Toronto, May 9, 2018 -- The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) commends Prime Minister Trudeau for his announcement that he will stand in the House of Commons to offer a formal apology for the treatment of Jewish refugees aboard the ill-fated MS St. Louis in 1939.
On May 13, 1939, the St. Louis departed Germany with 937 Jews on board. They were seeking asylum from the increasing violence of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Already stripped of many of their civil and legal rights, they had hoped to find safety in Cuba, where they had purchased legal entry visas.
Upon arrival in Havana the passengers were refused entry. The government had changed its policy and cancelled the landing permits that had been granted. Although 29 passengers were permitted to land, the remaining 907 passengers (one had died en route to Cuba) were refused and were aboard the St. Louis as it left Cuban waters.
All doors were shut to the desperate passengers. Both the United States and Canada refused to allow refuge to the fleeing Jews. Left with no choice, the St. Louis returned to Europe, but the captain refused to return his passengers to Germany. Some found safety in the United Kingdom while the rest were permitted to leave the ship in Antwerp, finding temporary safety in other countries. It is estimated that 254 of those who returned to Europe perished in the Holocaust.
“The tragedy of the MS St. Louis is a reminder of the responsibility that members of the human family have for each other, and the consequences of forgetting that responsibility,” said Albert Lo, Chair of the Board, CRRF. “The promised apology cannot change the past, but by acknowledging the shameful error made by a previous government we can commit to doing better, both now and in the future.”
“The story of the St. Louis is one episode that the CRRF considers in Doing the Right Thing, an educational resource prepared for high school students,” said Dr. Lilian Ma, CRRF Executive Director. “If the past is not given voice then it cannot instruct us. We urge schools to take a look and use the educational material to present a more complete understanding of Canadian history to their students.”
Doing the Right Thing may be downloaded from the CRRF at no cost at https://www.crrf-fcrr.ca/en/news-a-events/articles/item/26830-doing-the-right-thing
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
Rubin Friedman, Spokesperson - (647) 403-8526