Ottawa says it won't go easy on suspected Nazis

Policy under review: Time-consuming, costly program has not resulted in any deportations

National Post | Wed., Sep. 25, 2002 | Robert Fife, Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA - Denis Coderre, the Immigration Minister, said yesterday the government has no plans to go easy on suspected Nazi war criminals living in Canada, but he did not rule out ending the costly legal process of deporting them.

Mr. Coderre has ordered a review of Canada's policy of stripping citizenship of Nazi war criminals and deporting them. Among the options is removing their citizenship but not deporting them.

Senior officials say it costs millions of dollars in time-consuming judicial appeals to deport elderly suspected Nazi war criminals, many of whom die before the process is complete. There has not been a successful deportation under current rules, although two men left voluntarily.

Mr. Coderre denied the government has any plan to be lenient toward suspected Nazi collaborators, but he did not rule out a denaturalization-only approach.

''First of all, it is tolerance zero regarding war criminals. What we are looking for all the time is a mechanism that makes sure we send the right message: that this is not a haven for war criminals,'' he told reporters.

Asked if Ottawa is reviewing its policy of deportation of alleged war criminals, Mr. Coderre said all options are on the table.

''I am asking all the time to my department to have the proper mechanism to make sure it is efficient so we are taking at look at every scenario,'' he said.

Officials say another option is to continue with deportation, but give that power to a judge, rather than Cabinet as it now is, to ''depoliticize'' the process.

Under the current policy, a judge decides on whether a suspected war criminal should be stripped of citizenship, but it is up to Cabinet to launch deportation a hearing, which would be held by an immigration appeal board.

Officials say it would be best to have the judge who rules on denaturalization also determine deportation. Immigration officials believe that would make it easier to remove modern- day war criminals, who are able to use the legal process to delay their deportation.

Canadian Jewish groups have denounced any effort to abandon the policy of denaturalization and deportation, saying people suspected of mass murder should not be allowed to live in Canada.

The government shifted its focus from criminal prosecution to revocation of citizenship followed by deportation in 1995 after the Supreme Court of Canada allowed for a defence that the accused was simply following orders. The ruling made it virtually impossible to convict people of committing war crimes. Ottawa then adopted a strategy of stripping naturalized Canadians of their citizenship and deporting them for lying about their wartime activities.

bfife@nationalpost.com