Humanitarian Ambitions - International Barriers: Canadian Governmental Response to the Plight of the Jewish Refugees (1933-1945)

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Title: Humanitarian Ambitions - International Barriers: Canadian Governmental Response to the Plight of the Jewish Refugees (1933-1945)
Authors: Comartin, Justin
Date: 2013
Abstract: From 1933 to 1945, thousands of European Jews attempted to gain access to Canada in order to escape Nazi oppression. This thesis examines Canada’s immigration records and policies during this period. In addition to bringing light to key issues concerning popular Canadian perceptions of Jewish immigrants and refugees in the thirties and forties, this history raises important questions about the Canadian government and ethical responsibility in a time of war; about the relationship between government policy and provincial politics; and about the position taken by Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and his Cabinet. The author’s research brings attention to Irving Abella and Harold Troper’s work, None is too Many, which, since its publication in 1982, has stood as the authoritative work on the subject. A variety of important issues which are not treated in detail in this earlier monograph are examined in depth in this analysis: The prevalence of anti-Semitism in French and English Canada, and the Canadian immigration record are treated in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 and 4 investigate accusations that William Lyon Mackenzie King, Ernest Lapointe, Frederick Charles Blair, and Vincent Massey harboured anti-Semitic views. It is found that such charges suffer from a serious lack of evidence. Although sometimes the language used by these men in their correspondence and letters can be shocking to the modern reader, it was the colloquial language during their lives. Furthermore, their personal documents often exhibit evidence of sincere sympathy for the Jews of Europe, and frustration with Canadian popular opinion. The author concludes that collective memory of the Holocaust has affected perceptions concerning the Canadian immigration record during the period in question. Anti-immigration sentiment was strong in Canada during the Depression. Nevertheless, as the Canadian Government became increasingly aware of the persecution of Jews within the Reich, particularly following the events of Kristallnacht in November of 1938, measures were put into place to ease Jewish immigration to Canada, such as including refugees among the admissible classes of immigrants. The Canadian Government did not begin to receive information concerning the extermination of European Jewry until 1942. By this time, there was hardly anything Canada could do. Heinrich Himmler had forbidden Jewish emigration from the Reich in October of 1941, the war was in full swing by 1942, and ships carrying refugees and PoWs were not safe from U-boat attacks. From 1933 to 1945 Canada allowed 8,787 Jews into the country. However, all immigration to Canada was slowed during this time. Consequently, Jews, in actuality, represented a higher percentage of immigrants arriving in Canada, at this time, than they had from 1923 to 1932. This illustrates Canada’s doors we not closed specifically to Jewish refugees during the Depression and Second World War.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/23992
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-2899
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
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