Canada’s Justin Trudeau acted honourably this week when apologised over his country having turned away more than 900 Jews fleeing the Third Reich. Speaking before Parliament, the Prime Minister referred specifically to the case of the MS St Louis which had set sail from Germany to Cuba in 1939; intending to proceed to its final destination of the US. Yet once in Havana, the authorities there only allowed some 28 of a total of 937 mainly Jewish passengers to disembark. The Cuban leadership and citizenry had feared what an influx of immigrants would do to an already fragile economy. And with one passenger having died during the voyage, the remaining 907 were then turned away by the Americans before the Canadians did the same. Not everyone, however, is convinced by the apology given that it has come so late in the day. Sceptics from within the Jewish community have termed Trudeau’s words meaningless; with some pointing to the fact that general elections are scheduled for next year. Elsewhere, others feel that a demonstration of good faith should take the form of beefing up security for synagogues across the country while devising a national plan of action to combat anti-Semitism. Indeed, the PM himself has confirmed that 17 percent of all hate crimes in Canada target Jews. Yet possible political considerations aside, we, here at this newspaper, believe that this was an important parliamentary address by a sitting head of government. Not least because it goes far beyond simply expressing remorse. This is an art that has been perfected by American presidents – from Clinton to Bush Jnr to Obama – regarding the US role in the African slave trade. All three expressed grave remorse but the glaring absence of an outright apology conveniently skirted the issue of accountability. All that being said, the real and overwhelming tragedy is that the major western powers, along with the political elites here in the Global South, appear unwilling to learn from history. From slavery to Japanese internment to colonisation to the Holocaust to the still unresolved Palestinian question. Fast-forward to the present and Donald Trump feels sufficiently at ease to talk of a Central American Caravan of invasion while enforcing a controversial Muslim travel ban. Across the pond, David Cameron tightened the screws on Fortress Europe against fellow EU citizens from Eastern Europe. His successor, Theresa May saw fit initiate the deportation of the Windrush generation. In broader terms, the Tories are criticised for failing to tackle reports of in-house Islamophobia. Labour is charged with the same when it comes to anti-Semitism. And still NATO bullets and bombs continue to rain down on the Muslim world; decimating entire societies and displacing millions. Similarly, rich nations carry on selling arms; knowing full well that these will be turned on the poorest people in the world, as is happening in Yemen. When viewed through a collective lens, it becomes hard to ignore the importance of an apology as an important first-step towards an admission of guilt. But once that is forthcoming, then comes the hard part of making amends for the past while vowing, ‘never again’. And meaning it. * Published in Daily Times, November 9th 2018.