Trudeau appoints former ambassador to Israel as special envoy on antisemitism | CBC News

Trudeau appoints former ambassador to Israel as special envoy on antisemitism | CBC News

Politics

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Deborah Lyons as Canada’s new special envoy on Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism.

Deborah Lyons will replace former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler

Peter Zimonjic · CBC News

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A woman with short brown hair wearing a coral paisley shirt and coral scarf

Deborah Lyons served as Canada’s ambassador to Israel from 2016 to 2020. (Murray Brewster/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Deborah Lyons as Canada’s new special envoy on Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism.

Lyons, a diplomat with 25 years experience in international relations, is replacing outgoing envoy Irwin Cotler, the former Liberal justice minister who served in the post from 2020 to 2023.

“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,” Trudeau said in a media statement. 

Lyons, who was appointed to a two-year term in the post, was Canada’s ambassador to Israel from 2016 to 2020. 

Before that, she served as Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2016 and as deputy ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2013.

“Antisemitism is a daily reality for too many people from Jewish communities in Canada and around the world,” Lyons said in a media statement. 

She said the recent attacks on Israel by Hamas, a group listed as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government, should encourage Canadians to work together to fight 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,” she said in her statement.

Cotler optimistic about successor

In her new role, Lyons is tasked with pursuing Holocaust remembrance initiatives in Canada and abroad and will serve as Canada’s representative to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The IHRA, which was formed in 1998 by former Swedish prime minister Göran Persson, is now an alliance of 35 member countries committed to pushing back against the spread of Holocaust denial and antisemitism.

According to StatsCan numbers based on police reports released earlier this year, Jewish people remain the overwhelming target of hate crimes in Canada.

Irwin Cotler

Irwin Cotler, former Liberal justice minister, says he is optimistic about the fight against antisemitism in Canada. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

In 2021, 884 hate crimes targeting a specific religion were reported to police; more than half of them — 487 — were motivated by antisemitism.

Despite those numbers, Cotler said he was leaving his post “optimistic because I have a wonderful successor in Ambassador Deborah Lyons.”

Cotler said he believes that Canada will come together in “common cause” to combat antisemitism “with all the commitment that is mandated … to protect our democracy and human rights.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Zimonjic is a senior writer for CBC News. He has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.

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