Survivors watch as Trudeau apologizes for Canadas 1939 refusal of ship of Jewish refugees

Survivors watch as Trudeau apologizes for Canada\s 1939 refusal of ship of Jewish refugees
Canada apologizes for turning away Jewish refugees in 1939 — why that matters
The Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler tested the limits of Canada's humanity in the lead up to the Second World War and Canada's government failed that test "miserably," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today.

The prime minister made the remarks as part of the apology delivered in the House of Commons for the 1939 decision by the Canadian government to turn away a boatload of German Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis.

“We didn’t apologize for things that are ongoing, the government has not apologized for extremely high rates of incarceration of Indigenous people. It hasn’t apologized for lousy schools on reserves, because they’re underfunded compared to provincial schools. It hasn’t apologized for water supplies that are contaminated.”

Video: “Your country failed you:” Trudeau apologizes for Canadian government turning away MS St Louis refug

"In the years leading up to the war, Hitler tested the world's resolve. He noted carefully as country after country proved itself indifferent to the plight of Jewish refugees," Trudeau said.

Your country failed you. And for that, we are sorry.- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau"He watched on as we refused their visas, ignored their letters and denied them entry. With every decree, he challenged the political courage of our leaders and the empathy of those who elected them.

"With every pogrom, he tested the bounds of our humanity and the limits of our solidarity … Adolf Hitler's test was one the Canadian government failed miserably."

Steve McDonald, the director of policy with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his group hopes the apology will spur wider talk about how to address anti-Semitism “regardless of our background.”

In 1939, the MS St. Louis left Germany carrying 907 Jewish passengers fleeing persecution by the Nazi regime. The ship was turned away from Cuba and the United States before a group of Canadians tried to convince Prime Minister King's government to let it dock in Halifax.

In May, 1939, the St. Louis left Germany with passengers, including more than 900 Jewish German citizens seeking sanctuary. These refugees were barred from disembarking at the ships first destination in Cuba and then denied entry into the United States and finally Canada because of the governments discriminatory none is too many immigration policy toward Jewish people, the Prime Ministers Office said in a summary of the events. The U.S. State Department made its own apology in 2012.

The Canadian government heeded the anti-Semitic sentiment abroad at the time by severely restricting Jewish immigration. From 1933 to 1945, only about 5,000 Jewish refugees were accepted because of Canada's discriminatory 'none is too many' immigration policy.

Canadas refusal to accept the St. Louis passengers took place more than six months after the infamous Kristallnacht in November, 1938, when storm troopers and members of the Hitler Youth burned hundreds of synagogues, smashed thousands of shop windows and killed dozens of Jews. About 30,000 people were sent to concentration camps, the first large cohort of the millions who would be murdered.

About half the passengers were taken in by the U.K., the Netherlands, France and Belgium. About 500 of them ended up back in Germany, where 254 were killed in concentration and internment camps.

Nimrod Barkan, Israels Ambassador to Canada, was on hand for Mr. Trudeaus address and said he was grateful to the Prime Minister. We are all encouraged not only by the apology but more so by the comments about the need to fight anti-Semitism today, to fight BDS and to make sure there is no hate for Jews allowed anywhere around the world, and certainly not in Canada.

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"The Government of Canada was indifferent to the suffering of Jews long before the St. Louis ever set sail for Halifax, and sadly, long after it had returned to Europe."

Ana Maria Gordon, second from left, who is the only surviving Canadian passenger of the MS St. Louis, stands with family and fellow survivors during a formal apology from the Canadian Government over the fate of the MS St. Louis and its passengers in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.

MS St Louis: Canada apologises for turning away Jewish refugees in 1939

The prime minister went on to say the passengers of the MS St. Louis would have made Canada stronger but "their cries for help were left unanswered, for Canada deemed them unworthy of a home, and undeserving of our help."

Trudeau said that Hitler, alone, did not seal the fate of the passengers of the MS St. Louis or the Jewish populations of Europe because for Canada "To harbour such hatred and indifference towards the refugees was to share in the moral responsibility for their deaths."

The German liner MS St Louis was carrying 907 German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution and it also had been rejected by Cuba and the United States. The passengers were forced to return to Europe and more than 250 later died in the Holocaust.

The prime minister said that while decades have passed since the decision to turn away the MS St. Louis, the guilt or shame of rejecting the asylum seekers on that ship remains.

Read more We let antisemitism take hold in our communities and become our official policy, Trudeau said. To harbor such hatred and indifference toward the refugees was to share in the moral responsibility for their deaths.

Video: Trudeau delivers official apology for Canadas role in the MS St. Louis

"Today, I rise in this House of Commons to issue a long overdue apology to the Jewish refugees Canada turned away," Trudeau said.

In Canada, incidents of antisemitism – including harassment, vandalism and violence – reached a record high in 2017, doubling from the previous year to 1,752, according to the Jewish advocacy organization Bnai Brith.

"We apologize to the 907 German Jews aboard the MS. St-Louis, as well as their families. We also apologize to others who paid the price of our inaction, whom we doomed to the ultimate horror of the death camps.

Opposition party leaders also called Canadas policies at the time unacceptable in speeches on the week marking the 80th anniversary of what is known as Kristallnacht. In November 1938, Nazi agitators attacked Jews and vandalized synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, scattering broken glass that glittered in the streets like crystal.

Canada apologises for turning away Jewish refugee ship fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939, before start of…

"We used our laws to mask our anti-Semitism, our antipathy, our resentment. We are sorry for the callousness of Canada's response. And we are sorry for not apologizing sooner."

Trudeau also apologized for letting anti-Semitism take root in Canada and for the way Canadians Jews were "meant to feel like strangers in their own homes, aliens in their own land.

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed Wednesday that his government would do more to protect synagogues and other places of worship from violence as part of an apology for anti-Semitic policies that denied refuge in Canada to Jews fleeing the Holocaust.

Trudeau went on to note that anti-Semitism continues to be a problem today in Canada. He said 17 per cent of all hate crimes target Canadian Jews — meaning the Jewish community experiences a far higher per-capita rate of hate crimes than any other group in Canada.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said in a statement that his organization would work with the government on the details of the pledge and on other practical policies to combat anti-Semitism in all its forms today.

"Discrimination and violence against Jewish people in Canada and around the world continues at an alarming rate," he said.

"When people start saying that there were good people in a neo-Nazi rally at Charlottesville, when people start tolerating speech that attacks groups or communities anywhere in the world, it obviously empowers people here in Canada who hate to come forward and speak publicly of things that they would never have before said in public," Anthony Housefather told CBC News.

Canada apologizes for turning away Nazi-era ship of Jewish refugees

"Less than two weeks ago, not too far from here, a gunman opened fire on worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing eleven people and wounding six others."

Since his election, Trudeau has personally apologized to gay men and women targeted by the authorities for their sexuality. He apologized for Canada's 1914 decision to turn away the Komagata Maru ship that was carrying 376 migrants, mostly Sikhs, and he exonerated six Tsilhqot'in chiefs who were hanged in 1864 for their role in the killing of six white colonists.

The prime minister said that anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia have no place in Canada or the world, and that education is the the "most powerful tool against the ignorance and cruelty that fuelled the Holocaust."

PreviousNextHide captionToggle Fullscreen1 of 0Housefather said that Trump was not the only politician turning a blind eye to racist and anti-Semitic actions and statements. In a subsequent email to CBC News, he identified British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn as another politician whose public words — or lack of them — empower anti-Semitism.

Trudeau said that in the wake of the Pittsburgh attack, Canadian Jews are understandably feeling vulnerable. He pledged to do more to protect Jewish places of worship.

Corbyn and the Labour party have drawn widespread criticism for anti-Semitic statements by members, and over Corbyn's presence at a ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 which is said to have honoured the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich terror attack. During that attack, 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and killed.

Canada apologizes for turning away Jews who fled Nazis

While the apology will not ease the pain for those who lost family members on the MS St. Louis, Trudeau said he hopes it will bring them some sense of peace.

"More than 70 years ago, Canada turned its back on you," he said. "But today, Canadians pledge, now and forever — never again."

While the deal still would receive the necessary signatures to move on to the ratification process, Trudeau's unwillingness to participate would serve to send a message to the U.S. about tariffs, said one former chief of staff to a U.S. ambassador to Canada.

"It is a sign of a healthy society to be able to look at history clearly and see both the light and the dark, to celebrate our achievements but to also mourn our failings," Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said.

Canada's ambassador in Washington says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not be taking part in any sort of signing ceremony alongside U.S. President Donald Trump — not unless American tariffs on steel and aluminum are lifted first.

"There is no shame as a country in acknowledging shameful acts in our past. The real shame would be in forgetting them."

The U.S. and Mexico had pressured Canada to accept an agreement in principle by October 1, in part to accommodate a leaders' ceremony that would include outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña ​Nieto.

Occasions like these help Canada strike a path for the future, the Conservative leader said, adding that Canadians should continue to stand up to acts of dehumanization that lead to atrocities.

As of early Wednesday, American media were projecting approximately 100 women would win seats in Congress, the largest number ever. Across the United States, women campaigned in record numbers in congressional and gubernatorial races.

"Canada should have offered sanctuary of the passengers of the MS St. Louis. For our failure to do so then we stand with the government today in its apology," Scheer said. "Never again, must 'none be too many.'"

Trudeau congratulated all candidates who put their names on the ballot, and said his government looks forward to working with the new members of Congress on "a broad range of issues, as we have in the past."

"Two hundred and fifty four people who had boarded the MS St. Louis in the hopes of fleeing death … could have been saved had Canada said, `Yes," `said NDP leader in the House of Commons Guy Caron. "Canada abandoned people who then became victims to Hitler and his hate.

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a moment on the morning following the U.S. midterms to highlight the "historic" number of women elected.

"The passengers of the MS St. Louis were fleeing anti-Semitism, unaware that anti-Semitism had crossed the ocean before them.

"Thats obviously good news," Trudeau said to reporters on his way into the weekly Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.

Trudeau Apologizes for Canadas Refusal to Take in 900+ Jewish Refugees in 1939

The Bloc Quebecois' Mario Beaulieu also stood in the House to deliver comments in French before Green Party Leader Elizabeth May closed out the apology with her own statement.

May said all Canadians bear the "stain of this crime." She noted that we would not understand it as well as we do without the work of historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper, who wrote the book None is Too Many about Canada's anti-Semitic policies during the Second World War and the plight of the MS St. Louis.

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