Trudeau 'sorry' for Canada turning away Jewish refugees in 1939

Lester Mason
November 8, 2018

The government allowed some 5,000 Jewish refugees to enter the country from 1933 to 1945.

Before the apology, Trudeau met with Ana Maria Gordon, a St. Louis passenger who lives in Canada, to talk about how the country could fight antisemitism.

But the shooting deaths of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue nearly two weeks ago have reframed the prime minister's plan for the apology and Jewish leaders expect Trudeau to say something more than that the Canadian government is sorry for a decision made decades ago.

More than 250 passengers were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust after the ship was forced to return to Europe.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on November 7 delivers a formal apology on behalf of his nation for turning away a ship full of Jewish refugees trying to flee Nazi Germany in 1939.

"We are sorry for not apologizing sooner", Trudeau said. "We were quick to forget the ways they helped build this country since its inception".

"I firmly believe that to recognize an error publicly leads towards better understanding and healing", she told a reception following the apology.


In the run-up to the second world war and the ensuing Holocaust, the government heeded antisemitic sentiment and severely restricted Jewish immigration. "Discrimination and violence against Jewish people in Canada and around the world continues at an alarming rate".

"The community came to say, 'We are with you".

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the apology for past wrongs should be a reminder that anti-Semitism "is not a relic of the 1930s. It should be an alarm that jolts us out of our daily routines and demands that we look at our world today through the lens of that experience". "Today, I issue an official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada to the passengers of the MS St. Louis and their families for this injustice". He called for a focus on tackling anti-immigrant and hate speech, particularly online.

In May 1939, the St. Louis left Germany with passengers who included more than 900 Jewish German citizens seeking sanctuary.

The story of the St. Louis gained renewed interest past year when pictures and stories of the victims circulated on social media in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to ban immigration and refugee settlement from certain countries. "Anti-Semitism is still far too present", he said.

"While decades have passed since we turned our backs on Jewish refugees, time has by no means absolved Canada of its guilt or lessened the weight of our shame", he said.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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