Trudeau to apologize Wednesday for 1939 decision to turn back Jewish refugee ship
254 German Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust after Canada turned away ship with 907 asylum seekers
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make a formal apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday for the Canadian government's 1939 decision to turn away a ship carrying Jewish refugees fleeing Europe.
The date of the previously announced apology was confirmed by Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger in the Commons today after question period.
In 1939, the MS St. Louis left Germany carrying 907 Jewish passengers fleeing persecution by the Nazi regime. The ship was turned away from Cuba and the United States before a group of Canadians tried to convince Prime Minister Mackenzie King's government to let it dock in Halifax.
The Canadian government heeded anti-Semitic sentiment by severely restricting Jewish immigration in this era. From 1933 to 1945, only about 5,000 Jewish refugees were accepted because of what Trudeau called Tuesday "our discriminatory, 'none is too many' immigration policy" in place at the time.
When the government refused to let MS St. Louis passengers disembark, the ship returned to Europe.
About half the passengers were taken in by the U.K., the Netherlands, France and Belgium. About 500 of them ended up back in Germany, where 254 were killed in concentration and internment camps.
Since the last election, Trudeau has personally apologized to gay men and women targeted for their sexuality and for Canada's 1914 decision to turn away the Komagata Maru ship that was carrying 376 migrants (mostly Sikhs). He's exonerated six Tsilhqot'in chiefs who were hanged in 1864 for their role in the killing of six white colonists.
The prime minister also apologized to survivors of the Indian residential school system in Newfoundland and Labrador — people who were left out of the initial apology, delivered by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2008, because those schools weren't federally run.