Ukrainian News | 20Jul2005 | Editorial

Volpe must respect Charter rights

Does Citizenship and Immigration Minister Joe Volpe take us for a bunch of fools, or what?

The answers to a number of questions posed to him by this newspaper at a meeting with representatives of Edmonton's ethnocultural communities, were not only evasive and condescending, they were deliberately misleading.

Perhaps Volpe was unprepared to face questions from the press at this meeting. He kept making snide references to our editor's use of a tape recorder during the meeting and, when speaking with him after the formal part, queried:

"What is a journalist doing in this environment here?"

The answer: "I was invited."

Ukrainian News was, in fact, invited by Volpe's staff. Ukrainian community organizations that deal primarily with the citizenship and immigration process were not. They were, however, informed of this meeting by this newspaper.

Unfortunately, Volpe's evasiveness is indicative of an attitude which does not bode well for the preservation of Charter rights for naturalized Canadians.

He was first asked about the report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which received unanimous concurrence from the House of Commons. It should be noted that this unanimous concurrence was given by those members of the House who were present when the motion was made. Volpe and other opponents of the proposals were not present. Nevertheless, all the members who were present concurred with the majority report and its recommendation that the citizenship revocation process be based upon the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" instead of "balance of probabilities". They did not concur with the dissenting view of Volpe's parliamentary secretary, whose opinion was attached to the majority report as a matter of courtesy. Volpe, however, would have us believe otherwise. His assertion that they did was met with the most appropriate assessment by NDP critic Bill Siksay - "What baloney!"

Volpe also raised the Mugesera case to justify the revocation process. He later raised the same case when asked about a Federal Appeals Court ruling that told the government it has to abide by its own guidelines of showing evidence of individual crimes when launching "alleged Nazi war criminal" revocation procedures.

This is a red herring so unbelievable that it becomes an insult to our intelligence.

The Mugesera case involves a Supreme Court ruling to extradite a man to face criminal charges for inciting hatred that allegedly led to genocide. The World War II Eastern European revocation cases we were referring to involve individuals who have not been charged with any criminal acts whatsoever. If the minister is incapable of making this very significant distinction, then he is either an idiot, or deliberately misleading the public.

He was also asked why the government is proceeding with revocation cases against Ukrainian and other East European origin individuals, against whom there is no evidence of criminality, but doing nothing about four individuals who have admitted to committing crimes against humanity while serving Soviet forces. He immediately launched into a knee-jerk reaction that his department does not base its actions upon ethnicity. We never specified the ethnicity of the four Montreal individuals involved, but the minister is well aware of the fact that they are Jewish. It is also a fact that all of the victims of the government's D and D policy are of East European origin. That's because the government is using ex-KGB files in these cases and has admitted to doing so.

Volpe's opposition to the proposals of the standing committee are not based upon any respect for the Charter rights of naturalized Canadians, but only on the self-interest agenda of two powerful lobby groups -- B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress.

It's about time the minister took the interests of the rest of Canada into consideration.

And if he is incapable of doing so, perhaps it's time for the Prime Minister to assert his authority.