Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Creation of task force marks 70th anniversary of Canada’s rejection of Jewish refugees

 

Canada will contribute nearly $1 million to create a three-year national task force to study and educate Canadians about the Holocaust.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced the task force in Toronto this morning at the start of a conference on the Holocaust that marks the 70th anniversary of Canada’s refusal to let hundreds of Jewish refugees aboard the St. Louis from Hamburg, Germany dock in Canada. The ship was forced to return to Europe and the refugees dispersed to various countries. Many would not survive World War II.

Canada’s immigration minister in 1939 famously said, "None is too many" about whether Canada would take any of the refugees.

Kenney "has broken the traditional Canadian mould" to be an unwavering friend and ally to the Jewish cause, Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada said in introducing the minister. The timing of the task force and conference are critical, Dimant said, as "Canadian universities have become a hotbed of anti-Semitism in the guide of anti-Zionism."

He particularly commended Kenney and the Conservative government for its decision to boycott the recent Durban conference to review the results of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, which Kenney said "degenerated into open and divisive expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism."

The work of the task force applies not just to the Holocaust, said Kenney, but also to the hatred behind the attacks on mosques in Canada. Education is a strong component of the task force, which will lead research and publish a teacher’s manual, a textbook for high school students and a documentary for teachers to use.

"It’s all about fairness to them," said a Grade 7 teacher from Manitoba who teaches the Holocaust to her students. "Once (students) understand the exclusion of it, they can’t get enough of the story."

A small group of supporters of the American war resisters in Canada picketed outside the Sutton Place Hotel where Kenney was speaking. Former U.S. soldier Kimberly Rivera has been living in Toronto with her family for two years fighting deportation to the United States. Her three months in Iraq, she said this morning, made her realize "It was wrong for me. Every person, no matter what they wear or what they believe deserves to be treated the same." Rivera’s next court hearing is July 8.