News Release | 25May2007 | Andrew Telegdi, MP

"Justice Minister and Harper Conservative Government
Put Themselves Above the Law"

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and the Harper Conservative Government are knowingly violating a unanimous Federal Court of Appeals ruling, thus putting themselves above the law,” says Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener-Waterloo).

“In announcing yesterday (May 24, 2007) that the Government of Canada has revoked the citizenship of Jacob Fast and Helmut Oberlander, Justice Minister Nicholson and the Harper Conservative Government completely ignored the fact that the Federal Court of Appeals in a unanimous ruling on May 31, 2004, told the government it cannot do so unless it provides evidence of war crimes having been perpetrated by the gentlemen,” said Telegdi.

“No such evidence has been provided, therefore the government has willingly chosen to ignore the rule of law,” he added.

“The Governor in Council 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'," reads the unanimous ruling issued by Justice Robert Décary of the Federal Court of Appeal with the concurrence of Justices J. Edgar Sexton and B. Malone in response to an appeal by Oberlander’s lawyer Eric Hafemann of the whole citizenship revocation process which is decided by cabinet and not a court of law.

“The (Immigration) Minister’s Report does refer to the 'no safe haven' policy but does not analyze why it is that Mr. Oberlander fits within the policy which, the Report fails to mention, applies only to suspected war criminals,” adds the ruling, which was never appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“This ruling, which overturned a previous cabinet’s decision to revoke Mr. Oberlander’s citizenship, very specifically and very explicitly tells the government it cannot revoke anybody’s citizenship, especially Mr. Oberlander’s, without providing evidence of war crimes,” said Telegdi.

“For the government to proceed with such a blatant violation of the Charter Rights of Messrs. Oberlander and Fast, in violation of a federal court ruling, clearly indicates that the government has put itself above the rule of law. When the government puts itself above the law in such a case this is unconstitutional and becomes a serious threat to our democratic society in Canada,” Telegdi added.

“Furthermore, the government has reneged on a campaign pledge made to Canadians to reform the current citizenship revocation process,” said Telegdi.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in 2005 recommended changes to the Citizenship Act that would have made the revocation process a judicial one instead of the political one that allows the justice minister to act in such an arbitrary manner. These changes were supported by all four Conservative members of the committee.

The report on revocation was unanimously adopted by the House of Commons in the spring of 2005. The Liberal government, before it was defeated in 2005, was on the verge of tabling legislation to change the Citizenship Act in order to make revocation a totally judicial process free of political interference.

Once he became Prime Minister, Stephen Harper no longer considered citizenship and immigration an important issue. Instead of appointing as minister the most able and experienced member of Parliament in the Conservative Caucus, Diane Ablonczy, he kept her off the committee. He appointed two inexperienced ministers to this critical portfolio in less than one year. Out of the five Conservative members on this committee, only one had served any time on the Citizenship and Immigration Committee. Clearly Harper did not want any experienced Conservative members and their previous quotes embarrassing him while he broke yet another election promise to make citizenship revocation a totally judicial process free of political interference.

Backgrounder and Previous Quotes from Conservative Members

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—NoseHill, CPC)

Then Conservative CIC Critic, currently Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance)

February 8, 2005, Citizenship Committee:

C-18 Second Reading 2004-10-07/han004:

Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River, PC)

C-18 Second Reading 2002-11-07/han024:

Citizenship Committee, April 11, 2005:

Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakehead, Canadian Alliance)

Then Alliance CIC Critic and currently Chair, International Trade Committee

C-16 report Stage 2000-05-10/han094:

Mr. Rob Anders (Canadian Alliance)

Currently Chair, Veteran’s Affairs Committee

C-16 Third Reading 2000-05-29/han102:

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Canadian Alliance)

Currently Chair of the Justice and Human Rights Committee

C-16 Report Stage 2000-05-10/han

Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton-Strathcona, CPC)

C-16 Report Stage Debate May 10, 2000/Edited Hansard:

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Rachelle Cyr-Kelderman
Special Assistant
Hon. Andrew Telegdi, P.C., M.P.
tel: 613-996-5928
fax: 613-992-6251