FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued by Nathalie Chiasson, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, concerning the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust:

Today, New Brunswickers and people around the globe are invited to remember the Holocaust, a determining event in the history of mankind that shook the foundations of Western civilization. This date marks the anniversary of the liberation, in 1945 by Soviet forces, of Nazi Germany’s concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The day is an opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of Holocaust victims and to reflect on the need to protect peace and human rights to prevent such atrocities from happening again today.

It is important to remember that this tragedy has shaken the foundations of democracy and human dignity of Western civilization and has subsequently changed the political and legal orientations of many democracies. Noting that racist ideologies led to the persecution and death of millions of other people, including people with disabilities, political opponents, homosexuals and countless members of other groups, organizations like the Human Rights Commission and UNESCO have rolled up their sleeves and become the overseers of the destiny of the most disadvantaged in society.

Unfortunately, in the light of the sad terrorist events that have occurred at various places on the planet, we realize more than ever how important it is for our society to have a law that protects the fundamental rights of every person in New Brunswick and Canada.

Even today, reflecting on events that led to the Holocaust helps to educate our loved ones on the principles of equality and inclusion, because when vulnerable minorities are persecuted with impunity, the rights of all are threatened.

We can also make a real difference in our communities by reflecting upon the impact the persecution had in the daily lives of Jews, Roma, and Sinti during World War II and the consequences of that discrimination.

I want to acknowledge the contribution of volunteers who set up a museum tracing the presence of the B70 internment camp at Ripples, near Fredericton, which sheltered more than 700 Jews in the early months of World War II, as well as the contribution of Marlene Unger, of Fredericton, who was invested with the Order of New Brunswick in 2015 in recognition of her hard work over the previous 30 years in favour of human rights, social justice and education, including Holocaust awareness and a constant battle against anti-Semitism. Each in their own way, these New Brunswickers have shared their values and taken concrete steps that advocate for the equality of all human beings and promote inclusion.

Since 1967, the commission has protected and promoted the values associated with human rights, such as respect, appreciation for diversity, and absence of discrimination. The commission will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017, a year that will be a focal point for expanding recognition of the basic principle that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights.