The Hon. Don Boudria
Chair, Cabinet Special Committee of Council
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
June 17, 2002
I am writing to urge you, as a member of the Cabinet Special Committee of Council, to vote against the revocation of the citizenship of Wasyl Odynsky when your committee meets to discuss this matter on Wednesday June 19, 2002.
The revocation of Mr. Odynsky's citizenship has been recommended by the War Crimes Unit of the Department of Justice (acting through the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) on the grounds that Justice Andrew MacKay found on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Odynsky lied upon entering Canada over 50 years ago. I stress the balance of probabilities point because there is no way anyone can conclusively prove whether somebody lied upon entering Canada during of the post-World War II period, since all the immigration documents of that time have been destroyed by order of the Government of Canada.
I must also point out that the recommendation of Mr. Odynsky's citizenship comes under a policy designed to deal with "alleged war criminals", which Mr. Odynsky definitely is not. To be an "alleged war criminal" you first have to be charged with a war crime. Mr. Odynsky was never charged with a war crime in the 1997 Statement of Claim issued against him by the War Crimes Unit of the Department of Justice. He was charged only with withholding information about serving as a Trawniki Camp guard during the war.
In his judgement, Justice MacKay not only found that "there was no evidence at trial that Mr. Odynsky participated personally in any incident involving mistreatment of prisoners or of any other person during his service", he also found that "there is no doubt that Odynsky's service was not voluntary." In fact, Justice MacKay noted that Mr. Odynsky did try to escape from the Nazis, and was caught along with four friends. According to Justice MacKay's ruling: "…they were held in detention, first threatened with death, then told that there was a reprieve and they would be sent for training, but any further attempt to escape service would lead to their execution when caught, and if they avoided capture their families would be sent to concentration camps." By all logic, Mr. Odynsky should be considered a "Nazi victim" as opposed to an "alleged Nazi war criminal."
Bearing in mind that when the policy of revocation of citizenship was first announced in 1995, the government of Canada stated in a press release 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."
By these guidelines, Mr. Odynsky's case should never have been started, once started, it never should have gone to court and, once the ruling came, the revocation of his citizenship should never have been recommended. Surely now the Cabinet Special Committee of Council cannot, in all justice, approve the revocation of his citizenship.
I was greatly disturbed when, on Tuesday, June 11, when I called the Office of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to inquire about the Odynsky case as a journalist, I was told that all media enquiries regarding Mr. Odynsky would be handled by Terry Beitner, Chief Counsel for the War Crimes Unit of the Department of Justice. This, rightly or wrongly, leaves me with the impression that an unelected bureacrat with a vested interest in the program he heads, is calling the shots, as opposed to the elected representatives of the people.
Lastly, I would like to point out that the current method of revocation of citizenship has been overwhelmingly rejected by the grassroots members of the Liberal Party of Canada. First the British Columbia wing, then the Southwest region of the Ontario wing of the Liberal Party of Canada passed a resolution that calls upon the Government of Canada to "ensure that in cases of citizenship revocation, questions of fact and law, and guilt or innocence must be determined by the normal judicial process, free of political interference."
The resolution also states that the current citizenship revocation process does not allow fundamental justice, promised in the Charter of Rights to naturalized Canadians because it denies them the right of appeal in the case of citizenship revocation, a right that is automatic in civil and criminal proceedings or can be permitted by a higher court.
"In the present process, Cabinet makes the final decision on revocation in secret, with no representation for the person whose citizenship is being revoked and no review. It must be divested of a role for which it is unsuited, namely acting as a court of appeal in these cases. This process should be put in the hands of the courts where it belongs. Judges should be accountable to a higher court and not to politicians. Decisions affecting the human rights of a person should not be subject to political influence," states the resolution.
This resolution received the most priority votes of any coming from the Southwest Ontario region - getting 777 points in the priority voting - more than 50 percent above the second place priority resolution, which received 512 points. In British Columbia, this same resolution was the top priority resolution coming out of Social Policy Committee.
If the Cabinet Special Committee of Council votes to revoke Mr. Odynsky's citizenship, it will not only be committing a travesty of justice, it will also be ignoring the democratically expressed position of its own party delegates for those of an unelected bureaucrat.
Editor, Ukrainian News,
Members of Committee: Don Boudria, Sharon Carstairs, Denis Coderre, Martin Cauchon, Herb Dhaliwal, John Manley, Robert Nault, Lucienne Robillard, Robert Thibault, Lyle Vanclief
Parliamentary secretaries: Geoff Regan, Deborah Palumbo, Mark Assad, Paul Macklin, Benoit Serre, Joe Jordan, John Finlay, Alex Shepherd, Georges Farrah, Larry McCormick