ASSOCIATED PRESS Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on November 7 delivers a formal apology on behalf of his nation for turning away a ship full of Jewish refugees trying to flee Nazi Germany in 1939.
"We were surrounded by a group of thugs who said, 'Jews are not allowed here, get out.' And we ran and they caught up and they beat us up and they stole our money and they left us in a pool of blood".
"While decades have passed since we turned our backs on Jewish refugees, time has by no means absolved Canada of its guilt or lessened the weight of its shame", Trudeau said in a speech.
But the shooting deaths of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue nearly two weeks ago have reframed the prime minister's plan for the apology and Jewish leaders expect Trudeau to say something more than that the Canadian government is sorry for a decision made decades ago.
When Cuba, the United States and Canada turned the ship away, it returned to Europe where several countries took the refugees in and, according to historians and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), 255 of them were later killed in World War II, majority in concentration camps. "Discrimination and violence against Jewish people in Canada and around the world continues at an alarming rate".
Hitler "watched on as we refused their visas, ignored their letters and denied them entry", the prime minister said in Parliament.
"And I pledge to you all now: we will do more", he said, noting that around 17 percent of all Canadian hate crimes target Jewish people.
The MS St. Louis was a German ocean liner that set sail from Hamburg in May 1939.
Louis returned to Germany and the passengers scattered in Europe. The US State Department issued its own apology in 2012.
The story of the MS St. Louis resurfaced in headlines again in 2017, when an American Jewish educator launched a Twitter account that names passengers of the ship who were later killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Earlier, Trudeau met with Ana Maria Gordon, the only surviving Canadian passenger from the ship, and her family members, and spoke about the need to fight anti-Semitism. He said, however, he hopes it helps those hearing the apology to heal.
As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould told the reception later that "today represented the very best of what Parliament can be".
"We all must, as individuals, communities and as a nation, help these people in every way we can".