Trudeau apologizes for Canada’s 1939 refusal of Jewish refugee ship

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gestures at the G7 Outreach Official Welcome on day two of the G7 Summit on June 9, 2018 in Quebec City, Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gestures at the G7 Outreach
Official Welcome on day two of the G7 Summit on June 9, 2018 in
Quebec City, Canada.

Hall – Pool/Getty Images

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a formal
    apology on Wednesday for the country’s refusal to take in a ship
    carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees in 1939. 
  • The ship left Germany in 1939 fleeing Nazi persecution. 
  • After it was rejected entrance into Canada and other
    countries, the ship was forced to go back to Germany where an
    estimated 250 of its passengers died in Nazi death camps. 
  • The apology comes as Trudeau pledged that his country would
    do all that it could to prevent anti-Semitic attacks like the
    shooting that left 11 Jewish worshippers dead at a synagogue in
    Pittsburgh on October 28. 

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
formally apologized on Wednesday for the country’s 1939 refusal
to take in a ship carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees, adding
that the country would do more to protect Canadian Jews from

The St. Louis left Hamburg in May 1939 in a desperate search for
a safe haven from persecution by Nazi Germany. After it was
rebuffed by Canada and other nations, it returned to Europe,
where historians have estimated that more than 250 of the
passengers were murdered in Nazi death camps.

“We apologize to the 907 German Jews aboard the St. Louis, as
well as their families,” Trudeau told the House of Commons. “We
are sorry for the callousness of Canada’s response. We are sorry
for not apologizing sooner.”

The apology came less than two weeks after a gunman shot dead 11
people, including a Canadian woman, at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Vigils were held across Canada in the aftermath of the attack.

Read more:

Here’s exactly how the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Jewish Canadians “are understandably feeling vulnerable” and
there have been calls “to protect synagogues and other places
that are at risk of hate-motivated crimes,” Trudeau said during
his parliamentary address.

“And I pledge to you all now: we will do more,” he said, noting
that around 17 percent of all Canadian hate crimes target Jewish

Shimon Koffler Fogel, head of the Centre for Israel and Jewish
Affairs, applauded Trudeau’s “historic apology” and his pledge to
expand security measures for Jewish institutions.

Earlier, Trudeau met with Ana Maria Gordon, the only surviving
Canadian passenger from the ship, and her family members, and
spoke about the need to fight anti-semitism.

Trudeau, a Liberal, has made a number of apologies for Canada’s
historic failings.

Last week the prime minister visited hundreds of indigenous
people in British Columbia to say sorry for the hanging of six
chiefs 150 years ago.

In May 2016, six months after taking office, he stood in
parliament to apologize to the descendants of hundreds of
passengers of the Komagata Maru, a Japanese vessel carrying Sikh,
Muslim and Hindu migrants who were refused entry into Canada
under 1914 immigration laws.

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