Ukrainian News | Jan. 19 - Feb. 01, 2005 | Marco Levytsky
Front Page News

Government again goes after Odynsky

Notice to proceed with revocation of citizenship received by family on Christmas Eve

Just before resigning over allegations that she promised to help a pizza shop owner avoid deportation in return for help on her re-election campaign last spring, former Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro left a Christmas present for the Odynsky family in Toronto.

Dec. 14, 2004 she signed a letter to Eileen Boyd, Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council, stating her intention to proceed with the recommendation for a Special Committee of Cabinet to revoke 81-year-old Wasyl Odynsky's Canadian citizenship.

The Odynsky family received a copy of this letter from their lawyer on Dec. 24 - Christmas Eve.

[W.Z. Judy Sgro signed the letter to Eileen Boyd on Dec. 14, 2004. The letter from Max Wolpert of the Justice Department dated Dec. 22, 2004 was delivered to the office of Barbara Jackman (Odynsky's attorney) at 3:00 p.m. Dec. 24, 2004. Olya Odynsky, being in Ukraine for the Presidential election on Dec. 26, 2004, was forwarded the letter on Jan. 04, 2005.]

Wasyl Odynsky himself is in frail condition as he underwent triple bypass surgery in May, 2004.

The letter was sent despite the fact that Wasyl Odynsky had been found innocent of any war crimes during World War 2 by Justice Andrew MacKay on March 2, 2001 and that the Federal Court of Appeal in a similar case - that of Kitchener-Waterloo resident Helmut Oberlander - ruled on May 19, 2004, that the government cannot apply the policy of denaturalization and deportation unless there is evidence of war crimes.

"The Governor in Council (cabinet)… cannot apply the war criminals policy to a person unless it first satisfies itself, to use the very words of the policy, that 'there is evidence of direct involvement in or complicity of war crimes or crimes against humanity'," wrote Justices Robert Décary, J. Edgar Sexton and B. Malone in a unanimous decision.

The Federal Appeals Court decision stands because the government passed up the deadline to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Odynsky was charged with misrepresenting himself upon coming to Canada over 50 years ago under a civil court procedure that requires a decision based only upon the "balance of probabilities" as opposed to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of the criminal court procedure.

The decision to revoke a person's citizenship is made by a select committee of cabinet - not by the court system.

Although the government itself stated at the time of the announcement of the denaturalization policy in 1995 that its intention was to go after alleged Nazi war criminals, it is under no obligation to prove any evidence of any criminal activity whatsoever under the legislation as it currently stands.

In fact, in none of the denaturalization and deportation cases that have been brought forward by the War Crimes Division of the Department of Justice, has any evidence of any war crimes ever been shown.

A spokesman for Joe Volpe, who replaced Sgro as Immigration and Citizenship Minister on Jan. 14, 2005, said no decision on the Odynsky case had been made at the time this issue of Ukrainian News went to press on Jan. 19, 2005.

Stephen Heckbert, Director of Communications for Volpe said revocation cases would first be discussed at a briefing meeting on Jan. 21, 2005.

Borys Wreznewskyj, Liberal MP for Etobicoke Centre, told Ukrainian News the Prime Minister's Office was not made aware of Sgro's letter.

"I was dismayed the government would be proceeding with this and was disappointed the former minister would have signed off on it," he told Ukrainian News in a telephone interview from Kyiv, where he had gone to attend President-elect Viktor Yushchenko's inauguration.

"This is especially so because, in my conversation with her and meetings she had with the Ukrainian community, she expresses her discomfort with the process," he added.

Edmonton-Millwoods-Beaumont Liberal MP David Kilgour wrote a Jan. 12, 2005 letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin urging him to review the matter on humanitarian grounds.

In his letter Kilgour noted that Odynsky had been conscripted into service as a Trawniki camp guard, that his service was involuntary and that he was threatened with severe punishment if he failed to report.

Kilgour also noted that there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Odynsky during the war, nor during more than 50 years in Canada.

Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi said he finds it "offensive" that cabinet can rule on the citizenship of naturalized Canadians.

"There's all kinds of scary scenarios that can go with it," he told Ukrainian News.

Telegdi said it was unfortunate this recommendation was made before a parliamentary committee looking into reforming the Citizenship Act was to make its report next month.

"I have always maintained that this (policy) does not conform to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms - an issue I resigned over (as parliamentary secretary)."

"There's absolutely no way that something as important as citizenship should be decided on the mere balance of probabilities. It offends the Charter in that respect and it also offends the Charter in the fact that there are no appeal rights. And Cabinet should not be putting themselves into the position of being appeal court justices which the present act forces them to do," he added.

Opposition Citizenship Critic Dianne Ablonczy (Conservative, Calgary Nose Hill) told Ukrainian News "revoking Canadians of their citizenship by a secret backroom process is absolutely repugnant."

"Our criminal justice tradition demands that when you are charging someone for a crime for which there are serious penalties, you must prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words the highest judicial standard - not the lower one of balance of probabilities. Few Canadians could think of a worse penalty than being stripped of their citizenship and I believe that such a penalty cannot be carried out under Canadian values without a case being made beyond a reasonable doubt," she added.

Asked whether she would raise this issue in Question Period when the House of Commons resumes sitting in late January, Ablonczy said it was difficult to say what gets on question period.

However, she added, while the government is going after people like Odynsky "I certainly can say that I know for sure that the number of foreign criminals at large in Canada rose from 75 to 125 (last year)"

"I believe very strongly that this government's priority should be to protect our society from proven criminal elements. They have failed miserably in that duty and I believe that it is simply a terribly misplaced priority to go after any individuals (against) whom the courts found no evidence of criminality"