While many of us were out celebrating Canada Day with our families by taking in the numerous events across the nation, intended to instill in us pride of citizenship, it would have been helpful to pause to consider that some Canadians are having their citizenship arbitrarily withdrawn. This should have led us to consider whether all those wonderful things about Canada that the politicians were telling us are true. It would have also been a good time to ask ourselves whether those fine democratic principles the politicians were referring to were actually working as intended, or whether they were being manipulated and were thus eroding before our eyes.
By far the most graphic yet unacceptable example of the erosion of the democratic principles that built this country is found in the use of the process of denaturalization and deportation (referred to here as “d & d”), recently adopted by our federal government to deal with alleged war criminals. As citizens of this country, every single Canadian ought to be aware of and be very concerned with this disturbing and indefensible development.
In the wake of the Deschenes Commission report of Dec., 1986, the then federal government instituted changes to laws in order to expedite criminal trials of alleged war criminals -- a policy the Ukrainian community has consistently supported. From the beginning, having chosen suspects from only one era of history, being World War II, and having accused them of committing crimes against only one identifiable group, the political tone was set. It was patently obvious the process was intended to serve a narrow political agenda, rather than the interest of justice.
After 4 criminal trials involving a jury, several appellate courts and the Supreme Court of Canada produced no convictions, the lobbyists pushing their agenda convinced the current government in 1995 to adopt d & d, based on what was really a contaminated U.S. model.
What, then, are the elements within the d & d process which have eroded our justice system? And what are the specific reasons all Canadians should be concerned and should oppose this inherently suspect policy?
The fundamental flaw in use of d & d is that alleged criminal actions are being tried using a civil process. This civil process seeks to show a person obtained Canadian citizenship by fraudulent means -- that is, by failing to reveal certain wartime activity -- which also happens to be the subject matter of criminal charges the Crown is otherwise unable to prove. Considering the lack of documentary evidence, all since destroyed by the same federal government, the process invites the hearing judge to draw “inferences” from highly conjectural “testimony”. This would never stand up in criminal court.
Consequently, the suspect is denied those safeguards, otherwise available to an accused in a criminal trial: right to trial by jury; right not to incriminate oneself; right to be represented by counsel at all times; right to full disclosure of evidence by the Crown; right to cross-examine all witnesses in person; and the right of appeal. Each and every safeguard listed here is absent in d & d, regardless of politicians’ specious claims to the contrary. In short, d & d is about casting guilt on a suspect based on implication and association involving events alleged to have occurred 50 years ago, and not on substantive evidence. That makes it fundamentally a political exercise.
These shortcomings are capped off by the burden of proof with which the Crown is charged -- this being the easier balance of probabilities as opposed to proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as is required in criminal cases.
As if the process itself were not repugnant enough, the handful of “trials” involving revocation of citizenship against alleged war criminals has been characterized by some of the most unsavoury tactics ever used by government prosecution in this country. These include: underhanded methods of gathering “evidence”; introduction of materials in mid-trial; use of KGB coached “witnesses”; use of so-called expert historians who are nothing more than propaganda tools; perversion of the burden of proof using a spin on the presumption of regularity in the execution of official tasks principle; and so on. One of the recent trials was prefaced by a tour by the presiding judge of purported sites of massacres and of cemeteries where the alleged victims were buried -- a tactic that has no place in Canadian justice.
The current Justice Minister has compounded matters by hiring the former director of the Office of Special Investigations, the agency that spent 17 years deliberately framing John Demjanjuk as being the so-called “Ivan the Terrible”. This same Neal Sher is currently under criminal investigation for perjury in the United States; this same OSI is now saying Demjanjuk was not “Ivan the Terrible” after all, but was in locations other than where they had spent two decades claiming he was.
Can we, as Canadians, allow this debasement of civil liberties and this perversion of due process to go on? Considering that all 3 suspects who have lost their cases are of Ukrainian descent, I suggest to you it is time we collectively oppose the d & d policy. We can do this effectively by concerted political action, as is our democratic right. There are dozens of ways to help. You can begin by writing your M.P. and voicing your strongest objection. For other steps contact us at:
Alberta Ukrainian Self-Reliance League Civil Liberties Standing Committee
11024 - 82 Ave.
Edmonton, AB T6G 0T2
fax: (780) 457-5170
voice mail: (780) 431-9855
You, too, can and must make a difference!
Eugene Harasymiw, LL.B.