Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is coming to Toronto on Monday to raise money for a Holocaust memorial, but the local Rwandan community plans to protest what it considers his inaction as president when nearly 1 million Rwandans were slaughtered.
Clinton was invited by the Canadian branch of the international Jewish organization, Yad Vashem, a Holocaust memorial group, as part of its fund-raising efforts to erect a series of granite stones listing the names of relatives of Canadian Jews who were murdered by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945.
But Clinton will face protesters -- most of them Rwandan exiles -- who feel that he did not do enough to stop the slaughter of their people in 1994 in the African nation.
Marilyn Somers, Yad Vashem's executive director, said the group is "extremely sensitive" to the feelings of the Rwandans and has spoken with them to "express our sorrow" at the slaughter of their people. But "unfortunately, by the time they contacted us, if we could have done anything, it was too late."
However, she added, she didn't know what her group might have done to placate the Rwandans' feelings even if it had been notified earlier of their concerns.
Despite the planned protest, Somers said all 3,000 tickets for the event at the Hummingbird Centre have been sold. Ticket prices ranged from about $100 to $165 in U.S. funds.
Somers said the Holocaust Wall of Remembrance will be built in a park in North York in one of the city's oldest Jewish neighborhoods, where most of the city's Holocaust survivors live.
The park has a Holocaust memorial torch, which is lighted on Holocaust Remembrance Day in the spring.
Somers said the new memorial, similar in style to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will have eight walls with eight panels on each that will list the names of 10,000 Jewish victims of Nazism. In all, 6 million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis.
The wall is expected to cost about $500,000 and be completed in September.
Somers said Clinton's Secret Service detail and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been alerted to the protest.
Asked why Clinton was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Holocaust Memorial fund-raiser, Somers said that as president, Clinton was "a good friend to Israel."