Ottowa municipal building named for mayor called anti-Semitic

Despite opposition from Jewish groups, a municipal committee in Ottawa voted to name a new building after a former mayor described as an unrepentant anti-Semite.

In a controversial vote May 3, a city of Ottawa subcommittee voted to rename a new archives and library building after Charlotte Whitton, the Canadian capital’s first female mayor.

Whitton was first elected in 1951 but historians and some Jewish leaders have pointed out that, during World War II, she actively lobbied against admitting Jewish orphans to Canada.

“Our opposition of Charlotte Whitton is because of the critical role she played in making sure that Canada didn’t accept any Jewish refugees trying to escape the atrocities in Nazi Germany,” Mitchell Bellman, president of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, told CBC News.

Bellman added that Whitton campaigned coast to coast against “anyone who was not British – so that included French-Canadians, Armenians, Italians.”

Canadian Jewish Congress also opposed the honor for Whitton.

Whitton’s role in blocking non-British refugee children – 80 percent of whom were Jewish – is cited in the 1982 book “None is Too Many,” by Canadian historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper.

Then a social worker, Whitton was an “influential voice” in the early 1940s, when she served on two key committees, the book states.

She “nearly broke up” the inaugural meeting of a committee on war-era refugees “by her insistent opposition and very apparent anti-Semitism,” the book says. The CJC, it adds, considered Whitton, who died in 1975, “an enemy of Jewish immigration.”

Ottawa’s full municipal council will still have to support the motion in another vote on May 12 before any name change is approved.