Trudeau apol­o­gizes for ship re­fusal

In 1939, Canada sent back a ship of Jewish refugees who were seek­ing asy­lum

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - JOR­DAN PRESS

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

Trudeau said Holo­caust de­niers still ex­ist and anti-Semitism re­mains a live prob­lem in Canada, not­ing the lat­est num­bers from Sta­tis­tics Canada show Jews are the most fre­quent tar­gets of re­li­giously mo­ti­vated hate crimes.

The preva­lence of anti- Semitism showed it­self al­most two weeks ago when a gun­man killed 11 wor­ship­pers in­side a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue sim­ply be­cause they were Jewish, Trudeau said.

The en­su­ing days have seen coun­try­wide vig­ils and calls for the gov­ern­ment do to more through a fed­eral pro­gram that funds se­cu­rity im­prove­ments at places at risk of hate-mo­ti­vated crimes, such as syn­a­gogues.

“I pledge to you all now we will do more,” Trudeau said, with­out pro­vid­ing more de­tails.

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.”

The head of Friends of Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter, Avi Ben­lolo, said it is up to gov­ern­ments to “take se­ri­ous mea­sures that help counter hate crimes against mi­nor­ity groups.”

It was 79 years ago that the gov­ern­ment of William Lyon Macken­zie King re­jected an asy­lum re­quest from an ocean liner car­ry­ing more than 900 Ger­man Jews as it neared Hal­i­fax, forc­ing it back to Europe.

Most of the pas­sen­gers scat­tered across the con­ti­nent and more than 250 of them died in the Holo­caust.

A hand­ful of sur­viv­ing pas­sen­gers from the ship were on hand in the House of Com­mons to hear the apol­ogy and op­po­si­tion par­ties’ re­sponses.

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 anti- Semitism.

Be­tween 1933 and 1945, Canada ad­mit­ted the fewest Jews of any Al­lied coun­try, Trudeau said. Of those Canada did let in, some 7,000 Jews were held as pris­on­ers of war and jailed along­side Ger­mans cap­tured on bat­tle­fields, he said.

Op­po­si­tion party lead­ers also called Canada’s 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.

The re­jec­tion of the St. Louis the next year helped Hitler sell his “fi­nal so­lu­tion” that ended with the mur­ders of six mil­lion Jews: Jews couldn’t be ex­pelled from Ger­man ter­ri­tory be­cause no­body would ac­cept them.

“The whole premise of the St. Louis was the cul­mi­na­tion of big­otry and ha­tred that is rear­ing its ugly head again and I think this is a very poignant part of this,” said Eva Wiener, who was a child aboard the St. Louis.

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer said the apol­ogy for past wrongs should be a re­minder that anti- Semitism “is not a relic of the 1930s.

“This apol­ogy should not make us com­fort­able. On the con­trary, it should grab us and shake us. 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.”

Guy Caron, who leads the NDP in the House of Com­mons, said hints of the racist poli­cies that helped Hitler rise to power can be seen around the world. He called for a fo­cus on tack­ling anti-im­mi­grant and hate speech, par­tic­u­larly on­line.

Lib­eral MP An­thony House­fa­ther, who first called for an apol­ogy for the St. Louis in­ci­dent, said politi­cians needed to call out any racist talk even if it comes from their own sup­port­ers.

“There is speech out there that we tol­er­ate — that we some­times nod-nod, wink-wink to ... and we shouldn’t be tol­er­at­ing that speech,” he said out­side the House of Com­mons.

The story of the St. Louis gained re­newed at­ten­tion last year when pic­ture 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.

The Lib­er­als’ new im­mi­gra­tion plan calls for up ac­cept­ing to 16,500 pro­tected per­sons in 2019, a cat­e­gory that in­cludes refugees, grow­ing to 20,000 in 2021. Crit­ics say the fig­ures are far too low while de­bate rages about “ir­reg­u­lar” bor­der crossers walk­ing over from the United States.

The Cana­dian Coun­cil for Refugees said many refugees try­ing to get into Canada are often flee­ing per­se­cu­tion just like the St. Louis pas­sen­gers.

“His­tory will judge us by whether we re­spond in ways that re­spect the rights and dig­nity of refugee claimants, just as we to­day judge those who turned away the St. Louis and other Jewish refugees,” the coun­cil said.


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau meets with Ana Maria Gor­don, a pas­sen­ger of the MS St. Louis who lives in Canada, in his of­fice on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa on Wed­nes­day.

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