June 11, 2002
The Right Honorable Jean Chretien
Prime Minister of Canada;
Special Committee of Council
House of Commons
Dear Hon. Prime Minister,
I am addressing you regarding the meeting of the Cabinet Special Committee of Council, which will be deciding whether to revoke the citizenship of Wasyl Odynsky.
I have been following this case closely since the beginning, as the director of the documentary film on the denaturalization and deportation process as it has been applied to Mr. Odynsky. Among other research undertakings for this film, I have traveled with the Canadian court to Ukraine, attended all court proceedings in Toronto, interviewed former Justice Jules Deschenes (who headed the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in 1987), historians, witnesses, the men in Ukraine who as youngsters were captured by the Germans together with Wasyl Odynsky and forced into labour as perimeter guards. I am familiar with Justice Andrew MacKay’s conclusions, as well as written legal dissenting arguments.
As a Canadian fighting the preponderant cynicism toward politicians and growing general disenchantment with our political process, I am struggling with Minister of Immigration Denis Coderre’s decision to recommend the revocation of Mr. Odynsky’s citizenship.
My deep unease stems from a confluence of factors:
1) The fact that when your government announced in 1995 "a strategy aimed at deporting alleged WWII war criminals living in Canada", it specified that "The key criterion in all these proceedings is the existence of some evidence of individual criminality. If that cannot be proven, no proceedings will be considered." (Federal News release dated January 25, 1995)
2) The fact that this commitment was not adhered to, as no evidence of "individual criminality" by Mr. Odynsky was presented in the court.
3) Furthermore, Justice Andrew MacKay in his finding concluded that there is no evidence "that Mr.Odynsky participated personally in any incident involving mistreatment of prisoners or of any other person during his service."
4) And that "there is no doubt that Mr.Odynsky`s service was not voluntary".
Your government has not only reneged on its commitment not to proceed with prosecution unless there is "the existence of some evidence of individual criminality", but it now seems to be intent on compounding the mendacity by further pursuing this involuntary foot soldier who committed no crime and depriving him of his citizenship.
Thus, to select Mr. Odynsky as an example of the success of Canada’s policy of "not harbouring World War II Nazi war criminals" is not defensible. It thereby only augments the indefensible, to consider denaturalizing Mr. Odynsky and further undermines the validity of the "War Crimes Program".
To claim that Mr. Odynsky should be deprived of Canadian citizenship because Justice MacKay found that on a balance of probabilities (although without specific documentary proof) Mr. Odynsky probably lied about his wartime activities, begs the question: What would Mr. Odynsky have to lie about if he had not committed criminal acts? And thus, if another judge presided, would his judgment support Mr. Odynsky’s claim that he, like many others, were not asked such questions by the understaffed immigration bureau required to process the avalanche of displaced person after the war? In fact, in other cases the judgment has indeed been in support of that position. In addition, you would find it edifying to consider a review by retired Ontario Superior Court judge, Roger Salhany.
As I was listening last week to a myriad of pompous, musical renditions of "Land of Hope and Glory" in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee, I was reminded of standing on the outdoor steps of my Toronto public school, with my grade 2 very multi-ethnic classmates, wearing self-made paper maple leaf headbands, patriotically bellowing out the very same "Land of Hope and Glory". We were celebrating the 1950’s version of Canada Day, i.e. Dominion Day. Like Mr. Odynsky’s family, I was a child of two of those displaced persons who had arrived 3 years before and were grateful for the opportunity to start life anew, in mid life, with nothing - but in a democracy. They are the ones who, without knowledge of English or French, taught me to be proud of Canada and the importance of defending the principles it stood for.
Please remember that, in this instance, the strength of our Canadian society depends upon you – the elected custodian of our democracy and your decision to come down on the side of true justice bereft of political ‘inclination’. That is what I hope the ending to my documentary will depict and which indeed will be recorded for contemporary Canadians and history to evaluate.