the Government of Canada has a unique opportunity to:
Adopt B’nai Brith Canada’s recommendation – in its February 2023 submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics – that the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduce amendments to the Access to Information Act (ATIA). Amendments to the ATIA would mandate the disclosure of:
- all records relating specifically to alleged Nazi war criminals in Canada and to any other Canadian citizen or resident who may have been complicit in carrying out the Holocaust and;
- all other Holocaust-related records (as defined by the IHRA) in the possession of the Government of Canada.
Adopt recommendations 11 and 12 in the June 2023 report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics that House of Commons Committee’s that call on the Government of Canada to 1) “implement a process for the automatic release of historical documents that are more than 25 years old” and 2) to “establish and implement clearer record classification guidelines and a declassification system.”
Adopt a key recommendation in B’nai Brith Canada’s August 2023 submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance that calls on the Government of Canada to “dedicate funding to create a publicly accessible digital archive of all records (government departments and agencies) relating to the Holocaust and then have Library Archives Canada (LAC) organize and release them as non-redacted copies readily open and accessible to the public.”
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President, Canadian Historical Association