Mayor who blocked Jewish orphans honoured

Ottawa council unswayed by Holocaust survivor’s objections


A committee of the city council in Canada’s capital has voted in favour of naming the city’s new archives and library after a former mayor who personally lobbied to keep 500 Jewish orphans out of Canada during the Second World War. Charlotte Whitton, the first female mayor of Ottawa—and of any major city in North America—served from 1951 to 1956, and again from 1960 to 1964. The current mayor, former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Jim Watson, pushed for her name to be on the new archives. But according to the 1982 book by Irving Abella and Harold Troper, None is Too Many, Whitton lobbied against a proposal to allow Eastern European orphans, most of whom where Jewish, into Canada in the late 1930s, even though other groups were in favour. Holocaust survivor Vera Gara credited Whitton’s other achievements, but said: “Whether she knew it or not, those children were gassed at Auschwitz…. and that’s why we don’t want her name” on the new building. “Our view is that these were not just comments, but actions,” said Eric Vernon of the Canadian Jewish Congress. “She worked hard to make sure the doors were shut to these children … and that led directly to the death of these orphans.”

Ottawa City

Filed under:

Mayor who blocked Jewish orphans honoured

  1. Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed – the committee made the right decision. It is totally unreasonable to only stick it to Whitton with the current thinking of that time as Mackenzie King did the same with the MS St. Luis. She was so progressive for her time, social worker, politician, feminist, Canadian Council on Child Welfare, women's equality in politics and the workplace, federal unemployment relief policy. As a little kid I still remember some of her battles as mayor with her all male colleagues. Amazing woman and funny, who was afraid of no one – it was her idea to use the Rideau canal as a skating rink, but was laughed down at the time.

    "Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult."

    • "Amazing woman and funny, who was afraid of no one"

      Well, afraid of no one but Jewish orphans…

  2. When I looked up Charlotte Whitton, it seems she is most remembered for her racism and anti-semitism. I suppose the city council of Ottawa thinks this type of behavior should be rewarded with having a library named after you. How shameful. Regardless of any good works she may have done in her life, her rampant racist views is her real legacy. You can google her name yourself and come up with descriptions of her disgusting views. I am ashamed that Charlotte Whitton is a Canadian and I am now ashamed of the Ottawa city council, who back in the day would of been her collaborators.

  3. Racism and "progressivism" have always gone hand in hand. Whitton was more odious than most – she didn't even try to couch her anti-semitism in genteel classism; she actually just despised Jews, considered them inferior in that ever-so-classy physiological-social Darwinist sense, and didn't want them in Ottawa, or in Canada at all.

    • What makes you think she was progressive? She was a feminist, but that was only a small piece of her character. Despite her support for equal pay for equal work, she thought that divorce should be hard to obtain, and she was a blatant racist. She thought that all non-English immigration should be halted (including Ukrainian, which was big in her day). She belonged to the PC party. Hardly sounds like a progressive, unless you believe the canard that the old PC party was progressive.

  4. Charlotte Whitton is a canadian hero.

  5. What is about this story that people don't get? Whitton was an anti-Semite who given her position got to act out her hatred. It led to the death of chidren for heaven sake. And Ottawa city council wants to honour her? What have they been smoking?

  6. So Ottawa made a mistake in the past naming their library after a clever, funny and no doubt in many ways, brilliant woman that nevertheless was a blatant racist and anti semite. Her actions contributed to the death of many children. Ottawa wants to make same mistake again…? Seriously?

  7. Racism is wrong anytime anywhere, every time everywhere. Apparently FIRST it led to the job as mayor of Ottawa, given that, is it really a surprise that a building now has her name?

  8. Tommy Douglas believed in eugenics.

    Never judge yesterday by today.

  9. I did not know that about her.
    So that being the case, it's embrassing that she is being honoured.

  10. Wow, you must also think Adolf Hitler was a superhero. Are you an uncaring person or just plain crazy?

  11. Shame shame on those who want to forget the past……Let us never forget that she has blood on her hands!!

  12. Watson should have known better. But it's never too late to just admit that the decision was not an educated one and that the building, or any other building, will not be named after her. I suggest the mayor spends some time watching/reading about the testimonies of people who had to endure those terrible times. Maybe he will learn a lessor or two. This decision does not add to reputation of Ottawa.

Sign in to comment.