Canada's Trudeau apologizes for turning away Jews

Trudeau issues apology for Canada's refusal to harbor Jews fleeing Holocaust

Nearly 80 years later, another Liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau, will apologize to Canadian Jews after Question Period on Wednesday for turning away the desperate refugees of the St. Louis, hundreds of whom would die in Nazi death camps. The ship had been turned away by Cuba and the United States before arriving on Canadian shores.

"There is little doubt that our silence permitted the Nazis to come up with their own, "final solution" to the so-called Jewish problem", he said in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday.

"While decades have passed since we turned our backs on Jewish refugees, time has by no means absolved Canada of its guilt or lessened the weight of its shame", Trudeau said in a speech. The passengers were forced to return to Europe and more than 250 perished in the Holocaust. "Today, I issue an official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada to the passengers of the MS St. Louis and their families for this injustice", he said in both English and French.

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Canada's refusal to accept the St. Louis passengers took place more than six months after the infamous Kristallnacht in November 1938 where storm troopers and Hitler Youth burned hundreds of synagogues, smashed thousands of shop windows and killed dozens of Jews.

"I want to start by congratulating all the candidates who stepped forward in the U.S. midterms and highlight the historic number of women who were elected in yesterday's elections", Trudeau said.

"It was very important that the government made this statement and fulsome apology for the past", said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada.

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Between 1933 and 1945, Canada admitted just 7,000 Jews - the fewest of any of the Allied countries, Trudeau said.

"Holocaust deniers still exist".

"We all must, as individuals, communities and as a nation, help these people in every way we can", she said. Critics say the figures are far too low while debate rages about "irregular" border crossers walking over from the United States. "Jewish institutions and neighborhoods are still being vandalized with swastikas".

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"History will judge us by whether we respond in ways that respect the rights and dignity of refugee claimants, just as we today judge those who turned away the St. Louis and other Jewish refugees", the council said.

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