Winner of the National Jewish Book Award (Holocaust Category) Winner of the Canadian Historical Association John A. Macdonald Prize Featured in The Literary Review of Canada 100: Canada's Most Important Books [This] is a story best summed up in the words of an anonymous senior Canadian official who, in the midst of a rambling, off-the-record discussion with journalists in 1945, was asked how many Jews would be allowed into Canada after the war ... 'None,' he said, 'is too many.' From the Preface One of the most significant studies of Canadian history ever written, None Is Too Many conclusively lays to rest the comfortable notion that Canada has always been an accepting and welcoming society. Detailing the country's refusal to offer aid, let alone sanctuary, to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution between 1933 and 1948, it is an immensely bleak and discomfiting story - and one that was largely unknown before the book's publication. Irving Abella and Harold Troper's retelling of this episode is a harrowing read not easily forgotten: its power is such that, 'a manuscript copy helped convince Ron Atkey, Minister of Employment and Immigration in Joe Clark's government, to grant 50,000 "boat people" asylum in Canada in 1979, during the Southeast Asian refugee crisis' (Robin Roger, The Literary Review of Canada). None Is Too Many will undoubtedly continue to serve as a potent reminder of the fragility of tolerance, even in a country where it is held as one of our highest values.
Abella and Troper have compiled a detailed account of this particular story. Not being Canadian made it a bit challenging for me in the early chapters, as it took a while for me to develop an understanding of how the Canadian bureaucracy is organized and functions. Throughout the book they tell of government bias against Jewish immigration. The Canadian government was opposed to allowing large numbers of Jewish immigrants, however for a large part of the time period covered in the book there was a bias against almost all immigrant groups, except from Great Britain and a few other locales.
They also demonstrate a lack of cohesion among various Jewish aid organizations. Organizations frequently sparred with each other, at the expense of taking advantage of the limited opportunities that had to facilitate Jews in leaving Europe for Canada. Immigration policy did not change until after the war, when it became apparent that there would not be a post-war depression, but rather an economic boom. At that time immigration rules were greatly liberalized so that workers could enter the country. Simultaneously Israel became an independent country, with hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees being able to leave post-war refugee camps for a country that freely welcomed all Jews.
A criticism I have of this book is that Abella and Troper don't appear to give much credence to the fact that Canada was no different than any other country in determining who may move there as a permanent resident. There seemed to be a persistent sense that Canada should have allowed liberal amounts of immigration, because the authors felt it was both possible and morally right, without recognizing that sovereign countries act in what they perceive to be their own best interests, even to the occasional chagrin of their own citizens.