Immigration monument debuts in Halifax

Wheel of Conscience

Photo courtesy Brian Melcher

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) recently unveiled the Wheel of Conscience, a new monument designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, at Pier 21, Canada’s immigration museum in Halifax.

The 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.8-m (6.2 x 6.2 x 2.5-ft) steel monument memorializes the nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees who arrived aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939, but were refused entry into Canada during a period of anti-Jewish exclusionary policy. As the centrepiece of a national effort to educate today’s Canadians about the incident, the wheel features gears marked ‘hatred,’ ‘racism,’ ‘xenophobia’ and ‘anti-Semitism,’ which turn and form an image of the German ship. The names of the passengers are etched on the reverse side.

“How do you represent policies and how people shift papers from one desk to another?” Libeskind said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “Bureaucracy grinds slowly.”

Rejected by both Canada and the U.S., the MS St. Louis had to sail back to Europe. While some refugees reached the U.K., hundreds of them died elsewhere during the Holocaust.

“Had Canada opened its doors to those passengers fleeing the violence of the Nazi regime, it is probable they would have walked down the gangplank right here,” said Jason Kenney, federal minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, during the monument’s unveiling at Pier 21.