CKNW 980AM: World Today
Friday, September 20, 2002, 16:36 hrs PDT

Hosts: Philip Till and Jon McComb interview
Rochelle Wilner, B'nai Brith Canada
re Nazi war criminals

Till:
A federal report estimates that there are 1300 war criminals living in Canada. Some are modern day from conflicts in Africa or the Balkans. Others date back to the days of Nazi Germany. The government is reviewing its war criminal policy and may decide to strip them of their Canadian citizenship but not to deport them. This would apply especially to the Nazi era war criminals. Modern day ones don't tend to have citizenship yet. They're claiming refugee status. So with the biological clock winding down on old Nazis, does it make sense just to take away their Canadian citizenship but not to deport them to stand trial in another country.

Rochelle Wilner is the national president of the Jewish advocacy organization B'nai Brith and joins us now from Toronto. Good evening, Ms. Wilner.

Wilner:
Good evening.

Till:
The argument goes, as you've heard many times, these are old men. They'll be dead soon. There's no point in continuing to prosecute these old Nazis. What do you say to that?

Wilner:
Well, I say that's ridiculous. Because justice must be done and must be perceived to be done. And these are people who are known to be Nazi war criminals and they certainly didn't give consideration to the age, the health or the welfare of the victims that they perpetrated the crimes against.

Till:
We've been having a little trouble here trying to figure out what would be the point of just stripping them of citizenship and maybe depriving them of a pension or something when when they should, if we deem them to be war criminals, should be put on a plane and sent to wherever they should be on trial.

Wilner:
Absolutely. I think it would just create another platform for them to garner public sympathy in the event that they should become ill or needy and would not be eligible for Canadian benefits. Then they would have the public sympathy because, here we are, they have been in Canada for all these years. And now when they're in their elderly years, we are not looking after them. If they are, indeed, war criminals, we have no responsibility to look after them. In fact, we have no responsibility to have [???].

McComb:
Ms. Wilner, the government seems to be looking at this from the standpoint that it has cost millions tens of millions of dollars to prosecute war criminals and because of the appeal process, they have not only spent a lot of money, but they don't have much success in actually deporting suspected war criminals because of the long court appeals and, as Phil mentioned, many of them die before they actually get to the end of the appeal process. So I guess at the end of the day, the question is, is the government simply wasting its time and money in prosecuting or trying to deport these war criminals?

Wilner:
Well, perhaps the emphasis should be placed on the faulty structure of the system and not be placed on the fact that they can't deal with these people appropriately. There's no reason why our system has to allow for so many appeals in so many instances where they're known to be war criminals. I think the message that is being sent, not only here in Canada but certainly around the world, is that Canada has for a long time been a safe haven for Nazi war criminals. And I think, as is evident by the report in today's paper, that there are known to be approximately 1443 war criminals, modern day war criminals, here in Canada is an indication that these people feel that if they can come into Canada and then claim refugee status, they too will be given safe harbour.

McComb:
And so there are implications for not only going back to the Second World War, but there are implications for the present and, indeed, the future.

Wilner:
Well, I think that's the whole point. That if we don't deal effectively and efficiently with the old war criminals, then what is there to tell modern day war criminals that they will be dealt with with a heavy hand. If we can protect the old war criminals, why won't we protect the new ones? And how are we going to trust that our government will deal differently with these people. I think it'll be just as difficult for them to prove their case. And if the motivation isn't there to treat all victims fairly, I think it sends a very poor message to all Canadians.

Till:
Ms. Wilner, thank you very much for your time.

Wilner:
My pleasure, thank you very much.

Till:
Rochelle Wilner is the national president of the Jewish advocacy organization B'nai Brith was with us there from Toronto. I don't think we have an argument between us here today J.M. As far as I'm concerned, a convicted war criminal is just that, and should be sent back from whence he came to face the punishment no matter how old he is.

McComb:
I agree. And you know it's the government is taking an odd direction on this, I think, because it is the government it is the legislators who make the rules. And the government is saying "Well, the rules are just too drawn out and the appeal process is just too drawn out. And we're spending too much money." Well, then change the rules for God's sake. Don't say, "Oh, let 'em stay. We're not going to deport them. We're just going to deprive them of Canadian citizenship." Well, what is that going to do? So what? So they become stateless. You know, change the rules. Lessen the appeal process. Don't throw the cases away.

Till:
Like to know what you have to say about this. Do we let the old war criminals live out their days and sort of sit in the rocker until they fall of it. Or what? Or do you think the government is doing the right thing in saving money by deciding just to withdraw citizenship but not bother going through any deportation process. The lines are opening up to you at 604-280-9898. Star-9898 on your cell phone. CKNW.com ; go to the World Today for a quick note on the email. Your calls after a break.

McComb:
And before we dump too heavily on the federal government. The government turned its focus away from criminal prosecution of war criminals to try and revoke their citizenship and deport them in 1995, after the Supreme Court of Canada rendered convictions virtually impossible by allowing for a defense that the accused was only following orders. Paul in Nanaimo. Hello.

Paul in Nanaimo:
Hi. I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Peter Warren back a month or so. My mother and father were both taken by the Germans. My father lost his parents. My mother lost her parents. One of her grandparents. Thirteen brothers and sisters were all killed by them. And she was raped and tortured by them. And as far as I'm concerned, they should face the charges. I don't care how far into the future it goes.

McComb:
All right, Paul. Thank you very much for that.

Till:
We agree. We agree. Email coming in: "They are criminals like any other criminal. They should be deported and dealt with accordingly."

McComb: Doug in Richmond. Hello.

Doug in Richmond:
Hello. Yeah, it's Doug. Listen, I agree with the first caller, because truth is truth. And anybody that's been in combat will verify that idiocy has to be stopped. And nothing is going to happen actually, because Herr Chretien, our glorious leader, who the majority of Canadians will not depose, because they're too weak and willy It's going to stay like that the poor people who did suffer. Naw well, what the heck it's over with. Why tear off old wounds type of thing. It's really sad, they should be kicked out.

Till:
And, you know, to pick up on that point that Doug made there. We're not, by and large, dealing with a foot soldier in a war situation. This is not what we're dealing with when we talk about war criminals. These are people who took their authority and overstepped even their authority in a wartime situation. So you're dealing, say, with a camp guard, who was supposed to guard the camp, but instead of guarding the camp, he would torture children in there, or he would rape women in there, or what have you. So we're not talking about the guy in uniform who went to fight the enemy. These are evil people who used that, and abused that, power they were given in wartime.

McComb:
And we go to Steve in Coquitlam. Hello, Steven.

Steve in Coquitlam:
Hi. I, too, have had parents who were subjected as forced labourers under the Nazis. And I've had a relative who actually survived the concentration camp in Nazi Europe, as well. And I would be the last person to want to have real Nazi war criminals stay in Canada. However, I have a totally different picture than what Rochelle Wilner presented in her talk, as far as what the policy review is being undertaken by Minister Coderre. Most of these cases have nothing to do with war crimes or war criminals. Almost none of these people have been convicted of war crimes. That was the problem that the Canadian government had after the Deschenes Commission. They tried to prosecute alleged war criminals in a criminal court and could win no cases. Subsequently, the government changed its policy to what's called the d&d policy of denaturalization and deportation. But it's using a civil case or a civil court case system to try to somehow evict people who have been labeled by the media as war criminals. It has nothing to do with war crimes. They're being basically taken to court on something that they might have lied or not stated on their immigration papers, etc.

Till:
That's the technicality though.

Steve in Coquitlam:
But the problem is, they have never been found to be war criminals. And as far as I'm concerned, in this country one gets the benefit of the doubt of being innocent until proven guilty. These are not proven to be war criminals.

McComb:
Some of them have been convicted and sentenced in absentia

Steve:
[Interrupt] only one person has been deported and it's cost us tens of millions of dollars. [Interrupt]. If you want to go after war criminals take them to a criminal court and charge them with war crimes.

McComb:
[Interrupt] But they can't though, Steve. Steve, they can't. The Supreme Court of Canada has made that virtually impossible by saying that the accused can use the defense of "I was only following orders." So as a criminal case, it goes out the window.

Steve:
And if you have a Supreme Court in Canada saying somebody is innocent and you can't find him guilty, then they are innocent. Don't try to go after them and punish them, because you think they are guilty and punish them with eviction or denaturalization.

McComb:
So the idea that a war criminal can stand up in a criminal court in Canada and say, "I was only following orders" and get off, no matter what the evidence says, we're supposed to accept that? I mean, the Supreme Court of Canada is not infallible. They aren't God.

Steve:
Right. But your assumption is wrong. You presume that they are war criminals in the first place. And they aren't. They have to be proven and found to be war criminals.

McComb:
Well, we're chasing our tail here. How can they be proven if the Supreme Court is going to throw out the decision.

Steve:
No. You take them to court. How do you know that in future cases, if you've got a good case to support your allegations that they're war criminals, then you take him to criminal court. You don't say you are a war criminal, but I can't prove it. The Supreme Court of Canada can't prove it. Therefore, I will use government policy to try to take away your citizenship and deport you.

Till:
A very different viewpoint from Steve as we come to the end of this segment.