Trudeau apologizes for Canada turning away Jewish refugees in 1939

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has formally apologised for his country’s refusal to provide shelter to a ship carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees almost 80 years ago.

In 1939, the MS St. Louis was carrying 907 German Jewish passengers fleeing Nazi violence. Its captain tried in vain to find homes for his passengers, looking for refuge in Cuba and the United States. But they were turned away.

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

According to historians and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), 255 of them were later killed in World War II, most of them in concentration camps after the United States, Cuba and Canada turned the ship away and it returned to Europe where several countries took the refugees.

“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 or our shame. And I pledge to you all now, we will do more,” he added.

This apology came following the October 27 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, where 11 people were killed, including a Canadian woman.