The Vivante Precedent
Soon after the refugees’ arrival in Canada, Britain requested that Canada consider their applications “to be released and allowed to remain in Canada.” For almost a year, any such suggestion was anathema to those in Canada with the power to act.
Canada’s Director of Immigration, Frederick Charles Blair, was suspicious that international Jewry had somehow engineered the internee deportations in order to slip Jews into Canada. As other government departments’ opposition to their release waned, Blair remained an obstacle. The only route to freedom in Canada for the internees was for their advocates to engage the top levels of government.
Ruth Draper, an internationally known American actress and monologist, had a special interest in 17 year-old Arturo Vivante, who was interned in Camp S near Montreal. Arturo’s uncle, an Italian Jewish poet and anti-fascist, had been Draper’s lover and she was determined to gain release for his nephew.
Once Draper had convinced Prime Minister Mackenzie King to release Vivante, Alexander Paterson and the Central Committee for Interned Refugees saw their opportunity to circumvent Blair. Paterson refused to give British permission for Vivante’s release unless all the younger refugees were also set free in Canada.
On May 13, King presented Cabinet with a proposal for the release of internees. Arturo Vivante was released on July 10, 1941 under an agreement permitting the release of youths under the age of 21 who found Canadian sponsors. The Vivante case had broken through.
A collection of images that relates to Arturo Vivante’s release.