Canada to apologise for refusing to accept Jewish refugees in 1939

The federal Liberals are working on an apology for the Canadian government’s decision in 1939 to turn away a boat of German Jews hoping to seek asylum in Canada.

Some wanted the apology for the MS St. Louis to come in concert with today’s inauguration of the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will instead make reference to the issue in his speech.

The ship bearing 900 Jews was turned away from both Cuba and the United States before a group of Canadians tried to convince then-prime minister Mackenzie King’s Conservative government to let it dock in Halifax.

The government refused, the ship returned to Europe and while some passengers were taken in by Belgium, France, Holland and the U.K., about 500 ended up back in Germany, half of whom did not survive the Holocaust.

In June, Trudeau told the New York Times that Canada must acknowledge times in its history when it wasn’t welcoming, raising the MS St. Louis as one example, along with others that have merited an apology in the past.

The inauguration of the monument, located across from the Canadian War Museum, caps more than a decade of work that began under the previous Conservative government.


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