Morbid Word Game
Your editorial in the July 15, 1999 issue of the National Post titled "Morbid word game" is exactly that.
In this century, the "concentration camp" started with the British during the Boer War in South Africa. It's use proceeded to the internment of some 6000 "enemy aliens" in 26 camps throughout Canada during WWI (as attested to by direct photographic evidence). It evolved into a tool for the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union to terrorize tens of millions of "enemies of the state" in the vast Gulag Archipelago as so well documented by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. And it was adapted by Hitler to incarcerate millions of real or imagined enemies during WWII.
In a fit of pique reminiscent of a lynch mob whose victim managed to escape, you malign Mr. Podins, who has just been declared innocent, by claiming he was on the "Nazi payroll".You thus indirectly malign the majority of the inhabitants of the countries occupied by the Germans, who were dragooned into supporting the German war effort.
You accuse Judge McKeown of "moral abdication". I suggest that the moral abdication is in your newspaper and the news media, in general, for failing to condemn the morally corrupt policy of denaturalization and deportation instituted by the Chretien government to circumvent justice. Rather than criminal trials under rigorous rules of evidence requiring proof of culpability in a criminal act, these civil procedures have deteriorated into political show trials. In essence, the outcome of the trial hinges on whether the judge believes that, during a hypothetical immigration hearing, a hypothetical immigration official asked the accused victim a hypothetical question to which the victim did not respond truthfully.
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Is a "concentration camp" a place where dozens of people are shot to death and tortured for failing to meet their production quotas, or is it a place where thousands are gassed to death with Zyklon B?
Remarkably, the Federal Court of Canada felt this is an important distinction. Referring in its Monday decision to the sporadic executions in Valmiera, Latvia, during the 1940s, Judge William McKeown ruled: "The incidents in question, while highly disturbing, do not suggest the type of systematic killing program which characterized concentration camps . . . Workdays were long, but not life-threatening. The food was terrible, but no one starved to death. It was not a prison with Canadian standards, but that does not make it a concentration camp."
By playing this morbid word game, the court allowed Edourds Podins, an 81-year-old B.C. resident who once served as a quartermaster at Valmiera, to live out his last days happily in the foothills of Burnaby.
This is hardly a disincentive to war criminals wishing to make Canada their home. It also raises the bar considerably for establishing what is or is not a war crime in Kosovo and elsewhere.
Worst of all, this decision symbolizes a kind of moral abdication. Even if we accept Podins' somewhat fantastic version of events -- in which he claims to have never been present at any of the executions -- Podins was clearly on the Nazi payroll and was morally complicit in the barbarism of the camp.
The court thus imposed a higher standard of evidence for a suspected Nazi war criminal than is currently needed for ordinary immigrants and refugees, who can be deported for simply failing to disclose they have a spouse or a child.
In a final indecency, Canadian taxpayers, who have already spent more than $1-million pursuing Podins, will now be forced to pay a portion of his legal costs.
All of which might explain why Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary hunter of
Nazi war criminals, said last month that he has "given up" on Canada. Nazi
collaborators, meanwhile, consider Canada a loyal friend.