On June 9th 1939, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, refused to provide sanctuary to the 907 Jewish passengers aboard the MS St Louis. The MS St Louis was forced to return to Europe where 254 of the predominately Jewish passengers later lost their lives in the Holocaust.
On May 8th 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he was apologizing for Canada’s failure to help those aboard the MS St. Louis, and for the fate that many of the passengers suffered by saying, “It is our collective responsibility to acknowledge this difficult truth, learn from this story, and continue to fight against Antisemitism every day, as we give meaning to the solemn vow: ‘Never again.'”
For this, Prime Minister Trudeau was derided by many in the media, and by many in the Conservative Party who called him soft, said that he apologized too much, and that these apologies meant nothing in light of the current problems of the Liberal government according to Don Martin.
I mean, hadn’t Prime Minister Trudeau personally apologized to gay men and women targeted for their sexuality? Apologized for Canada’s 1914 decision to turn away the Komagata Maru, a ship that was carrying 376 mostly Sikh migrants? Exonerated six Tsilhqot’in chiefs who were hanged in 1864 for their role in the killing of six white colonists?
So many in the media seemed to forget WHY we need to own up to our past errors, not to simply apologize, but to remember our mistakes and ensure it never happens again. To prevent what George Santayana so poignantly stated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
All one needs to do is read the comments on the Tweet by Prime Minister Trudeau announcing the apology to see why this type of historical apology is necessary, and why never again is precarious at best.
When Canada denied asylum to Jewish refugees on board the MS St. Louis in 1939, we failed the passengers, their descendants, and the community. For this, we will deliver a formal apology in the House for this shameful chapter of our history: https://t.co/3nSCa7Hh7P
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 9, 2018
Some of the comments on the Tweet are horrific. But force yourself to read them.
To further illustrate the need to remember, 10 days before the apology, a white supremacist opened fire on worshipers at a synagogue, killing 11 elderly people in their sanctuary on Shabbat simply because they were Jewish.
This is not a post about apologies however, it is about leadership. Leadership when it is politically unpopular to make decisions that may only look good through a historical lens – and why Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party of Canada fail this test.
There is a perfect storm coming our way. The rise of global right wing populism mixed with the catastrophe of climate change is setting conditions for a worst case scenario that would make any global catastrophe that has come before seem like a day at the beach. Only the most fact averse among us refuse to see this reality.
I offer one simple question. Who do you trust to lead us through this? I mean lead, not send dog-whistling Tweets that bend the very concept of truth and decency – but lead. Not to just talk, but act. Not to appease your base, but make actual decisions on a national level with global consequences.
This brings me to Andrew Scheer.
Have you ever once seen Mr. Scheer give a press conference where he was able to make a firm or unequivocal statement or decision while addressing the media? This story here illustrates Andrew Scheer’s inability to make definitive extemporaneous statements when asked directly.
Find me one instance where the Conservative Party has not sold fear as the main part of it’s messaging. The list of things the CPC have demonized in the name of political gamesmanship is extensive. Think of each issue starting with the Canada Summer Jobs attestation, to small business tax code modernization, native healing lodges, and the Carbon Tax, etc. – and how they chose to sell fear and division in the place of offering an alternative policy. It is because their only alternative policy is fear.
Can you imagine any scenario that Andrew Scheer would stand up to Doug Ford or to Jason Kenney? Imagine Andrew Scheer standing up to another world leader, the way Justin Trudeau has on numerous occasions with Donald Trump standing right beside him? That thought is laughable.
I do not know how any one in their right mind can see Andrew Scheer as a leader of any consequence, and that terrifies me. We are entering a time in global history where strong leadership is required, where decisions will have to be made with an eye to the future and not to appease an increasingly nationalistic base. We need a leader who can stand strong, and be willing alienate supporters for the betterment of all Canadians. We need a leader who will be willing to take on his own party to ensure that Canada meets its international obligations to migrants and asylum seekers. If Andrew Scheer could not even stand up to Maxime Bernier or Michael Cooper, how can we expect him to stand up to the Trump Administration on tariffs or trade disputes?
Andrew Scheer has had a platform to lead and has refused to do so. He has had a platform to show what policy alternatives he would offer Canadians, and has chosen to divide and scare. Canadians need to know exactly who he is, who he represents, and who he is beholden to when we cast our ballots on October 21st, 2019.