Surrey councillor remedies oversight of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Two weeks after Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum commemorated the death of Kobe Bryant on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, councillor Laurie Guerra read a post-dated proclamation to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

On January 27, McCallum called for a moment of silence for Bryant, who had died in a helicopter crash the day before. Also that day, Guerra proclaimed – on behalf of council – the following week in Surrey to be United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week to “raise awareness of religious intolerance.”

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Missing that day was an acknowledgment of the Holocaust, when other governments around the world had been doing so.

McCallum signed the proclamation read by Guerra, his Safe Surrey Coalition colleague. It declared January 27, 2020, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the City of Surrey.

The mayor’s office did not respond the following day for a request to explain his thought process on commemorating Bryant.

When asked, Guerra said she did not find the Bryant tribute odd.

“No, not at all,” she said January 28. “I think it was just because it was such a huge shock all over the world. That was something the mayor chose.

“I just think it’s very respectful. There are many things to be worried about; I wouldn’t take issue with something like that.”

Guerra also said she would raise the matter with the city’s clerk department to rectify the missed opportunity.

Exactly what compels a moment of silence in Surrey council chambers is a matter of discretion, said Coun. Brenda Locke.

“I was quite surprised, to be honest, that he did that, but that’s the mayor’s prerogative,” said Locke January 28.

On January 13, Coun. Jack Hundial called for a moment of silence for the January 8 Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crash that killed Surrey teacher Niloo Razzaghi-Khamsin and her family. While McCallum’s Bryant tribute came near the start of Monday’s meeting, Hundial’s call for silence, which was authorized by McCallum as the chair, came at the end of that meeting, when it appeared apparent to him such a moment was not going to be called by anyone else.

“Quite often what we do, and should do, is recognize moments of silence when there has been a significant tragedy when it impacts our community. We had a Surrey teacher who was killed, so it was a little close to home,” said Hundial.

The Centre for Judaism of the Lower Fraser Valley in South Surrey declined to comment to Glacier Media. The Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver did not respond to a request for comment.

Numerous studies and polls show more people in the West are forgetting the Holocaust in so much that they know little to nothing about it.

On Monday, the Government of Canada issued a statement on the Holocaust.

“As the years following the Holocaust grow, and the voices of survivors are fewer, it is vital that we work together to ensure that future generations of Canadians learn about this dark chapter so it is never forgotten,” read part of the statement.

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