Ursula Miller expects no apologies after surviving the ship of the damned without any help from the land she now calls home.
“We were just refused entrance,” the 86-year-old Jewish woman recalled from her home in Toronto. Miller was one of 907 passengers aboard the Jewish refugee ship St. Louis, which fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and was turned away from nation after nation — including Canada — in a shameful event that epitomizes the anti-Semitic immigration policies of the era.
Miller was lucky enough to eventually find sanctuary in England, and immigrated to Canada in 1948, but about a third of her fellow passengers became victims of the Holocaust.
The federal government has now set aside money for an educational program and monument to commemorate the dark chapter in Canadian history.
The government is not expected to formally apologize for the incident, but Miller doesn’t think that matters much. “Really and truly, I don’t care because, really, an apology is not going to do anything, help anything,” she said.
Her words of resignation come at a time when apologies for — or at least acknowledgement of — historical wrongs abound on Parliament Hill.
Last Thursday, the House of Commons unanimously passed a private member’s motion from Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla asking the government to apologize for denying entry to 376 Indian immigrants aboard the streamliner Komagata Maru in 1914.
The government is expected to fast-track and pass a private member’s bill introduced by Manitoba Tory MP James Bezan that would recognize the 1930s famine in Ukraine as genocide — in time for Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s visit to Canada next week. The government also recently announced a $10-million grant in recognition of Ukrainian and other Eastern European immigrants interned in Canadian work camps during World War I.
No one will come out and say these initiatives are a way for the federal Tories to reach out to the ethnic vote, even though Jason Kenney, who was brought into the federal cabinet to help engage multicultural communities, is handling the historical recognition programs.