Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Apologizing for rejecting Jews in 1939, Trudeau vows to fight anti-Semitism

Apologizing for rejecting Jews in 1939, Trudeau vows to fight anti-Semitism

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a long-planned apology for the government's 1939 decision to turn away the M.S. St. Louis, an ocean liner carrying more than 900 German Jews fleeing Europe.

"I want to start by congratulating all the candidates who stepped forward in the United States midterms and highlight the historic number of women who were elected in yesterday's elections", Trudeau said.

The passengers were barred from disembarking at Cuba, and then denied entry in the United States and Canada due to the discriminatory immigration policies of the time. "We must always speak out against xenophobic and anti-Semitic relations, and also of hatred in all its manifestations", - said the Prime Minister of Canada. More than 250 of them ultimately died in the Holocaust.

"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 its shame", Trudeau said in a speech. Traveling aboard the MS St. Louis, they'd been turned away by the USA and Cuba before a group of Canadians urged the federal government to accept them, per the CBC. "Discrimination and violence against Jewish people in Canada and around the world continues at an alarming rate".

"And I pledge to you all now: we will do more", he said, noting that around 17 percent of all Canadian hate crimes target Jewish people.

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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".

"By issuing this apology, it is my honest hope that we can shine a light on this painful chapter of our history and ensure that its lessons are never forgotten".

"She was not bound for Canada or for Halifax during this voyage of May and June of 1939, but there were Canadian advocates who looked for the ship to be admitted", said Steve Schwinghamer, a historian with the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax.

Gordon said she thinks history is repeating itself today, as "many people are discriminated against, starving or running for their lives".

"Anti-Semitic incidents and attacks spanned the political spectrum, ranging from the far-right to the far-left, with significant contributions from Islamic and Arab nationalists as well", the report said.

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