Canada Apologizes for Denying Asylum to Jewish Refugees of the MS St. Louis

Trudeau decried the rise of modern anti-Semitism.

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, tendered a formal apology for the then Canadian Government's decision to not accept a shipload of Jewish refugees when the vessel attempted to dock in Canadian ports in 1939. The North American nation did not give asylum to about 907 German Jews who arrived on the liner MS St. Louis. Both the United States and Cuba did the same. The refugees were compelled to return to Nazi-infested Europe, and over 250 of them died in the Holocaust.

The MS St. Louis passenger liner arrived about six months after Hitler attacked Jewish businesses and their homes in Germany. The Nazis killed 91 people and burned down 250 synagogues in a single night, now referred to as “Kristallnacht” by historians. Kristallnacht translates to English as “The Night of Broken Glass.”

The Prime Minister termed the apology “overdue.” He said in the Canadian Parliament that the Nazi Chancellor watched as Canada ignored their pleadings and refused to provide them visas. They could not set foot on Canadian soil due to massive blunders by the then administration. He added that the inaction by Western powers allowed Hitler to execute the Holocaust, pointing out that Canadian lawmakers at that time used laws to cover their anti-Semitism.

The PM said anti-Semitism took over Canadian communities and became the official policy of Canada. It is time Canada takes moral responsibility for the deaths and allowing indifference and hatred to foster in the country. Trudeau's words were pertinent as Canada during the 1930s bowed down to an anti-Semitic agreement and limited Jewish immigration. A meager 5,000 Jewish refugees got asylum during the intervening starting 1933 and ending 1945.

Trudeau also touched upon recent anti-Semitic events in his speech. He spoke strongly against the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, terming it a "tragic reminder" of anti-Semitism continuing to thrive in Canada along with other parts of the globe. He asked Canadians to fight back against all anti-Semitic and xenophobic attitudes. The Canadian Prime Minister met Ana Maria Gordon, one of the few surviving passengers aboard MS St. Louis, for the forgiveness of Canada's actions. The United States apologized for this blunder in 2012. Trudeau's apology was welcomed by B'nai Brith Canada. They requested Ottawa to adopt a national plan to combat anti-Semitism. Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B'nai Brith Canada, said it is crucial that every Canadian political party acknowledge this failure in the country's history.

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