Toronto Sun | Feb. 13, 2005 | Peter Worthington

Sgro took a last kick at the can

Law would punish Canadians who were teens when they were forced to join Nazi groups during World War II

One of Judy Sgro's last acts before resigning as immigration minister last month was to recommend to cabinet that a bunch of aging Ukrainian-Canadians be stripped of their citizenship and deported.

In doing so she apparently ignored the federal Court of Appeal's unanimous decision that revocation of the citizenship of Kitchener's Helmut Oberlander, without appeal or legal representation, violated the Constitution and potentially made every naturalized Canadian second-class.

The Sgro recommendation applied to Oberlander and Toronto's Wasyl Odynsky, and a couple of other aging Ukrainian-Canadians who have Alzheimer's. All were teenagers in World War II who were forced to join Nazi auxiliaries.

None participated in war crimes or committed crimes against humanity (as determined by a government-appointed judge). But because they "probably" withheld details of their record when they entered Canada after the war the government has ruled they can be stripped of citizenship and deported.

Why the Liberal government is so intent on punishing these people, who have impeccable records as citizens, is puzzling.

Last month, representatives of some 25 ethnic organizations held an informal meeting in Toronto to discuss what to do about the feds' proposed new Citizenship Act, which will allow the minister the power to order such revocations and deportations without the right of an explanation or appeal.

One fighting it is Andrew Telegdi, Liberal MP for Kitchener-Waterloo, who is the elected chairman of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that is to tour Canada for opinions on the proposed law.

Telegdi and others (including me) think some basic principles should apply to citizenship:

None of the above seems very radical. In essence, it's what the three justices of the Court of Appeal said when they ruled the government did not follow its own guidelines of fairness -- that if "evidence of individual criminality ... cannot be proven, no proceeding will be considered."

A previous court ruled that "no punishment should be inflicted upon a suspected war criminal unless his or her guilt is fairly established by Canadian standards of justice."

Those slated for revocation and deportation were just men, trapped by war as teenagers, who sought to survive and protect their relatives by submitting to the enemy.

As it stands now, the proposed new act is supported by Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, a former Nazi hunter, and Deputy PM Anne McLellan. But with their government holding only a minority in Parliament, there's a chance Telegdi's committee can make the case for this draconian legislation to be scrapped.

After all, before he died, famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal publicly announced that all major Nazi war criminals had been convicted or had died, and any who were still alive would have been too young at the time to have had much power.

If it's good enough for Wiesenthal, it should be good enough for Canada.