WHEN CANADA BETRAYED THE JEWS
What follows are excerpts from an address delivered by The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney to the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee Annual Dinner in Montreal on May 9, 2013
It was when I moved to Montreal to practice law in 1964 that I first came into contact with a large Jewish community.
The Jews of Monteal were, in my judgement, remarkable. Families were close, values were taught, education was revered, work was honoured and success was expected. How could it be, I often wondered, that the progenitors of such a law abiding and productive group — that was demonstrably making such a powerful contribution to the economic, cultural and political life of Montreal and Canada — was reviled over centuries and decimated in a six-year period, beginning in the year of my birth.
It was during my early years in Montreal that I learned of the shocking culture of anti-Semitism that prevailed in this country and this city within our own lifetimes — of a strike at a French-language hospital because a Jewish graduate of Universite de Montreal medical school was appointed to intern there. Of the notorious quota system at McGill, with Jewish students also needing higher marks to get in. Of clubs where Jews needn’t apply.
In 1937 our Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King visited Germany to meet Chancellor Adolf Hitler. King recorded the following impressions of that meeting: “He (Hitler) smiled very pleasantly and indeed had a sort of appealing and affectionate look in his eyes. My sizing up of the man as I sat and talked with him was that he is really one who truly loves his fellow man…As I talked with him I could not but think of Joan of Arc. He is distinctly a mystic.”
This, from the Prime Minister of Canada less than 2 years before Hitler launched the bloodiest war in world history.
The following day, our Prime Minister had lunch in Berlin with the Nazi Foreign Minister von Neurath, who delivered himself of some interesting opinions: “He admitted that they “the Nazis” had taken some pretty rough steps in cleaning up the situation, but the truth was the country was going to pieces at the time Hitler took hold. He said to me that I would have loathed living in Berlin with the Jews, and the way in which they had increased their numbers in the city, and were taking possession of its more important part. He said there was no pleasure in going to a theatre which was filled with them.”
And yet Mackenzie King wrote: “I left…feeling that I had met a man whose confidence I would continue to enjoy through the rest of my days…After returning to the hotel, I wrote a letter of some length by hand to von Neurath whom I like exceedingly. He is, if there ever was one, a genuinely kind, good man.”
The Prime Minister sets both the agenda and the tone in Ottawa. Is it any wonder then that Canada was slammed shut to Jewish immigrants before and during the War and when asked how many Jews would be allowed into Canada after the War, a senior immigration official famously replied: “None is too many”?
This was a moment when Canada’s heritage and promise were betrayed — because of political expediency; because the Prime Minister had a visceral distrust of Jews and was afraid he could not carry his cabinet on an open-door policy, which in government circles was very unpopular.
But Prime Ministers are not chosen to seek popularity. They are elected to provide leadership. Prime Ministers are supposed to tell Canadians not what they want to hear but what they have to know.
And that is why you all must take an active interest in politics and public policy debates in Quebec and Canada. You must be present in all political parties where policy is developed, stands are taken and leaders are chosen. Political action operates from the ground up. If you are not there with the foot soldiers, you don’t get to qualify for promotion up the ranks, where the major decisions are ultimately made.
So join the political party of your choice and participate strongly in its growth. Both you and Canada shall reap the benefits of such activism. And I can tell you that, over a lifetime, I have never seen an instance where an organization of any kind has failed to be enriched and enhanced by the presence of a large, vigorous and vocal participation from the Jewish community.
Article from the National Post