NEW YORK (Oct. 25)
Canada’s restrictive immigration policies against Jews before and during World War II was part of a “definitive decision” taken by the Canadian government because it was felt that Canada already had too many Jews and did not want any more, according to a co-author of a recently published book detailing Canadian immigration policies toward European Jews.
“A look at the worst refugee crisis of modern history in the 1930’s indicates that of all the countries in the world, Canada had by far the worst record in providing sanctuary for European Jews,” Irving Abella told a luncheon meeting here today of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith’s European Affairs Committee.
Abella is co-author with Harold Troper, who teaches history at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto, of “None Is Too Many,” which is a stinging indictment of Canadian immigration policies during the war. Abella teaches history at the York University in Toronto. The book has been received with critical acclaim in Canada Where it has been a best seller, and has also won the National Jewish Book Award.
While noting that Canada in the 1930’s was in the midst of a severe economic depression, Abella said: “The reason that Canada turned its back on the Jews of Europe was because the Canadian government made a definitive decision: Canada had too many Jews and no more were wanted.”
The authors pointed out that Canada provided haven for fewer than 5,000 European emigres, and after the war, until the founding of Israel in 1948, admitted 8,000 more. “That record,” the authors say, “is arguably the worst of all possible refugee receiving states.”
Comparatively, the United States admitted 200,000, including what the authors contend was a select group of European intellectuals, cultural and scientific figures. Between 1933 and 1945, the United Kingdom admitted 70,000 Jews and allowed another 125,000 into British-administered Palestine.
The Jewish community, which consisted of one percent of the population and which was economically and politically unable to exert strong influence on the Canadian government, did little, Abella stated. The leadership, he continued, told the Jewish community to “keep quiet” on the issue of Jewish immigration for fecr of creating “an anti-Semitic backlash that would close the doors entirely.”
In the 1930’s, Abella told the luncheon, Canada “was a country permeated with anti-Semitism,” particularly in the province of Quebec where the Roman Catholic church headed an “onslaught” against the Jews. Abella said the French Canadian press also added to this anti-Semitism by describing Jews as “creatures to be avoided.”