Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee

Statement by the Leader of the Official Opposition on the MS St. Louis Apology

The Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Andrew Scheer, issued the following statement on the MS St. Louis apology:

“It is a sign of a healthy society to be able to look at history clearly and see both the light and the dark; to celebrate our achievements, but also to mourn our failings. And while it is true that an apology cannot change the past, occasions such as this, marked by remembrance, reflection, and regret, can help guide our future.

The unique horror of the Holocaust, in which more than a quarter of the MS St. Louis’ passengers perished, produced the rallying cry: “Never Again”. That is not a passive hope. It is a call to action. It commands us to remember how, within the lifetime of many here in this room, a civilized, modern society succumbed to a primitive fear, and turned its vaunted industrial prowess against its Jewish citizens and its neighbours.

To the passengers of the MS St. Louis, however, Canada was not geographically isolated or unreachable. It was not our lands, but our minds that were isolated; it was our hearts that were unreachable. And for that failure, we are profoundly sorry. There is no diminishment of individual guilt in such a shared failure; we were responsible to the full extent of our own cold, deliberate and official inhumanity.

This apology should not make us comfortable. On the contrary, it should grab us and shake us. It should be an alarm that jolts us out of our daily routines and demands that we look at our world today, through the lens of that experience. Anti-Semitism is not a relic of the 30s. It wasn’t eradicated with the defeat of the Nazis. It is very much alive today.

In Canada anti-Jewish crimes account for the largest share of religiously-motivated hate crimes, and the overall number has increased in recent years. On social media, in parades and public demonstrations, and even on our university campuses, we have seen a disturbing resurgence and even normalization, of anti-Semitic rhetoric. And we know from painful experience, that where anti-Semitism is tolerated, anti-Jewish violence follows. This was brought home again, achingly, in the murderous attack at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, only days ago.

Today’s apology is not the first recognition of this stain on our national record. In 2011, under our previous Conservative government, these events were commemorated by the unveiling of a memorial at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax.

As we witness this rise in anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and discrimination, we cannot again stand by impassively. We cannot again watch and fail to act, as ancient prejudice mutates into new violence.

We are here today because in that crucial moment, when Canada was weighed in the balance, we were found wanting.

But every generation faces its own test; every generation must confront for itself the temptation of intolerance; every one of us must answer for ourselves the old question: How will we respond when we face that test?

This past Saturday, Canadians filled synagogues across our country as part of the Show Up For Shabbat campaign. Jewish or not, all were welcomed by a community whose home in Canada pre-dates Confederation by more than a century.

Canada should have been guided by that spirit in 1939. Canada should have offered sanctuary to the passengers of the MS St. Louis. For our failure to do so then, we stand with the Government today, in its apology. Never again, must “none be too many.”