Thanks to the Discriminatory Policies of Canada & the U.S. at the Time, Our History is Stained with the Shame of “The Voyage of the Damned”!

Canada will finally formally apologies for turning away Jewish Germans fleeing Hitler’s Genocidal Regime

Posted May 10th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

A Brief Foreword from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper  

Two of the passengers aboard the ship, still hopeful that Canada would offer them refuge

Along with other assorted crimes, including the hanging of Louis Riel, the systematic starving of Indigenous peoples to clear the way for settlements in the west, the residential schools, the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War and, more recently, the violent assault on Canadians’ liberties during the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto, the turning away of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939 – an act that, for many of them, had them returning to certain death – is one of the more shameful episodes in a Canada many of us prefer to think of as one of the most peaceful, open and inclusive nations in the world.

Could something like the MS St. Louis and its 907 Jewish German passengers desperately looking for asylum – what became known as “the voyage of the damned” – happen  in Canada today?

The photo of this Syrian child, washed up on a Turkish beach, went global three years ago. The child and his family were fleeing from deadly war in Syria and were hoping to settle in Canada.

It was just three years ago, during the 2015 federal election, that we had Canada’s then Conservative government – a government and a party supported by millions of Canadians – planning to put in place a “snitch line” Canadians could use to report anyone they believe were engaging in something it called “barbaric cultural practices.” At the same time, it was taking steps to restrict any influx of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria while we were haunted by that photo of the body of a Syrian child, whose family was hoping would emigrate to Canada, washed up on a Turkish beach.

So could something like the MS St. Louis episode happen in Canada again? That is entirely up to us, as Canadian citizens, to decide.

It became known as “the voyage of the damned.” The lives of many of these passengers ended in Nazi death camps.

In the meantime, it is high time that a Prime Minister of Canada issued a formal apology for this shameful episode, which comes six years after the United States apologized for its part in shutting its doors and delivering these people back to one of histories most notorious mass murderers.

Here is a news release from the Office of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, following by a news release from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) , an advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada.

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced this May 8th  that he will deliver a formal apology in the House of Commons over the fate of the MS St. Louis and its passengers.

On May 13, 1939, the MS St. Louis departed Germany with close to a thousand passengers, including 907 Jewish German citizens desperate for safety and refuge from persecution.

The Jewish refugees on board were not allowed to disembark at the ship’s first destination, Cuba, and were subsequently denied entry into the United States and, finally, Canada, due to our discriminatory “none is too many” immigration policy of the time. The refugees were forced to return to Europe, where many were condemned to concentration camps. 254 of the passengers were murdered during the Holocaust.

Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau

“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.”
The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, May 8, 2018

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Commends Canadian Government for Announcement on St. Louis Apology

A News Release

Toronto, Ontario – This May 8th,, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) commended Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his announcement regarding a formal apology in the House of Commons for Canada’s rejection of Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939.

The announcement took place during a gala in Toronto to mark 30 years of the March of the Living (MOL), in honour of its Holocaust Survivor Educators and MOL National Director, Eli Rubenstein.

In response, CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel issued the following statement:

“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.







“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 antisemitism.”


  • In May 1939, the MS St. Louis, an ocean liner carrying European Jews seeking refuge from Nazi Germany, arrived in Cuba. Despite facing imminent danger in Germany, more than 900 of its passengers were denied admission to Cuba and the United States. Ignoring calls for a compassionate response, the Government of Canada refused to admit a single passenger. The ship returned to Europe. Hundreds were later murdered in the Holocaust.
  • The St. Louis incident reflected Canada’s restrictive policy toward Jewish immigration prior to the Holocaust. At the time, Jews experienced extensive social and institutional bigotry in Canada. Jewish Canadians faced discriminatory quotas restricting admission to university programs, as well as bans from numerous social clubs and corporations. Signs in some public parks reportedly declared: ‘No dogs or Jews allowed.’
  • On Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 11, 2018) CIJA launched an open letter encouraging the Prime Minister to issue a formal apology in the House of Commons for the St. Louis. Within days, thousands of Canadians added their name to the letter.
  • With cross-party support, previous governments have offered formal apologies in the House of Commons for historic injustices committed by Canadian officials. This includes apologies for the internship of Japanese-Canadians during WWII (1988), the Chinese Head Tax (2006), Canada’s Residential School system (2008), the Komagata Maru (2016), and systematic bigotry against LGBTQ+ Canadians (2017).

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA.

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


One response to “Thanks to the Discriminatory Policies of Canada & the U.S. at the Time, Our History is Stained with the Shame of “The Voyage of the Damned”!

  1. Linda McKellar

    Another dirty little secret like residential schools that was not taught when I was in school. As well, Nicholas Hinton wrote many nations including Canada to take eastern European children given up by desperate parents before WW2. All the parents died. Canada refused as did the US, Australia and others. The only one to accept was the UK that took over 700. If you get a chance, watch the video “Nicki’s Family”. He did this anonymously and at great effort and cost. Cried my face off! (May be on You Tube).


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