Anti-Semitism is a form of bigotry that seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity, and personhood.i Discrimination, prejudice, and hostility towards Jews were widely common in many countries even prior to World War Two.iiHowever, anti-Semitism reached its highest peak surrounding the time of the Second World War. People of the Jewish faith had always been viewed as “outcasts” or “aliens” in many societies including Canada’s. Anti-Semitism and Nazism were extremely prevalent all over Canada during the Second World War. Expressions of racism and discrimination towards Jewish Canadians living in Canada were the norm in Canadian society.iii Racial bigotry and discrimination did not only exist in Germany and the rest of Europe but it also existed in Canada. The Canadian immigration disregarded Jewish refugees and struggled with accepting any non-British or non-American immigrants causing Jews to be denied entry to Canada. The Canadian immigration and refugee policies also resulted in Jews feeling unwelcomed and unwanted. Many Canadians along with the Canadian government deeply sympathized and supported fascism, which caused Nazism and anti-Semitism in Canada to rise even higher.
Discrimination and racial prejudice towards Jewish Canadians living in Canada were seen as part of the mainstream in Canadian society. Many, if not all Jews living in Canada before WWII and even when hardly any were living there at the time, experienced anti-semitism. Expressions of anti-semitism existed all over Canada and it also came in many forms including anti-semitism being preached in most churches. Anti-semitism was also heard in the halls of the Parliament, taught in many schools, was read and, published in newspapers.iv Jews were not allowed to attend various school boards in Canada because Canada’s population mostly consisted of Christians. Universities and other professional schools also highly discriminated against Jews.v Most industries refused to hire Jews and Jews who were doctors, nurses, engineers, and architects were forced to keep their identity discreet in order to find jobs.vi Many labels were assigned to Jews such as murderers and enemies of church because many believed that they had killed Christ and they refused to repent or convert to Christianity. By the time World War Two had started, Jews were banned from almost all distinct areas in Canadian sectors. Many movements that expressed how Canadians felt about Jewish Canadians took place before and during World War Two. Various posters that said “No Jews or Dogs Allowed” or “Gentiles Only” were seen all over Canada. These propaganda posters were used to publicize and promote the fact that Jews did not have a place in Canada. The “Achat Chez Nous” movement was a movement attempted by the church and nationalist leaders to institute a boycott of all Jewish businesses which forced Jews to leave.vii In 1910, a violent act against Jewish storekeepers occurred in Quebec City initiated by Joseph Plamondon. Jewish businesses were destroyed which resulted in Jews fighting back and launching a civil action against Plamondon. Another example of anti-semitic acts towards Jewish Canadians was the Riot at Christie Pits in Toronto. On August 16, 1933, a riot occurred at Christie Pits in which Jewish baseball players were insulted by an anti-semitic group of children. The fighting exploded when the group unveiled a flag with a swastika which further provoked an angry reaction from the Jews.viii The violent act was seen as a warning for Jewish Canadians. Many influencers such as Goldwin Smith contributed to creating an anti-semitic Canada.ix He wrote about his hatred for Jews in forms of books, articles, and letters. His hatred for Jews inspired Canadians such as Mackenzie King and Henri Bourassa which resulted in anti-semitic points of views to be more prevalent in Canadian society. Nazism and anti-semitism did not only exist in Germany and Europe but in other parts of the world as well. Canada was immensely unjust towards Jewish Canadians during the surrounding time of WWII.
In the utmost time of need for Canadian assistance during World War two, Canada failed to aid Jewish refugees that were in need of help and Jewish refugees that were seeking asylum in Canada. The Nuremberg Laws were laws enabled by Adolf Hitler which plundered Jews of their rights in Germany. These laws forced Jews to flee Europe for the reason that all of their rights as citizens were taken away. “The Night of the Broken Glass” also known as “Kristallnacht” made it very clear that Jews were no longer wanted in Germany. The violence that occurred that night also resulted in Jews fleeing Germany because their businesses, homes and even their synagogues were either looted, destroyed or burnt down. As the outcome of Jews being shoved out of Germany, Jews looked to other parts of the world such as Canada to help them in their tribulations. Unfortunately, Canada greatly discriminated against non-American or non-British immigrants or refugees causing Jews to be rejected from Canada. The event of the MS St. Louis is a great example of how biased and inconsiderate Canada used to be. Almost one thousand Jews who came from Europe were involuntarily forced to turn back since Canada refused to open its gates to the incoming refugees. These refugees were sent back to Europe and distributed into various concentration camps and most likely died there. Prime Minister, Mackenzie King had a huge influence in the way Canadians felt about Jews trying to seek safety. Mackenzie King was worried that the Jewish immigration would “pollute” Canada and as a result, the government ensured that no more Jews would be immigrating to Canada.x Jews were viewed as the “least desirable” of all immigrants and the government even classified Jews to be unassimilable foreigners.xi Canada even had the worst record for sanctuary for Jews in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Many Canadians considered Jewish people as aliens who had invaded Canada and Jews were thought to be unfit for the concept of what a Canadian should be.xiiCanadians did not like the idea of immigrants or refugees coming to Canada for various reasons. One reason they thought that Jews had no place in their country was because the Great Depression was not completely over yet. The rate of unemployment was still extremely high and Canadians thought that Jews would only be competing for jobs which would result in wages decreasing even lower.xiii The government became progressively stricter in regulating the immigration policy during the depression which caused a rapid increase of deportations occurring during the depression. Canada definitely struggled with accepting people of different races, religion, and sexuality during this time period. Canada during WWII was easily effected and impacted by anti-semitism resulting in local Canadians being threatened by immigrants and refugees seeking shelter in Canada.
The sympathy of local Canadians and Canadian political parties towards fascism caused anti-semitism and Nazism to exist in Canada during World War Two. Fascism is the military dictatorships, extreme right-wing governments and organizations and even individuals who are violently anti-communist or anti-semitic.xiv Canadians deeply supported fascism because most believed that fascism could potentially be a solution to the depression. Fascism was enticing to those that were threatened by their economic catastrophe. Many far-right political parties existed in Canada such as the “Social Credit Party”, “The Orange Order”, and “The Native Sons of Canada”.xv These parties and organizations all had one thing in common which was that all of them truly despised the idea of Jews. The Social Credit Party, founded by William Aberhart believed in ideologies that demonstrated capitalism.xvi William Aberhart convinced Albertan’s that capitalism was the only way to ascend out of the depression. He also believed that Jews and communism were at fault for the depression and the economic downfall of Canada.xvii William Aberhart used propaganda to make it seem like Jews were responsible for the economic hardships that Canada faced and continued to face during the years of World War Two. Another far-right organization was The Canadian Nationalist Order of Winnipeg(The Brown Shirts) led by a former war veteran and former member of Ku Klux Klan, William Whittaker.xviii The Canadian Nationalist Order was composed of a powerful group of former soldiers who promoted anti-semitism through wearing swastika tie pins and by publicly speaking about their hatred for Jews regarding the global Jewish conspiracy.xixA famous anti-semite was Adrien Arcand. He referred to himself as the “Canadian Fuhrer” and hoped to build a fascist state for Canada.xx These organizations further promoted anti-semitism in Canada and even sparked anti-immigrant sentiments and violent street protests against Jews.xxi Canadians were easily and heavily influenced by these political parties and were truly convinced that Jews were the real enemies of civilization.
Racial prejudice and bigotry towards Jewish Canadians, the inequitable immigration and refugee policies and the support of fascism in Canada were all colossal factors that contributed to anti-semitic views that were predominant in Canadian society during the Second World War. Racism and discrimination towards Jewish Canadians living in Canada were extremely predominant. Local Canadians were blatantly racist and openly expressed their hatred for Jewish Canadians.xxii This type of prejudice behaviour in Canada caused Jews to feel degraded and unwanted. Many political influencers who were anti-semitic shaped Canada to become exceedingly biased towards non-Jewish people. People of the Jewish faith was denied entry to Canada simply because of their religion. At the time when Jews were in desperate need of help, Canada failed in doing so. The event of the MS St. Louis is an excellent example of the mistreatment of Jews just because of the preconceived notions Canadians had of them. Anti-semitic views were widespread among Canada’s provinces. Many Canadians were also sympathetic towards fascism for the reason that they saw it as a solution to their economic crisis. Many far right and fascist political parties that existed in Canada during World War Two is enough evidence to prove that Anti-semitism and Nazism existed all over Canada to the fullest extent. The wrongdoings that were done against the people of Jewish faith cannot be reversed but it can be learned from. As South African, political leader, Nelson Mandela once said, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”xxiii