TORONTO (JTA) — A Canadian Jewish group rebuked the Liberal Party’s leader for comparing Ottawa’s poor record in admitting Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 1940s to the intolerance facing Muslims today.
In a speech in Montreal on Monday, Justin Trudeau attacked the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for deliberately stoking fears and prejudice about Muslims in Harper’s introduction of anti-terror legislation.
Canadians “should all shudder to hear the same rhetoric that led to a ‘none is too many’ immigration policy toward Jews in the ’30s and ’40s being used to raise fears against Muslims today,” Trudeau said, referencing the title of a book that documented Canada’s dismal record on admitting Jewish refugees before and during World War II.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA, said in a statement that Trudeau’s remark was “unfortunate, distracting from the important message he was trying to convey. We view this comparison as inaccurate and inappropriate.”
Canada’s restrictions on Jewish immigration prior to the Holocaust “was the product of an era in which Jews faced extensive social and institutional discrimination” in the country, according to CIJA. “When it comes to racism and bigotry in Canada, there is little to compare between 1939 and 2015.”
But there was no censure from CIJA of remarks by Canada’s public security minister, who on Tuesday invoked the Holocaust to support the Conservative government’s proposed anti-terror bill.
Appearing before a government committee studying the bill, Stephen Blaney said “the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chamber, it began with words,” and that the proposed law is needed to protect Canadians from a “jihadist threat.”
Asked by reporters why he referred to the Holocaust, Blaney “gave a rambling answer,” the Toronto Star reported, ending with, “We have to take into account that now the terrorists are targeting everyone. And that’s why we need Bill C-51, to protect Canadians against this general threat by terrorists.”
An opposition member of Parliament, Randall Garrison, called Blaney’s Holocaust comparison “overinflated rhetoric” and said “there is no equivalence to anything we’re talking about here today to the Holocaust.” He urged Blaney to retract the remark.