Jews began settling in Quebec in the 18th century, establishing Canada's first non-aboriginal, non-Christian community. By the 1930s, Montreal was home to 60,000 Jews, making up nearly half of Canada's entire Jewish population. The community was mostly Yiddish-speaking, religious, and came from Eastern Europe. As voted by the provincial government, Jewish children were educated in English Protestant schools rather than the French Catholic school system.
Headquartered in Montreal, the Canadian Jewish Congress was founded in 1919. Representing the Jewish communities across Canada in relation to the federal government, the CJC worked to confront the anti-Jewish sentiment that had intensified during the Great Depression. It also lobbied for Jewish immigration prior to and during the Holocaust. In Quebec, the Catholic Church, media, and fascist political parties spread antisemitic stereotypes and influenced Quebecers with racist ideologies. This contributed to the hardening of federal immigration policies towards Jewish refugees in the decade leading up to the Second World War.