Statement: 12/10/20 – Today marks 72 years since the Universal Declaration for Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The Declaration immediately followed the adoption of the Genocide Convention adopted the day prior, on December 9th, 1948. Both ground breaking international conventions were the direct consequence of the Holocaust, the largest genocide known to humanity.
In fact, the word, “Genocide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944 in his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. The book describes the implementation of Nazi policies in occupied Europe and cites earlier mass killings. The word itself is a combination of the ancient Greek word “genos” (meaning race or people) and the Latin word, “caedere” (meaning to kill). The word was first used officially in the Nuremberg trials.
“The Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the Genocide Convention were ground breaking documents at the time in the international community. For the first time in history, the concepts of war crimes and crimes against humanity were defined and made illegal. Sadly, abuse of humanity and genocide did not end with the Holocaust. Over the decades since, we have seen numerous horrific cases of genocide including in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and Syria, to name a few” said Avi Abraham Benlolo.
A beacon of freedom and democracy, Canada must continue projecting its voice on the global stage to pressure nations and entities that abuse human rights and international conventions. After all, Canadian legal scholar, John Peters Humphrey was the principal author of the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “As we enter the spirit of the holidays – and tonight we light the first Chanukah candle to bring light to the world and mark humanity’s resolve for freedom in all it entails, let us reflect upon the very first sentence in the preamble to the Declaration”:
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
On this important occasion, as the Jewish community begins celebrating Chanukah, a holiday that celebrates freedom from religious persecution, let me take this opportunity to wish the community a happy Chanukah – a Chag Sameach to you and to your loved ones.