Welcome (Alan Le Fevre)
I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, Stó:lō and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
My name is Alan Le Fevre, and it is my honour to welcome you to the 13th Vancouver Raoul Wallenberg Day. On behalf of the Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Society I would like to welcome distinguished guests including today’s keynote speaker and inaugural award recipient, The Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh; City of Vancouver Acting Mayor, Raymond Louie; and The Honourary Consul of Sweden, Thomas Gradin.
We would like to thank our supporters, listed on the back of the program, and volunteers here today – you know who you are – for your valued help in making this event possible. We could not do this without you.
We would like to dedicate today’s event to one of our board members, Mats Thölin, whose perseverance and tenacity was essential in making today’s event happen. Mats is a dedicated and committed member of our board and we are thankful for his tremendous effort and contributions over the years. For health reasons, he has stepped back from active involvement, but he continues to be engaged by email as much as he is able.
And now I invite the City of Vancouver Acting Mayor, Raymond Louie, to read the Proclamation.
City of Vancouver Proclamation
(Acting Mayor Raymond Louie)
Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Society (Ana Policzer)
Thank you Alan and Acting Mayor Louie.
Good afternoon, and thank you all for being here today for the thirteenth annual Wallenberg Day event in Vancouver, the fourth year since the Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Society was created, and the third time we present the Civil Courage Award.
Today’s event recognizes the tremendous courage of whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann who exposed large-scale fraud by her former employer, JPMorgan Chase. As you may know, Ms. Fleischmann is not attending today’s event because she is still a potential witness in ongoing litigation. However, as Alan noted, we are privileged to have the Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh, who will speak in a few moments about the courage and challenges of whistleblowing.
Before introducing Mr Dosanjh, I’d like to take a moment to give you some background about our society.
The Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Society was formed in 2013 by members of the Swedish and Jewish communities in Vancouver. The inaugural Civil Courage award was presented in 2015.
The Society’s goals are threefold:
To that end, each year we screen a film that focuses on acts of civil courage. We also present an award for civil courage to a living person connected to British Columbia who acted against unjust laws, norms or conventions of nations, organizations, or peer groups, and at personal risk to himself or herself, helped to improve or save the lives of others.
We take our name and inspiration from Raoul Wallenberg and Chiune Sugihara. Both were diplomats in Europe during World War II.
Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat and humanitarian, became Sweden’s special envoy to Hungary in summer 1944, several months after the Nazi deportation of Hungarian Jews began. He issued protective passports, and sheltered people in buildings designated as Swedish territory. In so doing, he saved tens of thousands of Jews from deportation and death. He disappeared on January 17, 1945 into Soviet captivity, and was never seen again. Wallenberg has been made an honorary citizen of Canada, the US, Hungary, Australia, and Israel.
In 2000 the Canadian Government proclaimed that: “throughout Canada, in each and every year, the 17th day of January shall be known under the name of ‘Raoul Wallenberg Day’ “.
The Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Society organizes this annual commemoration on the Sunday closest to January 17th.
Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who served as vice consul in Lithuania for the Japanese Empire during World War II. He chose to act in direct violation of the Japanese government, at professional and personal risk to himself and his family, and issued transit visas that allowed more than 6,000 Jews from Poland and Lithuania escape certain death.
Both Wallenberg and Sugihara have been designated by the State of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations.
There are many of us here today who are alive because someone put themselves at risk to save us or our ancestors. In my case, my father, a Hungarian Jew, was a little boy when the deportations started in Hungary in the spring of 1944. He survived the War thanks to the courage of a neighbouring family who agreed to take a great risk and hide him when most of his family was deported, and later killed, in the camps.
If you, like me, owe your lives to the courageous actions of another – whether they saved one person, a handful, or thousands – I invite you to stand.
Thank you. I invite you all – those standing, and those sitting – to stay after today’s event and share your stories with each other if you so choose, recognizing that civil courage takes many forms; what may be a small act to one can mean a chance at life to another.
Please be seated.
Here in Vancouver, the former honorary Swedish Consul, Anders Neumuller, started this annual event 13 years ago. Later, he had the vision to create this non-profit society dedicated to honouring acts of civil courage. He has returned to Sweden, but continues to be an engaged board member today. Madoka Sugihara, grand-daughter of Chiune Sugihara, is an honorary board member as well.
We are a small organization with big aspirations. We aim to honour the past, and look to the future. Wallenberg, Sugihara, and others like them are a testament to the power and courage of standing up to injustice, and of the immense impact these actions can take.
More importantly, they represent the immense importance of standing up for what is right, regardless of personal consequences; they represent the importance of calling out and opposing injustice and wrongdoing, despite the negative consequences to their lives, their safety, their livelihood, even their loved ones – because it is the right thing to do, because they can no longer stand by and let the evil happen.
Hannah Arendt said: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their mind to be good or evil.”
And Edmund Burke is credited with saying that: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
People like Wallenberg, like Sugihara, and like the Civil Courage Award recipients, saw wrongdoing, made up their minds, and did something. They all inspire us to act with courage, speak out against injustice, and heal the world.
To that end, we need your help in two concrete ways:
The first – we recognize that those who stand up to injustice do so because it’s the right thing to do, and not for recognition. This means they can be hard to find. We have been fortunate so far to have found three enormously worthy award recipients, including today’s honouree as well as our keynote speaker. But we need your help to find our next award recipient.
We are seeking living people who are connected to BC, and who, at significant personal risk, have helped improve the lives of others by standing up against unjust laws or conventions.
If you have ideas, please visit our website on the back of your program, or come talk to one of us after the film. Alan Le Fevre, Jan Nordin and I would all be happy to talk to you about your ideas.
We are also looking for people to get involved and to help us prepare for next year’s event and beyond. If you are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity, again, talk to any of us after the screening.
And now, I would like to introduce our keynote speaker. A lawyer by training, the Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh is well-known and highly respected in both British Columbia and Federal politics. He has served provincially as an MLA, Attorney-General, and Premier, and federally as a Member of Parliament, Minister of Health, and as critic of National Defence, Public Safety, and Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Dosanjh was also the recipient of the first Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Award in 2015, in recognition of his great courage in the face of escalating violence by extremists in the Indo-Canadian community arising from conflicts that had erupted in India.
Because of his principled stance in publicly speaking out against this violence and expressing a pacifist approach, he was attacked twice – once being severely beaten, and another having a Molotov cocktail thrown into his constituency office.
Mr. Dosanjh has generously offered his time, wisdom and expertise to our board to help today’s event happen. We are deeply honoured that he is here today to speak about civil courage in the context of whistleblowing.
Please join me in welcoming the Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh.
The Courage and Challenge of Whistleblowing
Award Presentation (Alan Le Fevre)
Thank you Ujjal.
And now we come to the award presentation. We are presenting the 2018 Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Award to British Columbia lawyer Alayne Fleischmann, from Terrace, for her extreme civil courage as a whistleblower. Ms. Fleischmann is unavailable to attend in person for the award citation because, as Ana mentioned, she is still a potential witness in some ongoing litigation.
Starting in 2006, while working with mortgage-backed securities as a transaction quality control manager at JPMorgan Chase bank in New York, Alayne Fleischmann, first witnessed, and then tried to stop what she described as “massive criminal securities fraud” in the bank’s operations. She and her colleagues tried to address real concerns about dubious purchases with their managers, but were blocked, with even a “no emails” rule by the diligence group manager. Alayne went much further than this and made repeated attempts at multiple levels, including contacting managing directors to warn them about these concerns. The warnings were ignored.
Ultimately, these and similar practices in other banks led to the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007 and sparked the global financial crisis the following year, impacting millions of people, not just in the US. It was called one of the most significant white-collar crimes in US history. Alayne Fleishmann’s determined efforts and her paper trail led years later to the US Department of Justice calling on her as a key witness and reaching a $9 billion out-of-court settlement with the bank. Interestingly, no individuals were prosecuted.
There is a lot more to this story and the serious criminal fraud Alayne was attempting to stop. It is all described in the excellent article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone magazine, which is reproduced on our website, wsccs.ca, along with much more about her courageous actions.
Alayne Fleischmann credits her actions to her small-town values growing up, like “you’re not allowed to steal”. She said, “If we don’t start speaking up, then this really is all we’re going to get: the biggest financial cover-up in history.”
The Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Award is presented to an individual who, at great personal risk, has stood up against gross injustice and has made extraordinary efforts to help others. Alayne Fleischmann clearly fits these criteria and is very deserving of this award.
Here is our trophy of recognition of the award.
<Hold up award>
Film Introduction (Alan Le Fevre)
And now we will show an interview of Alayne Fleischmann by Democracy Now. It was shown on January 1, 2015. It is called, Matt Taibbi and “The $9 Billion Witness” Who Exposed How JPMorgan Chase Helped Wreck the Economy. Democracy Now! is an independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Their website is well worth a visit. The film is 39 minutes long. Please check your phones are turned off.
After the film there will be an opportunity for a short discussion, that Ujjal Dosanjh has kindly agreed to facilitate.
And finally, there will be a reception with light refreshments in the Ray Whittick Lounge, just outside the door. Our volunteers will show you to the room.