Canada says sorry for its official anti-semitism

Canada says sorry for its official anti-semitism


norman lebrecht

November 10, 2018

You must watch this impressive address to Parliament by the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau:

In 1939, Canada turned its back on 907 Jewish refugees, deeming them unworthy of a home, and undeserving of our help. 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.

The St Louis has been the subject of an opera and several works of fiction.

Prime Minister Trudeau declares that the ship was turned away from Canada for no reason other than the anti-semitism of its Liberal prime minister at the time and his senior officials.

He pulls no punches. ‘These refugees would have made this country stronger and its people proud,’ he says. ‘Jews were viewed as a threat to be avoided… Of all the Allied countries, Canada would admit the fewest Jews…. We used our laws to mask our anti-semitism.’


  • Cyril says:

    Good for Trudeau. I wish we could trade him for our blonde Mussolini.

  • And what do we call Trump’s words about the current refugees coming from the the south? Listening to Trudeau, one hopes for an additional “invasion” from the north.

    And of course, one cannot help but think of Brexit being motivated in part by contempt for refugees…

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Trumps words? Tough question. I would start with fascist, misleading, deeply destructive, immoral, in total opposition to the spirit of the constitution.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Au contraire; I think we live in the modern world of identitarian fascism, more and more. It absolutely terrifies me.

        • Thomasina says:

          You talk about Québec? The liberal party of Trudeau lost ground in the election in October, it decreased from the 68 seats to 32 seats and the right-most party got the 74 seats…

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Might I suggest you trawl through the comments of previous US Presidents who get much the same xenophobic response to immigration. It’s all there on the public record. That you may choose not to see it says a lot about the strength and integrity of your own arguments.

  • Manny says:

    Before reaching Canadian shores, MS St. Louis sailed along the coast of Florida in the search of refuge for its Jewish passengers. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration would have none of that.
    To this day, American historians, politicians and intellectuals, in particular those sympathizing with the Democratic party, see FDR as the great twentieth-century president.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      This was unquestionably a very low point for the FDR administration, by no means the only one, and is arguably unconnected with FDR’s lionization among historians and liberals.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Words, words, words…

  • Mark Londo says:

    All rather political now! Loose connection with music or opera !

  • John Borstlap says:

    Very sharp words. Should be an example for many other politicians in the Western world. The irony of all those ‘Jews’ emigrating to the anglosaxon world is, of course, that they were Germans, French, Polish, Dutch etc. etc. first and foremost. They ‘became’ much more Jewish through their being labelled. Comparable ironies are developing in Europe concerning muslem immigrants, that is: 2nd and 3rd generations.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Canada, the US and. to a slightly lesser extent, Cuba, have a lot to apologize for.

    Eventually the ship returned to Europe. It is estimated that roughly 709 passengers survived the war and 227 did not.

    The ship’s German Captain, Gustav Schröder, was a hero.

    • .V.Lind says:

      Well, at least one country has apologised for it. I doubt we will hear from the US. Canadians have long been ashamed of the rejection of the St. Louis passengers, and someone has finally stepped up. But that is not likely to happen south of the border — I don’t think the concept of apology is apart of the current President’s make-up.

      This country has apologised in public, in the House, to First Nations Canadians, the Chinese, and the Japanese, among possibly others. None of the offences were in the time — or even probably the lifetimes — of the apologising Prime Minister, who ed the sentiment, in all cases publicly and with as much ceremony as possible.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        If I am honest, I am not sure countries really should “apologise” for “the past”. At least if “the past” is a long time ago. The past is nearly always much more complicated than it seems (and should we really judge the past by the moral imperatives of the present). Besides, I don’t think contemporaries are any way responsible for what happened a long time ago. We should all accept that we all come from countries whose actions are a mix of “good” and “bad”; some of which should make us proud, and other which make us ashamed or embarrassed.

  • Costa Pilavachi says:

    Amazing speech. Unequivocal apology. Luckily, several Jewish refugees were eventually admitted and after spending some time in prisoner-of-war-style camps (as “enemy aliens”), made incalculable contributions to Canadian life. I am one of the lucky people who benefited enormously by learning from such great personalities as Dr. Willy Amtmann, Franz Kraemer and Walter Homburger, among others.

  • esfir ross says:

    Canada turn us down in 1980 as refugee but no personal apology.

  • esfir ross says:

    Canada turn down me and my husband as refugee, but no personal apology, yet.

  • esfir ross says:

    Canada turn down me and my husband as refugee in 1980 but no personal apology, yet.

    • V.Lind says:

      You had taken your MA in music in Moldova, and lived in Israel and Greece since. In precisely what way were you a refugee?

      • esfir ross says:

        We were stateless when arrived to USA and was given refugee status. It was surprise to us. Canada turn down our appeal to emigrate.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Note the sense of entitlement which grows with each and every public apology. I’m sure he’ll get to you eventually – once Justin realizes he’s the Prime Minister of a country and not the President of a social club.

    • Mick the Knife says:

      On behalf of Canada, I apologize for what they did in 1980 to you and your husband.

      • V.Lind says:

        Perhaps you know circumstances I don’t. But in 1980, I was under th4e impression that both Israel and Greece were democracies. People from those are rarely treated as refugees.

        • esfir ross says:

          Lovely Greece was transitional place for stateless immigrant ask for be accepted to other countries. Realized that life in oppressed Israel not good for our future we left before mandatory become Israel citizens. Did FDR apology for refusing Jews of Europe refuge in USA and sending back “St.Lois” sheep?

          • Saxon Broken says:

            You are normally obliged to seek refugee status in the first safe country you arrive in. Most claims can be refused if you don’t do this (this is according to international law).

          • esfir ross says:

            Greece only gave refuge to Greek origins.

    • Sharon says:

      I realize that immigration laws have tightened in Canada, although they are still not as tight as in the US, and that they are now turning away a lot of people who need asylum, but right after WWII, Canada, perhaps recognizing the mistake they made with the St Louis, took in thousands of WWII refugees. In fact, there was a saying “A Canadian is a DP with seniority”. “DP” meant Displaced Person and was a term used after to describe a refugee, generally one in a refugee camp in another country.

  • Marianne says:

    In response to Petris Linardos’ comments about President Trump: I am a young, highly educated woman who is also the second cousin of one of the leading figures aboard the St Louis. He and his family perished in Auschwitz. I find the lack of critical thinking and critical insight, as well as the negative bias, prevalent in so many comments about Trump, truly unbelievable. Nowhere do I “read” a call to anti-Semitism or fascism in either his words or actions. He has a right and moral responsibility to put America first and to reject economic migrants who attempt to enter the country illegally. Trump would surely have understood the catastrophically unprecedented nature of the St Louis’ plight. Tragically and shockingly, the Democrats did not. Have they ever apologised?

    • .V.Lind says:

      You have decided these are economic migrants — the “invasion” (that isn’t one) that caused the argument between Trump and Jim Acosta? Do you not distinguish between migrants and refugees? And for the latter there is rarely a “legal” procedure — they turn up and ask for help. Sound familiar? But perhaps some refugees are more deserving than others.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Bingo!! Totally agree. And Obama said people could claim asylum based on ‘domestic violence’. That would entitle almost one half of the world. Again, a classic case with the Left of feelings taking precedence over thinking. Emotion and not reason.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      We all have the right to our opinions, but you misrepresented me on antisemitism: no, Trump has given no signs of antisemitism – quite the opposite.

      As for fascism, here is a book review on a Yale philosophy professor’s related book:

    • Amos says:

      It is difficult to know where to begin responding to someone who refuses to face the daily assault on morality and democracy perpetrated by trump. First, trump doesn’t put anyone first other than the interests of himself and his immediate family. The migrants coming to the United States from Central America are fleeing poverty, violence and repressive governments just like my relatives who fled Russia in 1900. Second, ask the Jewish community of Pittsburgh if trump’s racism, fascism and anti-Semitism (save for immediate family) are real and have real consequences. If the St. Louis sailed into New York today under the same circumstances trump would want financial statements from all aboard and pledges of loyalty to him before deciding who to allow ashore.

    • Sharon says:

      Many, although not all, of the people seeking asylum are fleeing for their lives due to the fact that large areas of Honduras and El Salvador have been entirely taken over by violent organized crime. One must either join the gang, be a gang moll or die. The home of my mother’s cleaning woman (yeah, I know) who is from El Salvador, was taken over by gang members while she was still living in El Salvador.

      When New York City mayor Giuliani did his “tough on crime” thing and the police made many more arrests for two years people said “Where are all the young men?” because of all the arrests and jailings in Harlem and other areas. However, Harlem is now a very vibrant, racially integrated, largely middle class area with a lot of shops and there is a lot of housing construction in even poorer neighborhoods, previously considered hopeless, such as East New York and Bedford Stuyvesant.

      When there is too much crime it starts a vicious cycle of people afraid to invest or stay which leads to shuttered shops, unemployment and higher crime. Where the neighborhood is safe enough to invest and live in employment increases, frequently in lower skilled jobs in retail, which employ people who might otherwise have to resort to crime and crime declines still further.

      One could say for ex, that Jews that immigrated in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century to England and the US were largely economic migrants. The truth was that a major incentive for immigration was the Kishinev pogroms which led many Jews to believe, who were not directly affected, that because of anti Semitic violence there was no economic future for their children and that their lives might potentially be in danger at some future point.

      When Jews left Germany right after Kristallnacht (the anniversary of which as just passed) where Jewish shops were vandalized, they were at the time considered to be economic immigrants but they were really refugees, as future events proved.

      The phrase “law and order” was originally, in the mid nineteenth century “peace, law and order”. Civil wars and economic conflict leads to internal crime and disruption and vice versa.

      My point is that the line is blurred between “economic immigrant” and “refugee” in areas where there no real law enforcement and a lot of violent crime

      If we in the US are truly interested in protecting the border the answer is not to just to arrest people at the border or even to throw money into foreign aid projects because, even if it is not taken through corruption by local officials, foreign aid cannot be effective if it has to be used for protection money to the local gangs which act like war lords or for projects that are not sustainable because of crime.

      No real economic development is possible without peace and that includes no violent criminal activity.

      Generally I do not support US military activity in foreign countries but more important than the military (that is the US Drug Enforcement agency, DEA) being involved in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America to prevent drug smuggling, is to have our military police, either as advisors to local military police or directly, in Central America and heavily involved in breaking up gangs and jailing gang members.

      Imperialistic you say? Isn’t it US economic exploitation and exported US consumerism that caused the problem in the first place? Perhaps.

      But a country’s autonomy ends where another country’s begins. If your country’s crime problem is causing illegal immigration into my country then it becomes my country’s right to go into your country to deal with its causes.

      I have believed since I was a teenager many years ago that US immigration laws were far too strict but I also believe that people who immigrate ideally should do so because they want to, that is, be true economic immigrants, not refugees who truly have no choice and who are fleeing violence or hunger.

      Most people, especially those with families, would stay in their native countries if they believed that they could raise their children safely
      and know that they and their kids would have an economic future there.

      Let’s make that possible, especially for the countries that are our neighbors

      • Sharon says:

        Eric Hoffer, a center-right political philosopher and theorist who continued to work as a longshoreman even after he became a best selling author won the Presidential Medal of Freedom (!) (I believe from Richard Nixon) for his books, among the most famous The True Believer, an analysis of the cause of the rise of Nazism and fascism, and the Temper of Our Times and for making political philosophy accessible to the general reader.

        He made up a story that he was the child of German immigrants, born in the Bronx, (a county of New York City) which to my knowledge never had a German community, and because of vision problems did not attend school which accounted for his German accent as an adult. However there is no record of him in the US prior to the mid 1930s.

        Historians now believe that this Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, the United States’ highest civilian honor, was in reality an undocumented immigrant who was a German Jewish intellectual who when things were beginning to get tense in Germany immigrated to Mexico and from there slipped into the United States which in those days was relatively easy to do. He worked as an itinerant laborer writing political philosophy until he was somehow able to obtain phony papers and went to work as a unionized longshoreman in California.

        Many Jews in the United States today will tell you that their name is X but in Europe it was Y because their ancestors, mainly in the 1920s when this was relatively easy to do, immigrated on phony papers.

        If Hoffer were a Syrian intellectual in 2010 he probably would have been refused entry and returned to Syria and to his death.

  • M2N2K says:

    He made a good speech and words do matter to a degree, but I would still take actions over words at any time.