24 August 2010
The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) has criticized posthumous honors for the first female mayor of Ottawa because of her opposition to taking in Jewish refugees during World War II. CJC officials, writing in the ‘Ottawa Citizen’, charged that Charlotte Whitton, who served as mayor of Canada's capital city from 1951 to 1956 and from 1960 to 1964, "never publicly recanted her anti-Semitism and sought no atonement for the dire consequences of her actions. Her poisoning of the well helped close Canada's door to Jewish refugee orphans, dooming them to their fate in the Holocaust."
Last year, the Ottawa Committee of the Famous Five Foundation had asked the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to recognize Whitton for her pioneering work as a politician, feminist and social worker. Whitton's role in blocking non-British refugee children – 80 percent of whom were Jewish – is cited in the 1982 book ‘None is Too Many’ authored by the historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper.
According to the book, which takes its title from a phrase uttered by a Canadian bureaucrat in response to a query on how many Jews Canada would accept after the war, Whitton was an "influential voice" in the early 1940s, when she served on the Canadian Welfare Council and the Canadian National Committee on Refugees. She "nearly broke up" the inaugural meeting of the committee on refugees "by her insistent opposition and very apparent anti-Semitism," the book says. The Canadian Jewish Congress, it adds, considered Whitton – who died in 1975 – "an enemy of Jewish immigration."
Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber told the ‘Jewish Telegraphic Agency’ he was confident that "given [Whitton] acting on her anti-Semitism, it is highly unlikely she will receive honors from any level of government."
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