Justin Trudeau
Justin TrudeauReuters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday that the job of Canada's special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and fighting anti-Semitism is now a permanent role.

Trudeau made the remarks at an international forum on Holocaust remembrance and anti-Semitism in Malmo, Sweden, according to a report on CBC News.

In November 2020, the government appointed to the role Irwin Cotler, an international human rights lawyer and former minister of justice. Now, Trudeau said, Cotler's office will be supported by dedicated resources.

"This is in line with Canada's commitment to promote and defend pluralism, inclusion and human rights," Trudeau said.

"Education and awareness will always be key to combating Holocaust distortion, anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism," he added.

The federal government says the special envoy's job is to "work with the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of diversity and inclusion and youth and other implicated ministers to inform Government of Canada policy and programming."

Trudeau highlighted actions taken by his government on Holocaust remembrance and fighting anti-Semitism, including convening a national summit on anti-Semitism in Canada and adopting the working definition of anti-Semitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Calling anti-Semitism a "canary in the coal mine of evil," Trudeau said his government will work on a national plan to combat hate.

"Anti-Semitism isn't a problem for the Jewish community to solve alone. It's everyone's challenge to take on, especially governments," he said, according to CBC.

"And that's why we'll develop and implement a national action plan on combating hate, working in concert with Jewish communities and our special envoy."

Canadian Jewish advocacy groups welcomed the move to make the position permanent.

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B'nai Brith Canada, called Trudeau's speech and presence at the summit "important." He said the organization has tracked a rise in antisemitic hate over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're glad that Canada is showing a commitment going forward to combat this scourge," he said.

He applauded the move to make the special envoy position permanent and provide the office with a budget and staff.

"One person can only do so much, and this was an unfunded position," Mostyn said. "Professor Cotler needs a staff to get the job done to combat anti-Semitism in a systemic way."

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) also voiced support for making the position permanent.

"Today represents a milestone for the Jewish community and Jewish federations across Canada who have been advocating for making the role of special envoy permanent, with dedicated resources," said Shimon Koffler Fogel, CIJA president and CEO.

"We are pleased to see that the government has heeded our advice, and we thank them for being our allies in the fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism and for their continuous and unambiguous support for the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, an important tool to combat Jew-hatred," he added.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) called the creation of a permanent special envoy position "critical."

"As we see the increased resurgence and mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in Canada and around the world, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's participation in this meaningful international forum to combat anti-Semitism and promote Holocaust awareness is very important and sends a strong message that the country stands united with its Jewish community and is serious about taking action," said Michael Levitt, president and CEO of FSWC.

"Canada's pledges to support special envoy Irwin Cotler and further promote the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism are particularly critical and impactful in the fight against virulent Jew-hate."