Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set a date to formally apologize for Canada’s decision to turn away a boat full of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939, resulting in hundreds dying.
On Nov. 7, Canada will make a formal apology in the House of Commons for what Trudeau called “an absolute moral failure on the part of the government.”
“The St. Louis was carrying German Jews looking for refuge in Canada, but they were turned away under the ‘None is Too Many’ policy of the time. 254 ended up being killed,” Trudeau tweeted on Thursday.
Trudeau already announced in May that the government would make the apology, however, a date was not set at the time.
In 1939, The MS St. Louis was carrying 907 German Jewish passengers fleeing Nazi persecution. Its captain tried in vain to find homes for his passengers, looking for refuge in Cuba and the United States. But they were turned away.
The captain then tried to convince then-prime minister Mackenzie King’s government to let it dock in Halifax.
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But in the years leading up to and including the Second World War, the Canadian government heeded anti-Semitic sentiment by severely restricting Jewish immigration. From 1933 to 1945, only about 5,000 Jewish refugees were accepted due to what Trudeau called “our discriminatory ‘none is too many’ immigration policy” in place at the time.
The boat was refused entry into Canada and the Jewish refugees were forced to return to Europe where 254 of those aboard eventually died in the slaughter that became the Holocaust.
Trudeau called the turning away of the ship a “most egregious” example of the misguided policy.
— With files from the Canadian Press