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Canadians Shocked by Book Which Reveals Canada Blocked Jews from Entering Country Before, During Wwi

January 12, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Shock waves are still reverberating over Canada in the wake of a book published in Toronto a little over four months ago. The book, “None Is Too Many” (Lester, Orpen and Denys), by historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper, both residents of Toronto, reveals that before and during World War II the Canadian government pursued a policy of actively excluding Jews from entry into the country.

This revelation, the result of monumental archival excavations conducted by the two researchers in Ottawa, has come as a surprise to most Canadian Jews, While there was a perception that the Canadian government between 1933 and 1948 was reluctant to facilitate Jewish immigration to Canada, no one before Abella and Troper ever realized the scope and intensity of Canada’s anti-Jewish bias.

Abella and Troper indicate in their book that one man, Charles Blair, was the major executor of Canada’s exclusionary immigration policies towards Jews. As a Deputy Minister for Immigration, assigned, for obscure bureaucratic reasons, to the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys, Blair had the responsibility to discharge the policies of the government of Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

Blair discharged them with a cruel zeal. Authors Abella and Troper show in their devastating indictment that Blair was an unrepentant anti-Semite who was so secure in his position that he left behind ample documentation filled with scurrilous anti-Semitic remarks. At one point during the early years of the war, Blair described Jews trying to get into Canada as “pigs at the feeding trough.”


While Blair was the main instrument in blocking Jewish immigration into Canada he was not according to Abella and Troper, acting unilaterally. In fact, he was expressing the views of the Cabinet and the Canadian people, especially the inhabitants of Quebec, Canada’s French-speaking province.

During the 1930s more than 100,000 signatures were collected on a petition organized by a French-Canadian group to protest the prospective immigration of European Jews. Newspapers in the province of Quebec published flagrantly anti-Semitic articles.

In their meticulous research into the period, Abella and Troper have unearthed details about certain Canadian political figures who later rose to great prominence in Canada, The information does not reflect well upon them.


Vincent Massey (brother of movie great Raymond Massey), lionized by the Canadian Jewish Congress in the 1950s as “a righteous gentile,” emerges in the Abella-Troper document as an eminence grise who, during his days in London, England (as an official Canadian diplomat), sent cables to Prime Minister King aspersing the quality of European Jews in language of an unsavory tone, and suggesting that Sudenten Germans would make much better immigrants for Aryan Canada.

Charlotte Whiton, now deceased but once the most flamboyant and feisty mayor of Ottawa, worked indefatigably in the early 1940s to prevent the rescue of Jewish children from the European cauldron. Her interests were devoted exclusively to saving British children.

Lester Pearson (later to become Prime Minister), the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1956 for his role in the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force, is portrayed as an ambitious politician who was ready to go along with Mackenzie King’s anti-Jewish rulings.

Ernest Lapointe, King’s Quebec colleague, is depicted in the Abella-Troper volume as the representative of Quebec’s fiercely anti-Jewish public opinion. He warned the Canadian Prime Minister that the entry of Jews would alienate Quebeckers, the major supporters of the Liberal Party, King accepted Lapointe’s warning.


The Abella-Troper volume, written deliberately in a flat prose style without a suggestion of hysteria, has been widely praised by Canadian critics. The torment of European Jews so amply described by the authors has produced a wave of mea culpas among book reviewers all across Canada, The only exception is a recent review in The Canadian Forum in which the reviewer suggests in an unbelievable non sequitur that Canadian soldiers died fighting to save European Jewry.

Abella indicates that his research has already produced three results. Ron Atkey, Minister of Immigration in the short-lived Joe Clark government, said, after being exposed to Abella’s revelation, that he did not want to go down in history as “the Charles Blair of the 80s” during discussions about the admittance of Vietnamese “boat people.”

Canada’s current Minister of Immigration, Lloyd Axworthy, said recently, in a meeting where Abella had spoken, that he wished to apologize for the conduct of his government during the war years. In addition, the Canadian government, as a result of the Abella-Troper book, has removed a sentence in its advertising brochure which boasted about Canada’s role in rescuing European Jews during the war.

The Abella-Troper volume is now into its fourth edition, an unprecedented development for Canadian books, and an unusual one for such a scholarly volume.

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