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Prime Minister announces new Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism

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In the wake of Hamas’ large-scale terrorist attacks against Israel, the world was again reminded that antisemitism is not a relic of the past – it is a daily reality experienced by Jewish communities here in Canada and around the world. Antisemitism is not a problem for the Jewish community to confront alone. We all have an obligation to continue to speak up against it wherever and whenever it occurs.

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced the appointment of Deborah Lyons as Canada’s new Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism. Ms. Lyons will serve for a term of two years.

A respected diplomat with 25 years of experience in international relations, political affairs, security management, and development, Ms. Lyons previously served as Ambassador of Canada to Israel. She is a firm ally to the Jewish community and has a strong history of working with community organizations. Most recently, she supported peace and stabilization efforts in Afghanistan as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

As Canada’s Special Envoy, Ms. Lyons will lead efforts to combat antisemitism and preserve Holocaust remembrance here at home and around the world. She will serve as the head of Canada’s delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and will work with domestic and international partners to strengthen and promote Holocaust education, remembrance, and research worldwide, while continuing to implement our pledges from the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.

The Prime Minister thanked the Honourable Irwin Cotler for his tireless contributions and leadership as Canada’s first Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, from 2020 to 2023. Mr. Cotler played a critical role in working to ensure the painful lessons of the Holocaust and the memories of those who lived through it are never forgotten. His leadership through a period of rising antisemitism, including co-chairing the National Summit on Antisemitism, will have a lasting impact on the government’s efforts to combat hate, however it may surface. 


“Today, in the aftermath of the horrific attacks against Israel, we reiterate to Jewish communities across Canada that we are standing with them. Ms. Lyons will be a critical voice in fighting antisemitism and preserving the memory of the Holocaust so that younger generations know the truth about what happened – and how antisemitism continues today. We all must confront antisemitism, hatred, and intolerance in all its forms so we can build a better, safer future for everyone.”

The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“Antisemitism is a daily reality for too many people from Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. The agonizing grief caused by the Hamas attacks on Israelis earlier this month must propel us to move forward together to combat antisemitism. I am proud to accept this role and responsibility, and I am committed to working with all levels of government, institutions, and stakeholders to promote Holocaust awareness and combat antisemitism here in Canada and abroad. By learning from our past, I believe that we can and will build a more just and inclusive future for all.”

Deborah Lyons, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism

Quick Facts

  • The Holocaust was an unprecedented genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime with the aim of annihilating all Jewish people. During the Holocaust, more than six million Jews – or approximately two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population – were murdered. In total, 11 million people were brutally killed by the Nazi regime, including through the genocide of Roma and Sinti populations, and the persecution of ethnic Poles, Soviet citizens, LGBTQI+ persons, people with disabilities, and political and religious dissidents.
  • The position of Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism was created in 2020, as part of the federal government’s commitment to reinforce national and international efforts to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and the stories of survivors; combat antisemitism, hatred, and racism; and promote and defend democracy, pluralism, inclusion, and human rights.
  • The Special Envoy works with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities, and other implicated ministers and elected officials across all levels of government to inform and advance Government of Canada policy and programming.
  • The IHRA is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to strengthening, advancing, and promoting Holocaust education, research, and remembrance. It includes 35 member countries, 10 observer countries, and eight partner organizations focusing on Holocaust‑related issues.
  • Canada joined the IHRA in 2009, and adopted the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism in 2019, as part of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy. The definition serves as the foundation of the federal government’s engagement with Jewish communities and its work to tackle antisemitism. Strengthening the definition’s implementation is a core component of the Special Envoy’s mandate.
  • Since 2019, the Government of Canada has committed close to $100 million through its Anti-Racism Strategy, including $70 million to support community organizations addressing issues of anti-racism and multiculturalism across the country.
  • In 2022, the Government of Canada provided new funding to advance Holocaust education and combat antisemitism across the country, including by supporting the creation of new Holocaust museums in Montréal and Toronto, as well as a new home for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.
  • Canada doubled its annual contribution to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance last year. We continue to promote the Alliance and its working definition of antisemitism, an important tool used in efforts to combat antisemitic attitudes and behaviours – including Holocaust denial and distortion – both at home and abroad.
  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $49.5 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, to Public Safety Canada to enhance and expand the Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program and allow it to be more responsive to the evolving security needs of communities.

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