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Canadian Jewish Congress opposes honors for late mayor

TORONTO (JTA) — The Canadian Jewish Congress is opposing posthumous honors for the first female mayor of Ottowa because she allegedly opposed taking in Jewish refugees during World War II.

Jewish Congress officials, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, charged that Charlotte Whitton, who served as mayor of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, from 1951 to 1956 and again from 1960 to 1964, "never publicly recanted her anti-Semitism and sought no atonement for the dire consequences of her actions. Her poisoning of the well helped close Canada’s door to Jewish refugee orphans, dooming them to their fate in the Holocaust."

Last year, the Ottawa Committee of the Famous Five Foundation asked the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to recognize Whitton for her pioneering work as a politician, feminist and social worker.

Whitton’s role in blocking non-British refugee children — 80 percent of whom were Jewish — is cited in the 1982 book, "None is Too Many," by Canadian historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper.

According to the book, which takes its title from a phrase uttered by a Canadian bureaucrat in response to a query on how many Jews Canada would accept following the war, Whitton was an "influential voice" in the early 1940s, when she served on the Canadian Welfare Council and the Canadian National Committee on Refugees.

Whitton "nearly broke up" the inaugural meeting of the committee on refugees "by her insistent opposition and very apparent anti-Semitism," the book says. The Canadian Jewish Congress, it adds, considered Whitton, who died in 1975, "an enemy of Jewish immigration."

Official honors of this sort are decided by Parks Canada, which has made no public statement on the request.

Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber told JTA he is confident that "given [Whitton] acting on her anti-Semitism, it is highly unlikely she will receive honors from any level of government."

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