November 8, 2018 – On November 7, 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Commons to deliver an apology for the refusal of the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King to allow 900 Jews fleeing Nazi oppression to enter Canada. This decision condemned the desperate passengers to return to Europe, where 254 perished during the Holocaust.
“Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology must be seen as more than a recognition of past wrongs,” said Rajesh Uttamchandani, Acting Chairperson of the Board, CRRF. “It is an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on a time when the doors to places of refuge were shut and barred, leaving a persecuted minority to a cruel fate. The Shoah consumed the lives of 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered for no reason other than the hatred of their faith. We honour the memory of the passengers of the MS. St. Louis and say, with the Prime Minister, ‘Never Again.’”
“As we recall a time when the world was blind and deaf to the agonies of the Jewish people – and as we consider even today how easy it can be to turn away from human rights catastrophes – we must also remember those who are known as the Righteous Among the Nations,” said Dr. Lilian Ma, CRRF Executive Director. “Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, honours the memory of 26,973 men and women who did not stand by, and acted to save the lives of Jewish friends, neighbours and strangers. One of these is Gustav Schroder, the captain of the MS St. Louis, who refused to return to Germany until other countries agreed to accept his passengers. Let us do more than apologize for what was done wrong. Let us commit to doing what is right.”
The tragedy of the MS St. Louis is included in a special educational resource called Doing the Right Thing. The resource encourages students in schools across Canada to consider moments in Canadian history where governmental decisions were made and to assess if the right thing was done and - if not - what should have been done. The resource is available at no charge and may be downloaded in an English or French version.
About the Canadian Race Relations Foundation
The purpose of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society. The work of the Foundation is premised on the desire to create and nurture an inclusive society based on equity, social harmony, mutual respect and human dignity. Its underlying principle in addressing racism and racial discrimination emphasizes positive race relations and the promotion of shared Canadian values of human rights and democratic institutions.
For more information
Dr. Lilian Ma, Executive Director – (416) 441-1900