Immigration through Order-in-Council Visa

In this video, Irene Burstyn tells the story of how she and her husband Ignatius received special Order-in-Council visas from the Canadian government in 1944 while they were living in Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe).   Source: Montreal Holocaust Museum, 1996



Video begins with inter-title in white text on black screen while instrumental music plays and fades into the next frame: In 1944, while living in Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe), Irene Burstyn and her husband received special visas from the Canadian government.



Cut to Holocaust survivor Irene Burstyn, sitting in front of a black background, and looking to the left of the camera. The camera shows her face and shoulders as she speaks during an interview conducted in Montreal in 1996.

>> Irene Burstyn: My husband had a friend, a Polish friend here in Montreal, who arranged for an Order-in-Council visa.



The name “Irene Burstyn” and the location of the filmed interview, “Montreal”, appear in white text above Sarah's left shoulder.

>> Don't forget this was a time, when, if you have read the book, None Is Too Many, that was the time. So no visas were issued, for Jews. As a matter of fact, we have very valuable exchange of letters, handwritten letters, with the Ministry of Mines and Resources, because that was the Ministry which took care of immigration.



Cut to black-and-white photograph of a woman and man smiling outside on a street. The man wears a uniform. The photo caption appears in white text on the right-hand side, “Irene and Ignatius Burstyn, 1941”.

>> And the friend of my husband, who was a Catholic, and not an antisemite – as a matter of fact he didn't know what that means, even.



Cut to Irene Burstyn in front of the camera.

>> He point-blank asks in one of those letters, the last one, “Do you mean - Mr. Minister, do you mean to say that my friend, Ignatius Burstyn, cannot be issued a visa, because he's a Jew? I would like that to be specified and clarified. After which, there was a meeting of Parliament, and we got Order-in-Council visa.



Cut to black-and-white typed letter with a purple stamp for the Department of Mines and Resources, dated October 17, 1944. Instrumental music plays and the photo caption appears in white text on the left-hand side of the frame, “Letter, Department of Mines and Resources, 1944”. Instrumental music plays in the background.



Cut to Irene Burstyn in front of the camera.

>> In Capetown, we had to provide ourselves with a transit visa knowing more or less how we wanted to proceed from place to place. And when we are in and facing the consul, he says, “No”. No, he's not going to give us a visa. So we said, “But we have to go to Canada.” “No you cannot.” I said, “Yes, but we are going.” “No, you cannot go to Canada because there is no such a thing as a Canadian visa now.” I said, “But we have a visa.” “No.” So he says “no”, and we say “yes”, because we know we have it. And then, you know…



Cut to camera upward pan of a black-and-white photograph of a woman and man standing together on the deck of a ship. Instrumental music plays in the background and the photo caption appears in white text on the right-hand side of the frame, “Irene and Ignatius on route to Canada, 1944”.

>> …this yes and no being back and forth, we had enough of it, and we show him this Order-in-Council. “Please, do sit down! Mr and Mrs Burstyn, will you be kind enough to sit down!” We say, “No, thank you. We will stand.”



Music plays for the remainder of the video. Three credit pages appear in white text on black screen: Interview conducted by Alex Cherney and Elliot Kramer, Witness to History Program, Montreal, 1996, Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre

Images: Irene Burstyn Family Collection

Directing: Helgi Piccinin; Editing and Colorization: Michaël Gravel, Helgi Piccinin; Audio Mix and Original Music: Pierre-Luc Lecours. [Logo for Chaire de recherche du Canada en patrimoine ethnologique]

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, copyright 2017.



End of transcript.

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