The Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants (CJHSD) was founded in 1999 and is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating on behalf of its members and represents Canadian survivors at the Jewish Material Claims Conference. The CJHSD is an independent organization affiliated with CIJA.
Among CJHSD’s objectives are:
- To represent and speak on behalf of Jewish Holocaust Survivors with a unified voice;
- To increase public awareness about issues that concern survivors;
- To involved children of survivors on issues of importance to the CJHSD;
- To engage in activities concerning the interest and welfare of Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
Some of CJHSD’s priorities include:
Innumerable Jewish homes, businesses and properties seized by the Nazis and their collaborators during WWII were never recovered, and countless survivors have not been compensated for their losses. In many European countries, laws allowing for restitution are non-existent or woefully inadequate. This situation is particularly concerning given that tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors around the world live in poverty.
CIJA has placed this issue on the agenda of all major federal political parties in Canada. The Government of Canada directed Canadian diplomats in relevant countries to raise the restitution issue with relevant European governments in early 2015. Strong statements of support from all three major federal parties on this issue affirm that Canada’s call for restitution is backed by a non-partisan consensus.
In June 2015, Holocaust survivors and community leaders from across Canada came to Ottawa to meet with Eastern European Ambassadors to push their country to move on restitution. CJHSD’s efforts have been highlighted in the National Post, Embassy, and the Canadian Jewish News.
The CJHSD, along with CIJA, have been persistent in efforts to secure holocaust restitution, and CIJA staff have have continued meeting diplomats in the summer and fall of 2015.
In a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, in December 2015, CIJA secured the new government’s recommitment to push for Holocaust restitution. In his January 27, 2016 release marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Stéphane Dion made this commitment public. The Conservative Opposition also reaffirmed their support for this initiative.
In fall 2015, CIJA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) to formalize our relationship in our global efforts to secure Holocaust restitution.
Since 1951, the Claims Conference, working in partnership with the State of Israel, has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industries, recovered unclaimed German Jewish property, and funded programs to assist the Jewish victims of Nazism. Canada has two representatives at the Claims Conference.
Direct compensation payments are made from the Article 2 Fund and the Hardship Fund. The Claims Conference negotiates on an ongoing basis with the German government to include additional Nazi victims in compensation programs, increase payments, and provide increased funds for social services.
Canada’s largest populations of Nazi victims are in Toronto and Montreal, but the Claims Conference also allocates funds for services in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Winnipeg.
Claims Conference grants to Circle of Care are aimed at enabling approximately 1,000 Nazi victims to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible. Services include homecare, case management, medical equipment, emergency assistance, kosher meal delivery, and transportation for medical appointments, grocery shopping, and visiting spouses in nursing homes and hospitals.
The Holocaust Resource Program of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care addresses a range of psychosocial and health care needs of approximately 500 Nazi victims and their families. The Claims Conference funds ongoing counseling, support groups, outreach, homecare, purchases of medical equipment and medications, and Café Europa and special events.
Bikur Cholim Jewish Volunteer Services of Toronto provides programs and services to meet the ongoing physical, social, and psychological needs of the elderly so that they may live independently and with dignity for as long as possible. The Claims Conference supports transportation to and from medical appointments, socialization, meals, financial assistance for homecare and housekeeping services, and a friendly visiting program for approximately 100 Nazi victims.
Jewish Family and Child Service serves approximately 500 Nazi victims annually, providing counseling, case management, emergency assistance, and socialization programs with the help of Claims Conference funds. The Café Europa is extremely popular, and the JFCS hosts two events every month, each attended by 200 Nazi victims.
The Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors (CJCS) is the central address for services to Jewish seniors in Montreal. Claims Conference funding has enabled the Cummings Centre to develop and maintain services specific to the needs of Jewish victims of Nazism, including homecare; food services, including in-house cafeteria food, meals on wheels, and food gift cards; financial assistance with medications, medical equipment, dental care, and other necessities; mental and physical health programs; and case management. Day programs include a weekly socialization Drop-In center exclusively for survivors and day programs for seniors experiencing memory loss. The Montreal community is also home to a large Moroccan population. Eligible Moroccan community members will now be benefitting from Claims Conference funding.
A national program run by CJCS and supported by Claims Conference emergency assistance aids Nazi victims living in small communities outside Montreal. Supplemental assistance is also provided for more than 100 Hungarian survivors, most in and around Montreal, and some in small communities.
Montreal Child Survivors, Hidden Children holds eight or nine Café Europa events each year for approximately 45 Holocaust survivors in the Montreal area, supported by the Claims Conference.
Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Ottawa works with seniors and their families to support elderly clients, decrease their isolation, and allow them to live safely in their own homes for as long as possible. The agency provides financial assistance for medical equipment and dental services, food vouchers, chore/housekeeper services, case management, and funds for housing needs to approximately 45 Nazi victims in the Ottawa area.
The Nazi victim social service program of the Jewish Family Service Agency provides homecare, food vouchers and kosher meals, transportation, funds for medical equipment and medications to about 100 Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.
The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) maintains exhibitions, coordinates educational programs on the Holocaust, and provides services to Nazi victims and their families such as socialization, case management, and restitution assistance. With the help of Claims Conference funds, the agency provides case management and socialization programs for more than 100 Nazi victims. Approximately 15 socialization events are held each year between the Survivor Drop-In program and the Child Survivors Monthly Gathering.
The Jewish Child and Family Service of Winnipeg operates a Café Europa program for more than 100 Jewish Nazi victims. In addition, the agency receives an emergency assistance grant from the Claims Conference, which provides financial and medical assistance to Nazi victims.
Source: Claims Conference
Canadian victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture deserve access to justice through Canadian courts.
In November 2009, a Private Member’s Bill, C-483: An Act to Amend the State Immunity Act (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture) was introduced in the House of Commons. This bill sought to end immunity for states that commit these heinous crimes, allowing them to be sued in Canadian courts, providing victims with a measure of justice. Unfortunately Bill C-483 failed to ensure that Canada’s courts will not be exploited for these purposes, whether against Israel or other Canadian allies like the United States and the United Kingdom. CIJA can only support this initiative if sufficient safeguards are included in its next iteration.
This can be rectified with either a requirement for sign-off from the Attorney General to waive state immunity on a case-by-case basis, a specific country listing mechanism similar to the one in place for the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, or a provision maintaining state immunity for countries with which Canada has a legal extradition treaty. Additionally, the legislation should require a real and substantial connection to Canada to prevent “forum shopping”. In the Bil’in lawfare case in Quebec courts, even though the court rejected the plaintiff’s case, ruling that Quebec was not an appropriate forum, the hearings and appeals advanced an anti-Israel agenda.
Lastly, there must be a provision regulating the execution of foreign judgments in Canada. This legislation must first and foremost enable Canadians access to justice, ensuring state assets are not paid out to foreign plaintiffs, leaving nothing for Canadian victims to collect.
If sufficient safeguards are included to prevent abuse, the federal government should consider passing legislation to suspend state immunity for perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture.
Since the end of the Holocaust, one of CIJA’s predecessor agencies, Canadian Jewish Congress, was active in advocating that Canadian governments take strong action against enablers of the perpetrators of the Holocaust who found refuge in Canada. For years Canada exercised what can only be described as “wilful blindness” in dealing with Nazi-era defendants who improperly gained Canadian citizenship by lying about their past. CIJA, along with the CJHSD, has continued this advocacy and has urged the Federal government to renew its efforts to denaturalize and deport from Canada Helmut Oberlander, who served as an interpreter for a Nazi mobile killing unit.
As host annually to hundreds of thousands of tourists – many of whom are students – our nation’s capital is an ideal location for a national memorial that serves as a lasting reminder of the dangers of antisemitism and hatred in general.
CIJA has been active in advancing the National Holocaust Monument project from its earliest stages, working with MPs from all parties to secure unanimous support for the Honourable Tim Uppal’s Private Member’s Bill – the National Holocaust Monument Act. This initiative, which received all-party support, will ensure that Canada is no longer the only Allied country without a national Holocaust monument. Moreover, the decision to locate it next to Canada’s War Museum – a short walk from Parliament Hill – will serve as a permanent testament to the sacrifices Canadians made to liberate Europe from Nazi rule.
CIJA will continue working with parliamentarians and the National Holocaust Monument Development Council to ensure the project’s success.
“The National Holocaust Monument, in the heart of our nation’s capital, will unite all Canadians in remembering the millions of members of the Jewish community and other innocent victims who died in the Holocaust and the survivors who came to this country to rebuild their lives. This potent symbol of Canada’s openness and diversity will be a place of reflection, inspiration and learning. The Monument will also serve as a reminder to future generations to keep the lessons of history alive in our nation’s consciousness.”
-Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage
Stories from the CJHSD
CJHSD Board of Directors
Howard Chandler (Toronto)
Judy Cohen (Toronto)
Anita Ekstein (Toronto)
David Flicker (Montreal)
Gerta Frieberg (Toronto)
Vera Gara (Ottawa)
Mark Groysberg (Montreal)
Thomas O. Hecht (Montreal)
Ita Kleiner Baranek (Toronto)
Karen Lasky (Toronto)
Nate Leipciger (Toronto)
Aria Litwin (Toronto)
Toby Saltzman (Toronto)
Marilyn Sinclair (Toronto)
Thomas Strasser (Montreal)
Maia Toivis (Toronto)
Robbie Waisman (Vancouver)
Lucy Verebes Shapiro (Montreal)
Anne Wajcer (Montreal)
Sharon Weintraub (Toronto)