Canada: Indian-origin ex-minister ‘sorry’ for backing proposed anti-Muslim bill [Uppal]

Following Rempel Garner, another former minister reflects in the South Asian press:

A former Canadian minister of Indian origin has publicly apologised for having supported in the past a proposed bill that would have banned Muslim women in the country from wearing the niqab, a face-covering veil, while taking their citizenship oath.

Conservative Party MP Tim Uppal, a Sikh, was the minister of state for multiculturalism in the government of then PM Stephen Harper in 2015 when he had backed the controversial bill.

His apology has come at a time when terror charges have been slapped on Nathaniel Veltman, a 20-year-old who had mowed down four members of a Muslim family in the city of Hamilton in Ontario on June 6 in an act of Islamophobia.

Uppal is currently an MP from Edmonton Mill Woods.

Uppal’s mea culpa has come following the attack. In a Facebook post, he said he was the spokesperson for the proposed bill in 2015, but after his party was defeated in that year’s general election by the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals, he spoke with Canadians outside the “partisan political bubble” and realised “how this ban and other campaign announcements during the 2015 election alienated Muslim Canadians and contributed to the growing problem of Islamaphobia”.

He posted, “When it came to these policies, I should have used my seat at the table to push against divisiveness that promoted the notion of the other. I regret not being a stronger voice and sincerely apologise for my role.”

Referring to the Hamilton attack, he said it has been “a devastating week for many. We are mourning as a nation for a family that was so brutally attacked and destroyed by a terrorist”.

The apology came as a federal prosecutor imposed terror charges on Veltman, who drove his truck over the family when they had been out for an evening walk. The charges were upgraded on Monday.

Source: Canada: Indian-origin ex-minister ‘sorry’ for backing proposed anti-Muslim bill

Canadians of Italian origin find justice in apology for internment during WW2

Somewhat one-sided account in favour of the apology as the more authoritative and critical analysis by Roberto Perrin, Enemies Within: Italian and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad, not cited (other recent critical view by Michael Petrou, The harm done by Justin Trudeau’s apology to Italian -Canadians might require an apology of its own):

After decades of digging through archival material and talking with the relatives of people of Italian origin detained in Canada during the Second World War, Montreal historian Joyce Pillarella says Canada’s long-awaited apology gives her family and others the moral justice they have been waiting for.

Pillarella started learning more than 20 years ago about the struggles of the more than 600 people who were interned when she found a postcard sent from her grandfather who was confined at a camp near Fredericton, N.B.

She then started combing through Canada’s national archive before she started talking to the families of those affected.

“When I was starting to do cold calls to try to find families, a lot of people didn’t want to talk to me,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“What I realize now is that they didn’t want to talk because they felt insignificant, their story was insignificant. They were afraid of being judged wrongly. There was the shame of the story.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to deliver a formal apology in the House of Commons Thursday for the internment of Canadians of Italian background during the Second World War for several years at three camps in Petawawa, Ont., Minto, N.B., and Kananaskis, Alta. The apology is not expected to come with individual compensation.

Justice Minister David Lametti, the first Canadian justice minister of Italian heritage, said the internment happened following an order-in-council that was promulgated by the then-justice minister Ernest Lapointe, and it resulted in taking hundreds of people of Italian origin from their families and declaring about 31,000 as “enemy aliens.”

“Not a single person was ever convicted, and in addition, people weren’t afforded due process,” he said in an interview.

“There wasn’t anything other than the fact that their name may have appeared on a list somewhere.”

Pillarella said the Canadian government asked the RCMP to prepare lists of Canadians of Italian heritage after Italy invaded Ethiopia in the mid-1930s.

She said Italian-Canadians had to do a lot of their business through the Italian consulates at the time.

“People had to be sympathetic with the consulate or at least appear to be, because otherwise they’re not going to get anything done,” she said.

Lametti said people were put on RCMP lists for having made donations to the Italian Red Cross or for being members of certain labour groups.

“It is true that the Fascist Party did have organizations in Canada but, in the 1930s, they were popular,” he said. “It didn’t mean that people were disloyal to Canada. In fact, Italian-Canadians generally were very much disappointed when Italy joined Germany in that war effort.”

Joan Vistarchi, whose father Salvatore Vistarchi was interned between June 1940 and March 1943, said the RCMP arrested her father in his Montreal apartment without giving him any reason.

“He was put on a train, and he didn’t know where he was going. Nobody would say where they were going, but he ended up in the Fredericton internment camp in New Brunswick,” she said.

Vistarchi noticed as a child her father would remain very silent on June 10 every year. She asked her mother what was wrong with her dad but her mother would wave it off by saying, “I just don’t think he’s feeling well today.”

When Vistarchi became a teenager, she learned that her father’s sadness on June 10 was because he was detained on that day.

“It was kept pretty silent for a long, long time, and then, only little pieces came out,” she said. “To his dying day, (my father) wondered why was he imprisoned or put in an internment camp.”

Pillarella contacted some 150 families across Canada to collect the stories of the people who were interned during the war.

She said the suffering of the women and the children left behind could be even greater than that of the men who were detained in internment camps.

“For the women in the 1940s, there were big families usually, I mean it was common (to have) six, seven, eight children. The breadwinner was gone,” she said. “Taking care of a household in the 1940s was a big, big job. … It’s not like today where we have appliances.”

She said families of Italian origin were stigmatized as “state enemies” and had to battle to survive as kids had to get pulled out of school, and women ended up finding domestic work on top of taking care of their big families.

“People didn’t want to hire Italians. They didn’t want to rent to Italians,” she said. “There were people that were afraid to help (Italian-Canadians) because they thought ‘Oh my god, the RCMP is watching. My husband’s gonna get interned also.”

Cinna Faveri said her father, Rev. Libero Sauro, was interned in September 1940 and was released in December of the same year. Four of his seven sons were serving in the Canadian military at the time.

Two of her brothers were airmen serving in England, and another one was a signalman fighting in Italy and Holland, she said.

She said her family, unlike most in the Italian community in Canada, was comfortable talking about what happened.

“Whenever I mentioned it to anybody, my close friends, my new friends, anybody, they’re shocked,” she said.

“They don’t know it. Nobody knows about it.”

Lametti said it’s critical to share the stories of these families through commemoration and education.

“We’re sorry,” he said, adding his message to families was “as your parents made sure that this stood as something that would make you better Canadians, we’re hoping to tell your story, so that all Canadians can be better.”

Faveri said the apology is necessary even if it’s too late.

“It’s far too late in coming. But, because for historical reasons, it has to come, even if it’s late.”

Vistarchi said the apology is important because the names of people who were interned are going to be cleared, and the descendants will be given some kind of closure.

“However, I really feel in my heart of hearts, as much as I really am grateful for this apology, that it would have been nice if one, at least one, of these internees had been alive to hear this. They’re all dead,” she said.

“Those are the ears that should have heard this apology.”

Source: Canadians of Italian origin find justice in apology for internment during WW2

Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Remember well the challenges Canadian Heritage’s historical recognition program uhad in working with the Italian Canadian representatives during my time there, as well as some of the academics who challenged the community narrative (Enemies Within: Italian and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad):

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will issue a formal apology next month for the treatment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War.

The government said in a news release that 600 Italian-Canadian men were interned in camps in Canada after Italy allied with Germany and joined the war in 1940.

Some 31,000 other Italian-Canadians were declared enemy aliens.

Trudeau told the House of Commons Wednesday that his government “will right these wrongs” by issuing a formal apology in May.

In 1988, Canada formally apologized and offered $300 million in compensation to Japanese-Canadians, 22,000 of whom were interned in camps during the Second World War.

Trudeau did not say whether there will be compensation for Italian-Canadians.

He announced plans for the apology in response to a question Wednesday from Liberal MP Angelo Iacono.

“During the Second World War, hundreds of Italian-Canadians were interned for the simple reason that they were of Italian heritage,” Iacono told the Commons.

“Parents were taken away from their homes, leaving children without their fathers in many cases and families without a paycheque to put food on their tables. Lives and careers, businesses and reputations were interrupted and ruined, and yet no one was held responsible.

“Italian Canadians have lived with these memories for many years and they deserve closure.”

Trudeau replied that Canadians of Italian heritage “deal with ongoing discrimination related to mistakes made by our governments of the past that continue to affect them to this day.”

“I’m proud to stand up and say that our government will right these wrongs with a formal apology in the month of May.”

The government’s news release said that in 1939, the Defence of Canada Regulations gave the justice minister the right to intern, seize property and limit activities of Canadian residents born in countries that were at war with Canada.

The regulations clearly targeted Canadians’ fear of “the foreign element,” and not a single person was ever charged with any crime, the release said.

In 2018, the RCMP issued a statement of regret for their involvement in the internment.

The government’s formal apology will pay tribute to and honour the families of each of the 600 interned as an act of respect and an acknowledgment that an injustice happened, the release said.

Canada is home to over 1.6 million Canadians of Italian origin, one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world, and they have made immeasurable contributions to the social, cultural and economic fabric of the country, the release added.

A joint statement from 10 Italian-Canadian members of Parliament, including Justice Minister David Lametti and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said many residents suffered irrevocable harm.

“They may have been Italian by heritage, but they were Canadians first. We as Italian Members of Parliament thank those members before us who brought attention to this injustice and helped bring this apology to fruition for these families in our Italian-Canadian communities.”

Source: Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Canada must formally apologize for its historic role in the enslavement of Africans in this country and acknowledge the contributions of Black Canadians

From one of the more prominent plaintiffs in the proposed class action lawsuit against the Canadian government for past and current discrimination.

Question the need for a separate category under the Employment Equity Act for Black Canadians, given that the disaggregated data already includes Black Canadians, and government employment equity reports are now including that data.

And, as I have written elsewhere, disaggregated government employment and public service survey data highlights the similarities and differences between the different visible minority groups (https://multiculturalmeanderings.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=48735&action=edit), with some groups being comparable to Black Canadians, others doing better.

Hopefully, the federally regulated sectors will start to collect comparable disaggregated data, as agree this would be helpful. But it should be collected for all visible minority groups, not just Black Canadians:

American civil rights activist James Baldwin once asked, “how much time do you want for your ‘progress.’ ” Canadian Black politicians, leaders, professors, civil rights activists, and associations have for years called upon Canada to formally apologize for its role in the enslavement of Africans in this country. This long-awaited apology would bring about acknowledgment, recognition, and much-needed healing of the effects of slavery still reflected in the treatment and the experiences of Black Canadians. Canada’s long overdue apology for the treatment of the No. 2 Construction Battalion and recognition of Emancipation Day are not enough.

For too long, Black Canadians have been fighting anti-Black racism symptoms by calling for changes in the criminal justice system, employment, housing, and education sectors. We have also been calling for changes in the same organizations that are meant to bring about equality, specifically amendments to the Employment Equity Act (EEA) to establish a category for Black Canadians, as well as to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), which is more often than not dismissive of anti-Black racism. As of March 2021, more than 600 former and current Black public service employees are suing the federal government over the unjust practice of Black employee exclusion due to systemic discrimination dating back from the 1970s. More than 12,000 Canadians have signed a petition calling on Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada to end systemic discrimination and Black employee exclusion within the federal public service.

Black Canadians lack capital power and political representation; thus, our calls for change are dismissed and our demands shoved for another day, promises of change are never realized. The Canadian government itself practices discrimination against Black Canadians and is thus unwilling to force change. In addition to the above mentioned lawsuit by Black government of Canada employees, Canada has officially apologized to several indigenous peoples, apologized over the Chinese head tax, and for sending Japanese-Canadians to internment camps during the Second World War. The government has also rightly apologized for its discrimination, criminalization, and the injustices endured by the Canadian LGBTQ community members. Yet, Black Canadians are still awaiting such turning points and are disheartened to repeatedly ask a prime minister who himself repeatedly wore a Black face and contributed to our dehumanization. So, long as the Canadian government discriminates, it cannot in good faith and with the same breath implement equal rights and progress.

In a 2019 survey, the Canada Race Relations Foundation found that Black Canadians and Indigenous peoples are the most likely groups to report racial discrimination experiences, and they are also the groups widely understood by others to experience such treatment.

The government is aware of the pervasive nature of anti-Black racism in Canada. In 2017, the federal government invited the United Nations Human Rights Council working group of experts on people of African descent to examine the legal, institutional and policy framework and measures taken to prevent racial discrimination and related intolerance faced by Black Canadians. While acknowledging Canada’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, the UN expressed deep concern about Black Canadians’ human rights situation.

It noted that Black Canadians faced disproportionately high unemployment rates and forced to take low-paying jobs with little security and poor prospects when working. The UN cited the multiple and intersectional forms of racism at play against Black Canadian women who make 37 per cent less than white men, and 15 per cent are less than white women, with over one in four living below the Canadian poverty line. The UN working group recommendations included that Canada recognizes Black Canadians as a distinct group who continue to make profound economic, political, cultural and spiritual contributions to Canada. Additionally, it proposed a mandatory nationwide policy on collecting data disaggregated by race and other identities to determine if and when racial disparities exist for Black Canadians. Furthermore, it remarked that the category of “visible minority” obscures the degrees of disparities in Black Canadians’ treatment and specific human rights concerns.

In January 2018, Canada officially recognized the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, stipulating that the international community acknowledges that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. It also calls for adoption or strengthening of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and ensuring its effective implementation.

Amid COVID-19, Statistics Canada indicated that the pandemic had hard-hit Canada’s Black population (approximately one million people aged 15 to 69). Data revealed that in the three months ending in January 2021, the unemployment rate among Black Canadians (13.1 per cent) was about 70 per cent higher than that among non-visible minority Canadians (7.7 per cent). Additionally, almost one-third of employed Black women (31.7 per cent) worked in health care and social assistance in January 2021, bearing the brunt of response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Groundbreaking research by the Edmonton-based African Canadian Civic Engagement Council and Innovative Research Group unveiled how COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the health and finances of Black Canadians. It showed that Black communities are experiencing layoffs, reduced work hours, and reduced household incomes at higher rates. Fifty-six percent of Black respondents said their job, or the job of someone they knew, had been affected, compared with the national average of 46 per cent.

The government’s ongoing initiatives and resources to address systemic racism and anti-Black racism in Canadian institutions and the privately regulated sectors are welcomed. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Bardish Chagger, minister of diversity and inclusion and youth, acknowledge that racism is one of the root causes of social and economic gaps for Indigenous peoples. The more recent 2021 Privy Council call to action to deputy ministers, heads of separate agencies, and heads of federal agencies to reflect deeply on the unjust treatment of Black people and other racialized groups and Indigenous peoples is helpful. It is encouraging that the Privy Council statements distinctly recognized and named Black Canadians in its call to eradicate systemic racism and appropriately used the words racialized communities rather than visible minorities and Indigenous Canadians, rather than aboriginal peoples. This is in stark contrast to the outdated federal legalization meant to eradicate systemic racism and take positive measures towards employment equity in the federal government and federally regulated private sectors, namely the EEA. The Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC), established in 2018 to support efforts to address issues faced by Black federal public servants, is also a positive development in the governments’ efforts towards engaging Black employees and learning about their first-hand experiences with systemic racism as it relates to barriers to career to advancements.

The Employment Equity Act requires that federal jurisdiction employers take proactive measures to measure progress on the programs it puts in place. The Public Service Commission (PSC) collects and analyzes hiring, promotion, selection process, survey response and other data for these designated groups. In its January of 2021 audit report on employment equity representation in recruitment, the Commission found that the representation rate of visible minority groups declined at the organizational screening and assessment stages. Of the visible minority sub-groups examined in the audit, Black candidates experienced a more significant drop in representation than other visible minority groups, both at the organizational screening stage and at the assessment stage. Additionally, according to the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC), Black people encounter more significant challenges and obstacles than their mainstream counterparts in their efforts to be recruited and promoted in the federal public service.  The FBEC further state that Black federal employees report above-average levels of harassment and discrimination and are over-represented in the lower ranks. They note ongoing marginalization and underemployment affect the health of some Black employees and force others to leave the public service and that current and former diversity initiatives aren’t solving the problem. The FBEC called on the government to collect disaggregated data on the experiences of the Black public servant and noted that the currently visible minority category masks the representation, recruitment and advancement challenges of Black people. The collection and analysis of disaggregated data have also been made by Liberal MP Greg Fergus, the Canadian caucus of Black Parliamentarians’ chair.

Where is the political will for real change?

In a missed opportunity, in November of 2020, the government passed amendments to the Employment Equity Regulations under the EEA and introduced new pay transparency requirements that came into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Had there been a prioritization of anti-Black systemic racism and its painful impact on the Canadian Black populations, indeed, the government could have enacted the above recommendations.

As former senator Donald Oliver outlined, the legislation can be amended in two weeks, should the government so wills. As such, the minister of labour is encouraged to consider the Canadian Black population as a separate and distinct group within the EEA and take immediate steps to collect disaggregated data along racial and intersectional identities to understand African Canadians’ experiences in the labour market and associated human rights concerns. Future amendments to the Act should also include a robust accountability model akin to the Canadian Official Languages Act. Under OLA the duty of each federal institution to take positive measures is enforceable. This means that the public and the commissioner of official languages may seek court remedies if they feel that the duty under Part VII of the act has not been met.

Profound demands for justice have been enlisted following the tragic murder of George Floyd, which sparks international demands for justice, and equality including in Canada. This will continue until measurable progress is achieved and history shall keep recording. With COVID-19’s devastating impact on Black Canadians, their families, children, and communities, the time to act and take measurable action is now.

Huda Mukbil is a national security expert and a former senior intelligence officer with Canadian Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Source: https://hilltimes.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=a90bfb63c26a30f02131a677b&id=64bcc7c44b&e=685e94e554

Belgian King Conveys ‘Deepest Regrets’ For Brutal Colonial Past In Congo

Long overdue:

The policies of Belgian King Leopold II left millions of people dead more than a century ago in the region that is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, in a first for the Belgian monarchy, King Philippe has expressed his “deepest regrets” for a colonization campaign that remains notorious for its brutality.

“Our history is made of common achievements but also of painful episodes,” Philippe wrote in a letter to Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi that was published Tuesday in Belgian media. The note commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Central African state gaining its independence from Belgium.

Philippe acknowledged “acts of violence and cruelty” under the colonial administration spearheaded by his ancestor.

The decades straddling the turn of the 20th century saw vast swaths of the region’s population die of disease, famine or violence under Leopold’s rule. He plundered rubber, ivory and other raw materials.

In Philippe’s letter, which did not explicitly name Leopold, he wrote that the regime’s violent practices sowed “suffering and humiliation” among the people of Congo.

“I would like to express my deepest regrets for those wounds of the past,” the king added, “the pain of which is today revived by the discrimination that is still all too present in our societies. I will continue to fight all forms of racism.”

Tshisekedi did not offer an immediate public response to the letter on what has been a relatively subdued holiday for the country as it battles the coronavirus.

The country’s colonial past has been thrust into headlines in recent weeks with protests seething worldwide over racial injustice.

Catalyzed by a string of police killings of Black people in the U.S., protests have erupted beyond American borders as well. Across the Atlantic — in the U.K. and Belgium, in particular — statues with racist, colonial legacies have been vandalized and have seen widespread calls for removal.

And statues of King Leopold II have attracted particular vitriol.

The long-reigning monarch claimed the region as his own private property, calling it — unironically — the Congo Free State. Shortly before his death, he was forced to cede the territory to the Belgian state, which maintained formal ownership of the colony until 1960.

Leopold, his successors and the Belgian government drew riches from a system that featured the widespread abduction, mutilation and forced labor of natives.

Several statues of Leopold across Belgium have been the targets of arson and dashes of paint recently, and at least one has been removed by authorities. A petition demanding that Brussels, the Belgian capital, remove all of its Leopold statues has also garnered tens of thousands of signatures.

Meanwhile, a commission approved earlier this month in the Belgian parliament has pledged to investigate and more broadly acknowledge the country’s colonial past. It’s an effort that Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès heralded in a speech Tuesday marking Congo’s independence day.

“The point is not to rewrite history, but to better understand it,” she said in Ixelles, where she dedicated a commemorative plaque for the Belgian city’s Congolese residents. “After all, we cannot start a new chapter without knowing all the previous ones. This is necessary to build the future.”

Source: Belgian King Conveys ‘Deepest Regrets’ For Brutal Colonial Past In Congo

Le Canada s’excusera auprès des Italo-canadiens

This has been a long festering issue among some in the Italian Canadian community (former PM Mulroney made an unofficial apology at a luncheon in 1990, not in Parliament):

Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a indiqué que le gouvernement fédéral s’engage à présenter des excuses officielles aux Italo-canadiens maltraités au pays au cours de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

« Nous devons faire face au chapitre sombre de l’histoire de notre pays, a-t-il déclaré vendredi. Les Italo-canadiens vivent avec ces souvenirs depuis de nombreuses années. »

M. Trudeau en a fait l’annonce vendredi à Vaughan, en Ontario, lors d’un événement visant à célébrer le Mois du patrimoine italien.

Il a affirmé que pendant la guerre, les familles et les entreprises italo-canadiennes avaient souffert et que personne n’a été tenu responsable.

« C’était une période durant laquelle leur patriotisme était mis en doute et leurs vies plongées dans le chaos, a-t-il soutenu. Pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, des centaines d’Italo-canadiens ont été internés. »

M. Trudeau n’a pas révélé quand les excuses officielles seraient faites, mais il a dit qu’elles aideront à panser les plaies de la communauté.

Il a également annoncé que le gouvernement fédéral ouvrirait un centre d’affaires permanent à Milan, en Italie.

M. Trudeau n’a pas fourni plus de détails, mais il dit que le centre veillera à ce que l’avenir soit brillant entre le Canada et l’Italie.

Source: Le Canada s’excusera auprès des Italo-canadiens

The anti-Semitic history that brought Canada’s MS St. Louis decision to light

Good read on how the history became known:

The telegram reached Prime Minister Mackenzie King as he was escorting the Royal Family in Washington in early June, 1939. Now was the time to show “true Christian charity,” said a group of writers, historians and business people, and let the 907 German Jews of the St. Louis come ashore.

But Mr. King said it was not Canada’s problem and left the matter to officials such as Frederick Blair, the architect of Canada’s restrictive immigration policies, known for his inflexibility. “The line must be drawn somewhere,” Mr. Blair wrote in an internal document.

Almost 80 years later, another Liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau, will apologize to Canadian Jews after Question Period on Wednesday for turning away the desperate refugees of the St. Louis, hundreds of whom would die in Nazi death camps. The purpose, he said last May, is to draw attention to this country’s failings, “as we vow never to let history repeat itself.”

The broader story – of Canada’s closed-door policy toward the Jews of Europe before, during and even after the war – is by now well-known. But that history, of which the St. Louis forms but one episode, might have slipped down a memory hole if not for a student’s discovery in public archives of that telegram entreating Mr. King to act, as well as memos revealing the chilly rejections that passed between government officials, which she copied and sent to her professor, Harold Troper, at the University of Toronto.

Intrigued, Prof. Troper sought additional expertise. A friend introduced him to Irving Abella, a labour historian. The two went to Ottawa thinking they might write an academic article on Canada’s prewar refugee policy. “We weren’t sure there was any story at all,” said Prof. Troper, still teaching full-time at the age of 76 at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, in an interview. “Once we started digging, we found ourselves with a Niagara Falls of paper.”

They spent four years in archives and conducting interviews from Canada and the United States to Switzerland, Britain and France. The title of their 1982 book, None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948, would be drawn from a remark by an anonymous government official, at a press briefing after the war, about how many Jews were now to be admitted into the country. “It was a sense of uncovering a scab,” Prof. Abella, 77, a professor emeritus of history at York University, said of the research. “We discovered how deep the commitment was to keep Jews out of Canada.”

The scholarly partnership came naturally to the two academics. Prof. Troper’s father was a garment worker, and Prof. Abella’s father ran a restaurant serving dairy meals to garment workers. Both had lost relatives in the Holocaust. (A “cascade of death,” Prof. Troper called it, in his family and that of his neighbours.) Prof. Abella had married a child of survivors, born in a refugee camp in Germany in 1946. (Rosalie Abella is now a Supreme Court justice, the first refugee to hold that post.)

“I was a Jewish kid raised in Toronto with a PhD in history,” Prof. Troper said. “It had never occurred to me … what Canada’s role in the unfolding events might be.”

In all, Canada took in fewer than 5,000 Jewish refugees between 1933 and 1945, a period in which the United States (which also turned the St. Louis away) accepted 200,000 and Britain 70,000 (plus another 125,000 into British-administered Palestine). As for the refugees on the St. Louis, they were taken in by Britain, the Netherlands, France and Belgium – but were ultimately safe only in Britain. Two hundred and fifty-four died in death camps.

Prof. Troper recalls finding appeals from European Jews to a Jewish immigrant aid agency, who understood Canada was closed to them but enclosed photographs of their children.

“I was so caught up seeing parents trying to give away their children so they would have a chance at life.” He went home early from his research that day, overwhelmed.

“You read many of the documents, there are anti-Semitic comments – as if they’re talking about the weather,” Prof. Abella said. “It was just normal conversation. And this was a time when anti-Semitism was current in Canada. There were no Jewish university professors in all of Canada in the 1930s. There were no Jewish doctors in hospitals. No judges who were Jewish.”

Prof. Troper says he will never forget an interview with Malcolm John MacDonald, who had been British High Commissioner in Ottawa. “He told us the year he spent in Ottawa he had never seen such anti-Semitism in all his life.”

“Nobody cared,” Prof. Abella said. “Jews were a marginal issue. There was never a full cabinet discussion about Jews. It was always talked about at the tail end of meetings, sotto voce.”

Quebec was an important influence on the government’s policy, he said. “Quebec was opposed to all immigration because it felt that its influence in Confederation would be undermined. And since Jews at that time were the most visible of the minorities allowed into Canada, [Quebec] led the campaign against Jewish immigration and threatened Mackenzie King with separation, with a crisis in Confederation.”

But it was Mr. King – in power for most of the 1920s and from 1935-48 – and his cabinet who were ultimately responsible for closing Canada’s doors, the authors wrote. The PM’s diary records his sympathy for the racial ideas emanating from Nazi Germany: He feared “too great an intermixture of foreign strains of blood.”

A pro-refugee petition from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Dec. 7, 1943.

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS

The work of the two professors had an immediate impact. At a time when Vietnamese refugees were fleeing their country in boats, Canada’s top-ranking immigration official, Jack Manion, read their academic article, published long before the book, and gave it to the immigration minister, Ron Atkey.

”This should not be you,” he told Mr. Atkey, who then spoke passionately about it to cabinet. “He drew the parallels to our attention, was moved by it himself, and we all were,” Joe Clark, who was then prime minister of a Progressive Conservative government, said in a 2015 interview with The Globe and Mail. Mr. Clark then increased Canada’s resettlement of the Vietnamese refugees to 50,000 from 12,000. And on that resettlement program, widely viewed as a success, the current government modelled its intake of 50,000-plus Syrian refugees over the past three years.

Mr. Trudeau’s apology comes 10 days after a gunman, apparently angry about Jewish efforts to help refugees from Central America, shot 11 Jews dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“For the guy who did the shooting in Pittsburgh,” Prof. Troper said, “when it comes to Jews and refugees, none continues to be too many.”

Source: The anti-Semitic history that brought Canada’s MS St. Louis decision to light

Trudeau to offer formal apology in the Commons for fate of MS St. Louis

Will be interesting to see if any of the groups that suffered from wartime internment or other restrictions (e.g., Ukrainian, German and Italian Canadians) will ask for an apology (Japanese Canadians, given the nature of their internment and displacement, received their apology under the Mulroney government).

This apology completes the most obvious cases of immigration restrictions which merit an apology (Chinese Canadians for the head tax, Indo-Canadians for the Komagatu Maru):

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deliver another official apology in the House of Commons, this time over the fate of the MS St. Louis.

“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,” Trudeau said in a statement, which doesn’t say when he plans to deliver the apology.

The prime minister said that while an apology can’t change Canada’s history or bring back those who lost their lives, acknowledging the result of the decision to turn away the MS St. Louis — the deaths of 254 people in the Holocaust — is key to learning from the past.

“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,'” Trudeau said. “I look forward to offering this apology on the floor of the House.”

In 1939, the St. Louis left Germany carrying 907 Jewish passengers fleeing persecution from the Nazi regime. The ship was turned away from Cuba and the United States before trying to dock in Halifax.

When the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King refused to let them disembark, the ship returned to Europe.

About half the passengers were taken in by the U.K., the Netherlands, France and Belgium. About 500 of them returned to Germany, where 254 were killed in concentration and internment camps.

Source: Trudeau to offer formal apology in the Commons for fate of MS St. Louis

How to apologize, the National Geographic way: Denise Balkissoon

Good commentary:

Everybody’s saying sorry these days, for transgressions old and new, big and small. Earlier this month, Canadian singer Jacob Hoggard, of the band Hedley, joined the list of high-profile men issuing apologies for their past treatment of women after an accusation of sexual assault.

The President of Poland apologized for the 1968 expulsion of Jewish people from the country, and The Chronicle-Journal newspaper in Thunder Bay apologized for a headline that made fun of a wave of assaults on Indigenous people.

None of this went over well.

In every case, observers accused the apologizers of acting insincerely: of being more sorry that they got caught than of their hurtful actions, of offering hollow mea culpas without committing to meaningful change. There was, though, one admission of guilt widely considered sincere and it was made by National Geographic.

This week, the 130-year-old magazine published its April issue, on the topic of race. Alongside stories about twins born with different skin tones and a lengthy, genetics-based explanation of why race doesn’t really exist, it included an editor’s letter with a headline that made a stark admission: For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.

Identifying herself as the magazine’s first female, Jewish editor-in-chief, Susan Goldberg details the findings of historian John Edwin Mason, whom she enlisted to parse how the magazine’s historical coverage has presented race and ethnicity. He found that it often ignored the voices and movements of African-Americans and other communities of colour in the United States, while presenting non-white people around the world as exotic, primitive creatures with inferior intellect.

“National Geographic comes into existence at the height of colonialism and the world was divided into the colonizers and the colonized,” Mr. Mason said. “That was a colour line and National Geographic was reflecting that view of the world.”

After unashamedly dissecting the past, Ms. Goldberg promised a future full of writing, photograph and videos made by a true diversity of creators. This month’s contributors’ masthead is encouraging.

The issue is meant to commemorate, on April 4, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil-rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. It’s a fitting occasion to look at the realities, rather than the ideals, of racial justice. Since his death, Dr. King has often been, well, white-washed: depicted as a kind, hand-holding teddy bear willing to spend his lifetime coaxing white Americans into sharing.

It’s common for people uncomfortable with discussions of race to simplify Dr. King’s work. Too often, his dream that “people … not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character” is invoked as a way to avoid grappling with the privileges and responsibilities of whiteness.

But Dr. King was very clear that he didn’t find good intentions to be of much use in the fight for civil rights. When criticized by white clergy for direct-action tactics, such as sit-ins, the Baptist minister sharply condemned their unwillingness to disturb their own comfort, which he saw as complicity in black oppression.

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block is not … the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate,” he wrote in his 1963 Letter From a Birmingham Jail, published the same year as his more famous Nobel acceptance speech. “Shallow understanding by people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding by people of ill will,” he added.

It seemed fairly shallow this week when actor-producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon announced future projects by their production company Pearl Street will have an “inclusion rider.” A concept introduced to the wider world by Frances McDormand when she picked up her Oscar, an inclusion rider is a requirement by the biggest players on a movie that various types of diversity be represented among cast and crew.

Such targets are a great idea, but these BFF-bros have multiple failings on the diversity front to atone for – such as when Mr. Damon mansplained diversity to black producer Effie Brown; or when Mr. Affleck coerced Henry Louis Gates Jr. into concealing the movie star’s relatives’ slave-owning past, leading to questions about the integrity of Prof. Gates’s geneological TV show, Finding Your Roots. Before attempting to change the system, they need to admit their place in it.

As National Geographic has shown, change begins at home. The magazine’s broad approach to rectifying its past is promising because it recognizes both individual actions and a larger system. As the age of apologies rolls on, it’s a good example to follow.

via How to apologize, the National Geographic way – The Globe and Mail

Reflecting on the Canadian government’s apology to Japanese-Canadians | Paul Kariya

28 years after, Kariya, one of the negotiators for the apology, reflects:

What heinous crime was committed that necessitated such harsh treatment with no recourse to justice?  The War Measures Act was employed to infringe human rights and property title and brand these people enemy aliens.  Although the cloak of national security was used to justify the government actions, no evidence has ever been found of sabotage or espionage on the part of any Japanese-Canadian.

 Canada was at war with Japan, Italy and Germany. But the same actions were not taken against all residents of Italian and German descent.  Why Japanese-Canadians?  The instigation and motivation was racism and economic opportunism led by a small number of politicians and other interest groups who used the Second World War as a cover to whip up hysteria and manipulate government to destroy a vibrant, peaceful and contributing community.

Only a few institutions of society opposed the mass uprooting, suggesting it was wrong and unjust.  Municipal governments, political parties, labour unions, service clubs and mainstream churches either led the charge or passively stood by.  Only the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation Party and some evangelical churches said it was wrong.

Could this happen again?  I don’t think so. The Japanese-Canadian community helped draft the emergency Measures Act (successor to the War Measures Act) and today we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  But as we see in the current U.S. election campaign, the ugliness of racism can emerge in seemingly legitimate circumstances.

The only other group of people treated racially in this manner in B.C. with far more devastating impacts and horrors were First Nations peoples.  And despite progress in health, education and economic development, are we really dealing with the very difficult fundamental subject that a past mentor, the late James Gosnell, Nisga’a leader, named 40 years ago, as “the Land Question.”

My father and mother never got their house, fishing boat or possessions back.  The Custodian of Enemy Alien Property was supposed to keep all confiscated private properties in trust for later return, but instead these were almost all immediately sold off.  It was heart breaking to have my father point out to a twelve year old me, “that boat named Marine K used to be ours.”

In 1988 symbolic individual compensation of $21,000 was awarded to surviving internees. But of course, title, property, possessions, lives and communities could not be returned.

I expect reconciliation with First Nations in B.C. will not see all former lands and resources returned. But we can pick up the pace to resolve the injustices through negotiation.

Let me say, I have never felt prouder to be a Canadian than when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney turned to us in the House of Commons Gallery that September day in 1988 and introduced us Japanese-Canadians and then proceeded to read the government’s apology.

Source: Reflecting on the Canadian government’s apology to Japanese-Canadians | Vancouver Sun