2 August 2020
Ambassador of Canada in Germany, Special Representative of Canada to the EU and to Europe
Commemoration speech on the occasion of 2 August 2020, Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma
On behalf of the Prime Minister of Canada, I would like to applaud the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma in Heidelberg for organizing this important event.
Today, we pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Romani and Sinti – all civilians – who were murdered during the Second World War by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. In 1938, SS leader Heinrich Himmler wrote that he sought, quote, “a final solution of the Gypsy question.” The result was a horrific genocide.
Hundred of thousands of women, children and men were killed for no other reason that because they were Romani and Sinti. They were killed with the purpose to eradicate their people, which is the very definition of what is a genocide. A genocide that everybody should recognise as such.
Canada recognizes and acknowledges the tragic history of the Romani genocide. The scale of this genocide was so extreme that we still lack accurate records of exactly how many Romani and Sinti people were murdered. But the numbers are vast. More than 500,000 Romani were murdered, and it may have been as many as 1.5 million. Perhaps three quarters of the entire Romani and Sinti population in Europe were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators.
This year, we mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. With the passing of time, we must not forget this atrocity, whether the mass killing of people or the harrowing stories of survivors.
On behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada, I would like to assure Romani and Sinti peoples that Canada, as a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, continues to promote greater awareness of the Romani genocide.
As the 2020 Ministerial Declaration of IHRA states, “we acknowledge with concern that the neglect of this genocide has contributed to the prejudice and discrimination that many Roma communities still experience today.”
On this solemn occasion, Romani Genocide Awareness Day, it is important to remember that, still today, Romani communities around the world continue to be subjected to racism and discrimination. The genocide of the Romani and Sinti peoples is a reminder of the horrific consequences of permitting bigotry and hatred to take root.
This danger is especially acute today, as the world faces
- the severe challenge – unprecedented for recent generations – of a global pandemic;
- war, poverty, and an escalating environmental crisis, which have forced millions of people to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere;
- and, in some quarters, a growth in extremism, intolerance and hate.
Around the world, minorities continue to be marginalized and, in some cases, persecuted and oppressed. Canada strongly condemns all forms of racism and prejudice. During these unprecedented times, we will continue energetically to advocate for a more just, equal and inclusive world, where minorities are free from the fear of discrimination or persecution.
Le Canada continuera à plaider énergiquement pour un monde plus juste et inclusif, où les minorités peuvent vivre librement, sans la peur, la discrimination et la persécution.
Je vous remercie.
Vice President of the European Parliament
European Commissioner for Equality
Vice President of the German Bundestag
Dutch State Secretary Paul Blokhuis
Amb. Chris J. Lazaris, IHRA Chairman
UN Special Rapporteur UN minorities
President of the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)