Record (Kitchener-Waterloo) | Aug. 31, 2004 | Brian Caldwell

It's not over yet for Oberlander

Feds 'resolute' in aim to deport man accused of lying about war activities

The federal government won't appeal a decision that gave Helmut Oberlander back his citizenship but it hasn't ruled out going after him again.

France Bureau, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, said yesterday that officials are still considering whether to send the controversial case back to cabinet for a second decision paving the way for his deportation.

"We remain absolutely resolute on this, both as a matter of principle and in the specific case of Mr. Oberlander,'' she said.

Oberlander, 80, and his supporters celebrated in late May after the Federal Court of Appeal found a 2001 cabinet decision stripping him of Canadian citizenship was flawed.

The government could have appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada but let the deadline for filing an application pass yesterday without doing so.

Eric Hafemann, a lawyer for the retired Waterloo developer, said the government's decision not to appeal shows "they've taken enough of a beating" and will soon drop efforts to deport Oberlander altogether.

But Bureau said the government still has the option of sending the matter back to cabinet, with a new report and recommendation from Sgro fixing procedural errors cited by the appeal court.

She couldn't say when a decision might be made.

If cabinet acted on a recommendation to take away Oberlander's citizenship a second time, it would renew longstanding efforts to deport him.

Hafemann said he remains skeptical the government will target Oberlander again after more than nine years of legal wrangling, promising an even more vigorous defence if it tries. "That would be really a malicious and vicious step by the minister based on no evidence,'' he said.

With a related hearing on constitutional arguments still slated for next month, Hafemann said he'll press the government for written confirmation it will finally abandon efforts to deport Oberlander.

Oberlander lost his citizenship after a Federal Court of Canada judge found in 2000 that he lied about his service with a notorious Nazi death squad when he emigrated from Germany in 1954.

He has repeatedly said he was conscripted as a 17-year-old interpreter and did nothing wrong during the war.

Although he was found to have lied about his activities, there was no evidence Oberlander actually participated in war crimes while with a mobile killing unit responsible for the execution of thousands of civilians, mostly Jews, in Ukraine from 1941 to 1943.

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