Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 13 to 18
- Grade: 8 to 12
- Reading age: 9 to 18
Prior to the Second World War, Canada's Jewish community was well established in many cities, including Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg. As war grew closer, anti-Semitism across Europe was increasing. Hitler's Nazis were spreading hatred and violence towards Jews across Germany. At first, Jews were allowed to leave Germany and thousands escaped to save themselves and their families. Then countries around the world closed their doors to Jewish refugees. In 1939, the MS St. Louis sailed for Cuba with nearly a thousand Jewish men, women, and children looking for safety. They were turned away by Cuba, then the US. The ship sailed on to Canada.
Despite pleas from the Canadian Jewish community, the government refused to allow the passengers to land in Canada. After war broke out, Canada continued to refuse Jewish refugees entry. When Britain forced Canada to take some refugees in, Canada imprisoned them in internment camps — alongside Nazis. Some of these Jewish refugees were only teenagers.
Three years after the war ended and after the horrors of the Holocaust were universally known, Canada finally changed immigration policies and begin to accept Jews equally with other immigrants.
Canada's long history of anti-Semitic immigration policies was deemed shameful. In November 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an official apology to the Jewish community for Canada's refusal to accept the passengers of the MS St. Louis, as well as for its historical anti-Semitic policies.
About the author
Rona Arato is a children’s author with a strong interest in human rights. As a writer and editor for over twenty years, she has written on a wide variety of subjects including education, business, travel, fashion and Internet technology. Her work has appeared in mag-azines and newspapers in Canada, the United States, and England. Rona is the author of Fossils, Clues to Ancient Life and World of Water (Crabtree, 2004) and Ice Cream Town (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2007). Her new books include Working for Freedom: The Story of Josiah Henson for Napoleon (Fall 2008), Making a Difference for Maple Tree Press (Fall 2008), and Design It! for Tundra Books (Spring 2009). Rona began writing in the mid 1970s while raising her three children. She has also worked as a public relations consultant for profit and non-profit. She has taught adult Creative Writing for the Toronto District Board and conducted business writing workshops for profit and non-profit organizations in the Toronto area. She has written educational materials for organizations including Mosdos Press in Cleveland, Girl Guides of Canada, and B’nai Brith Canada. From 1994-1998, Rona had the privilege of serving as an interviewer for Survivors of the Shoa, a Steven Spielberg project that recorded the histories of Holocaust survivors. It was this experience that fostered her interest in and desire to write about human rights. Rona discovered Josiah Henson’s story while researching a project on Canadian heroes. She was immediately taken with his strength and courage in the face of seemingly insur-mountable obstacles. His dedication to human rights and freedom spoke to her heart and she hopes that his story will affect others, especially youth, in the same way it has affected her.
"A wonderful series [Righting Canada's Wrongs] of beautiful books."
"This story and the others in the “Righting Canada’s Wrongs” series should be essential teaching in Canadian classrooms at all grades."
CM: Canadian Review of Materials
Other titles by Rona Arato
The Last Train
A Holocaust Story
The Ship to Nowhere
On Board the Exodus
Sammy and the Headless Horseman
On an American Day Volume 1
Story Voyages through History 1750–1899
The Ordinary Things We Use Every Day and the Not-So-Ordinary Ways They Came to Be
On a Medieval Day
Story Voyages around the World
Mrs. Kaputnik's Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium
Protists: Algae, Amoebas, Plankton, and Other Protists
On a Canadian Day
Nine Story Voyages through History
Working for Freedom
The Story of Josiah Henson