In June 1939, more than 900 German Jews fleeing persecution by the Nazis were forced to return to Europe, including 254 who'd later die in concentration camps. Traveling aboard the MS St. Louis, they'd been turned away by the US and Cuba before a group of Canadians urged the federal government to accept them, per the CBC. A poppy symbolizing remembrance ablaze on his lapel in the House of Commons, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday issued "a long overdue apology" for the denial that followed amid anti-Semitic sentiment. "To harbor such hatred and indifference towards the refugees was to share in the moral responsibility for their deaths," for "our silence permitted the Nazis to come up with their own final solution," he said, per the Canadian Press. The US State Department issued its own apology in 2012.
While some of the 907 passengers were delivered to the UK, Netherlands, France, and Belgium, roughly half of the 500 who ended up back in Germany died before the end of World War II, per the CBC. Adolf Hitler's test of "the bounds of our humanity and the limits of our solidarity … was one the Canadian government failed miserably," but it was "indifferent to the suffering of Jews … long after," Trudeau said, noting "discrimination and violence against Jewish people in Canada and around the world continues at an alarming rate." The New York Times notes "Trudeau has made apologizing a regular ritual, even by Canadian standards." Conservative opposition leader Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, says "there is no shame as a country in acknowledging shameful acts in our past. The real shame would be in forgetting them." (Trudeau has also apologized for the execution of indigenous chiefs.)