Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The First Jewish Senator

David Croll was the First Jewish Senator -- of Canada.

Having served as the Mayor of Windsor (Ontario), as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and as Ontario’s Minister of Public Welfare, David Croll was an accomplished politician before the beginning of World War II.

During the war, Croll joined the Essex Scottish Regiment. While he had been denied an officer’s commission due to his Jewishness, he nevertheless rose through the ranks to become a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Croll entered Federal politics when he won a seat in Parliament (1945-1953). As an MP, he fought to garner support for the fledgling state of Israel and to increase the quotas for refugee immigrants (“None Is Too Many” was the policy of Canada’s wartime cabinet).

Highly regarded by his fellow MPs, extremely popular with his constituents, and, for at least 5 years out of 8, the only Liberal MP from Toronto during a Liberal government, it was assumed by all that Croll would be appointed to the Canadian Cabinet.

When Prime Minister Louis Saint Laurent, summoned him, however, it was to inform him that appointing a Jew to the cabinet would be unacceptable. George Bain, a journalist for the Globe and Mail, noted in a 1953 article: “The theory follows these lines: No Jew has ever been appointed to the Federal Cabinet. There remains considerable anti-Semitism, notably in rural Quebec.”

Croll was offered, instead, an appointment to the Senate, and the chance to be the first Jewish senator.

Disappointed though he was, Croll accepted the position and used it to introduce many important social reforms. In 1990, one year before his death, David Croll was sworn into the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, an honor usually reserved only for cabinet members.

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