Record (Kitchener-Waterloo) | 13Jun2005 | Karen Kawawada

Telegdi outraged by his party's plan for Oberlander

MP also attacks suggestion that Tory MP may lose citizenship

Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi is lashing out at his own party over a reported plan to revoke the citizenships of five elderly men accused of covering up their Second World War service.

He's also upset by Immigration Minister Joe Volpe's musings last week suggesting B.C. Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal might be deported if allegations he fraudulently bought his way into Canada are proved true.

"The Gurmant Grewal case demonstrates how bankrupt this process is," said Telegdi. "Governments that have political agendas should never have that kind of power over individuals. If somebody's going to revoke citizenship, let the courts do it."

A CTV television report on Friday said that Immigration Minister Joe Volpe is expected to seek cabinet approval to strip five citizenships, including that of retired developer Helmut Oberlander of Waterloo.

"What they're doing right now is a matter of persecution instead of prosecution," said Telegdi in an interview yesterday. "It's a terrible abuse of process."

The other men in question are accused Nazi collaborators Jacob Fast and Vladimir Katriuk, alleged labour camp guard Wasyl Odynsky and suspected SS member Michael Baumgartner.

"Let's be clear, we haven't got any war criminals we're dealing with," said Telegdi.

"Allegations made that they were involved in activities during the Second World War, none of these allegations were proven."

The report that Volpe plans to act within weeks came just days after Telegdi presented a report saying revocation of citizenship should be done only by the courts, never by Parliament.

Telegdi chaired the multi-party standing committee on citizenship and immigration, which presented its report last Tuesday.

In the same week, a former business partner of Grewal's accused him of flouting the law to get into Canada, prompting Volpe's comment that people who fail to provide promised investments "don't usually get to stay."

Gurwinder Dhillon said that in 1992, Grewal was trying to get residency in Canada as an entrepreneur. One of the requirements for that immigration category is investing at least $50,000 in a business that will create at least one new job.

Dhillon accused Grewal of investing $50,000 and getting it back the same day, thus satisfying the immigration requirements without actually investing anything.

Telegdi suggested Volpe targeted Grewal because he is a member of the opposition.

"Mr. Volpe is a politician, he is not a judge," said Telegdi. "He's got absolutely no business making the kind of comments he's been making and exercising the kinds of powers he wants to exercise . . . Those powers belong to the courts.

"We have countries where opposition members get their citizenship stripped and are put in jail. We are not one of those countries and I'm going to fight to make sure we are not."

As for Oberlander, who happens to be one of Telegdi's constituents, cabinet revoked his citizenship in 2001, based on a judge's opinion that the 81-year-old lied about his service with a Nazi killing unit during World War Two.

Oberlander served as an interpreter with a mobile unit that murdered at least 23,000 civilians, mostly Jews, from 1941 to 1943, but there is no evidence he participated directly in the slaughter.

"The question to revoke citizenship or not . . . based on, did you tell the truth or did you lie on a question that might or might not have been asked 50 years ago, that's what the Oberlander case comes down to. It's pure speculation."

Last May, the Federal Court of Appeal reinstated Oberlander's citizenship after it found cabinet had erred because it didn't take into account Oberlander's "50 years of irreproachable life in Canada," or explain how he fit government policy on denaturalization and deportation.

But in March of this year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Maria Iadinardi said the government remained "absolutely resolute" in its resolve to kick Oberlander out of the country.

The government didn't appeal to the Supreme Court, but may fix the mistakes and send the case back to cabinet with a recommendation to revoke Oberlander's citizenship again, Iadinardi said at the time.

Telegdi said he'll do everything he can to fight it, adding he isn't afraid of being in public discord with his party, even at this politically volatile time.

"This is not the first time I've criticized my party and it will not be the last," he said, adding that in 2000, he resigned as parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration when the government introduced a bill for a new citizenship act that didn't make revocation of citizenship into a purely judicial matter. He then voted against the bill.

"My citizenship comes before my party. My country comes before my party. My family comes before my party," said Telegdi.

"I'll continue to push until we get a citizenship act that complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

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