The latest memorial unveiled at Pier 21 doesn’t proudly illustrate Canada’s welcoming arms to refugees and immigrants.
Instead it’s a symbol of the hateful and racist policies that turned away more than 900 Jewish refugees desperate to escape Germany in 1939.
The MS St. Louis was called the “voyage of the damned” because the ship was turned away from Cuba, the U.S. and Canada then forced to sail back to Europe.
“Canada was the last country to reject their cries for help before they headed back to Europe, where many of the passengers would die in the ovens and gas chambers of the Third Reich,” said Irving Abella, author of None is Too Many.
“This memorial will remind future generations of Canadians of the Canada that once was: A Canada permeated with hatred, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.”
Those four words are inscribed on wheels of the memorial to show how intolerance reached such a pitch that the St. Louis was turned away. The memorial is called the Wheel of Conscience.
It was created by Daniel Libeskind, former Pole and child of Holocaust survivors.
He said he wanted to explore the elements that drove the tragedy. He added the memorial is made of stainless steel so people can see their reflection in order to examine their own feelings.
Nova Scotia Lt-Gov. Mayann Francis said the St. Louis rejection remains “raw” in this city and there is no better home for the memorial than at Pier 21.
Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship and immigration, called it a “perpetual memorial of regret” from the government and people of Canada to the Jewish community.
He also called it a gift to the living and to acknowledge the 25,000 Jewish refugees who fled to Canada after the war.
In an interview after the ceremony, Kenney said he’s spoken to survivors of the St. Louis in the past and they were deeply appreciative of Canada’s efforts to recognize their experience and hope the other countries will do the same.