Ukrainian News | 08Jun2005 | Editorial

Citizenship committee's recommendations deserve immediate enactment

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has called for radical changes to the Citizenship Act, incorporating many of the recommendations made by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and other Ukrainian community representatives during the hearing process, which was conducted in March and April, 2005.

Though the report falls short of eliminating revocation of citizenship altogether (as was called for by a number of Ukrainian community representatives), or limiting the period during which citizenship can be revoked to five years after obtaining it (as was called for by the UCC), it does go a long way towards eliminating the flagrant civil rights abuses that are present in the current legislation.

The report calls for the establishment of the same standard for citizenship court cases as is used in criminal ones -- namely proof "beyond a reasonable doubt". This is critical. Under the current system, a person can have his or her citizenship revoked simply on the basis of "balance of probabilities". This is grossly unfair. We have seen courts rule that Wasyl Odynsky, Helmut Oberlander, Vladimir Katriuk, Serge Kisluk and others "probably" lied about their past upon coming to Canada simply on the basis of "expert" testimony upon what questions they may have been asked. It should be pointed out that these "expert" witnesses were individuals who weren't even present at any immigration hearings during the post-World War II period. What's more, the respondents were found "probably" guilty even though all the immigration documents from that period have been destroyed. Under no circumstances would any one of these individuals be found "guilty" if the criminal standards of "beyond a reasonable doubt" were applied, instead of the current "balance of probabilities". Furthermore, if some judge did make a ridiculous ruling based upon "beyond a reasonable doubt", that ruling would be overturned in a judicial appeal. That is another recommendation of the committee's report and another safeguard for the civil liberties of the respondents in these cases.

The report also calls for the establishment of new citizenship legislation as soon as possible. It also states that anyone who has gone through the revocation process under the existing legislation can choose to have his case reviewed under the new standards. This is only fair and will reverse the current Denaturalization and Deportation policy, which has nothing to do with bringing "alleged war criminals" to justice and everything to do with fulfilling the political agenda of some powerful lobby groups.

What is very significant is the fact that the Liberal Chair of the committee was joined by the three opposition critics in issuing the press release announcing the recommendations. This shows how widespread the support for changing current citizenship legislation is. There were only two dissenters out of the 12 committee members. B'nai Brith has also issued its prerequisite attack on the Majority Report. In a classic example of the gross distortions of reality that organization has become noted for, B'nai Brith, in its June 07, 2005 press release, attacks the report for "its failure to address the need to bring to justice criminals against humanity who have lied their way into Canada." This ignores the very glaring fact that none of the individuals victimized by the D and D process were ever found guilty of any criminal act whatsoever -- let alone crimes against humanity -- and in many cases weren't even charged with any criminal acts.

The recommendations of the parliamentary committee on citizenship are long overdue and should be enacted immediately. That is the reason the committee decided to table their recommendations before parliament's summer break, rather than waiting for the fall when recommendations on the other two issues members were examining will be brought forward. Our community, meanwhile, should make its own position very clear. Namely, we want immediate action on these recommendations.