The death on October 18, 2017 of Dr. Gregory Baum, one of the twentieth century’s leading Roman Catholic theologians, brings to mind the saga of Canada’s so-called “accidental immigrants.”
These were the approximately 2,500 enemy aliens — for the most part German and Austrian nationals
, many of whom were highly educated Jews — who had been living in Great Britain when the Second World War erupted. Regarded as dangerous security risks, they were interned in Britain, then transported in the summer of 1940 across the submarine-infested Atlantic to Canada, where further imprisonment awaited them.
You can well imagine the astonishment of Canadian authorities when they saw a large assortment of teenage boys, university students, priests and rabbis step ashore at Quebec. Despite their misgivings, however, the Canadians placed all these boys and men in camps that resembled maximum security prisons. And it was here that scientists, musicians, artists, teachers and writers, among others, were forced to bide their time until Britain realized that it had done a great injustice to many of the internees and initiated steps to have them released.
Gregory Baum was one of the many “accidental immigrants” who remained in Canada after being released and who went on to make outstanding contributions in such fields as the arts, engineering, university teaching and theology.
For further information about this often forgotten chapter in Canadian immigration history, please consult my book “Strangers At Our Gates Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2015 (4th edition).