Trudeau says Canada will apologize for MS St. Louis incident

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (centre) in quiet contemplation during a visit to the National Holocaust Monument, September 27. (PMO)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (centre) in quiet contemplation during a visit to the National Holocaust Monument, September 27, 2017. (PMO)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, attending a gala in Toronto, May 8, marking 30 years of the March of the Living (MOL) and honouring Holocaust survivor educators and MOL National Director Eli Rubenstein, announced he will make a formal apology in the House of Commons for Canada’s refusal to admit Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany on board the MS St. Louis in 1939. More than 900 refugees were on board the ship and more than 250 of them were ultimately murdered during the Holocaust.

“When Canada denied asylum to the 907 German Jews on board the MS St. Louis, we failed not only those passengers, but also their descendants and community. An apology in the House of Commons will not rewrite this shameful chapter of our history. It will not bring back those who perished or repair the lives shattered by tragedy. But it is our collective responsibility to acknowledge this difficult truth, learn from this story, and continue to fight against anti-Semitism every day, as we give meaning to the solemn vow: ‘Never again.’ I look forward to offering this apology on the floor of the House,” said Trudeau.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) had lobbied for the apology.

“We applaud the prime minister for committing to formally apologize in the House of Commons for the St. Louis incident – a shameful example of Canada’s ‘none is too many’ policy toward Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution,” said CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel in response to Trudeau’s announcement.

“Canada is extraordinary not only because we strive to uphold the highest ideals, but also because we have the courage to address moments in our history when we failed to do so. Today’s announcement builds upon the previous government’s decision to erect the Wheel of Conscience at Pier 21 in Halifax, as a reminder of the lessons we must learn from this painful incident.

“A formal apology will be a powerful statement to Holocaust survivors and their families, including St. Louis passengers who live in Canada today. It will also affirm Canada’s continued vigilance in the ongoing fight against anti-Semitism,” Fogel added

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