Trudeau issues apology for 1939 refusal of ship of Jewish refugees

Nellie Chapman
November 10, 2018

The ship was forced to return to Europe, where several countries agreed to take in the asylum seekers, however, about 250 Jews from the ship are believed to have been eventually killed by the Nazis in death camps.

"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 or our shame", Trudeau said. "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.

"We used our laws to mask our anti-Semitism, our antipathy, our resentment", Trudeau said in Ottawa on behalf of his country.

Since taking office, Trudeau has delivered several high-profile apologies, so many that he's faced the very Canadian charge of apologizing too much.

"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 apology connected past to present, showing how the hate that animated Canada's treatment of Jewish refugees is still ingrained in contemporary politics Canada, the US and elsewhere.

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

"That's obviously good news", Trudeau said to reporters on his way into the weekly Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill. "Jewish institutions and neighborhoods are still being vandalized with swastikas". "These tragic events ultimately attest to the work we still have to do".

In the end, 254 passengers would die in the Holocaust. One of the victims, 75-year-old Joyce Fienberg, grew up in Toronto and had ties to the city's Jewish community.

B'nai Brith Canada in a statement welcomed the apology and called on the government to adopt a concrete, national action plan to fight antisemitism. Just six months earlier, Nazis had unleashed a wave of violence against Jewish people.

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.

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