Canada’s refugee advocates emerged from their battles with new and effective strategies. The failure of traditional tactics of quietly applying pressure on government agencies led to a public relations campaign that eventually secured the wholesale release of internees. Jewish community organizations would use the lessons of the war years to develop a new activist approach to Canadian political involvement.
The “camp boys” were the largest group of Jewish refugees to find haven in Canada during the first four years of the Second World War. As the war ended, evidence of the refugees’ contributions to Canadian industry, trade and culture were beyond dispute.
Criticism of Canada’s unbending immigration regulations was mounting. The war had created the greatest upheaval of humanity the world had ever witnessed. More than a million displaced people, of whom only a fraction were Jews, would soon press their case for resettlement. Canada was a prime target. To allow the legal admission of refugees already partially integrated in Canada might, some argued, forestall pressure to take more from Europe. Mass deportations of refugees would have caused an outcry.
And so, on October 25, 1945 Cabinet passed an Order in Council granting immigrant status, then citizenship, to the approximately 3,500 refugees resident in Canada, including former internees. For these refugees, five years in limbo were finally over.