Canada historically has been celebrated for being inclusive to all faiths, religions and races. Through this history there have been many triumphs in terms of human rights, inclusion, and diversity and yet these triumphs have been built on numerous failures. For this reason, it is important that we shine a light on our Nation’s setbacks with an eye on strengthening our foundations. The documentary Not Wanted: The Tragedy of the MS St. Louis follows the doomed journey of over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Germany in 1939 for safe haven in Cuba.
When the refugees were denied entry in Cuba, their call to the International community was ignored by Canada because of racially restrictive immigration policies. Despite public sympathy for this widely publicised event, the Mackenzie King government stated that admission of even one Jew would be too many.
Eventually the passenger’s hope that they would be able to disembark the ship in a country that would want to accept them was diminished and they returned home to occupied Europe where hundreds eventually died in Hitler’s concentration camps.
Using audio from a live debate about the MS St. Louis featuring Canadian law students, videos from experts, and testimonials from survivors, Not Wanted explores how the lessons of that fateful voyage and Canada’s inaction have impacted Canadian immigration policies in dealing with the treatment of refugees.