Ukrainian News | 20Jul2005 | Marco Levytsky
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Volpe defends "balance of probabilities" in revocation cases

New citizenship legislation will not be forthcoming until such time as the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration provides him with the answers to all six of the questions he asked them to consider, says Citizenship and Immigration Minister Joe Volpe.

"I asked the committee to answer six questions. I'm waiting for the answers to five… and then we will present legislation that takes all these things into consideration," he said responding to a question from Ukrainian News during a meeting with ethnocultural community representatives in Edmonton, July 19, 2005.

The committee on June 07, 2005 issued its report in which it called for the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" to be applied in citizenship revocation cases instead of the current "balance of probabilities".

Under the current policy of denaturalization and deportation (D & D) a number of aging Ukrainian and other East European Canadians face revocation of citizenship under "balance of probabilities" standard that they misrepresented themselves upon coming to Canada over 50 years ago.

Although this policy was intended to be used against suspected Nazi war criminals and the government in 1995 pledged that no action would be considered unless there was evidence of individual criminality, in none of the cases has any evidence of any criminality been proven. In some cases the individuals have not even been charged with any criminal acts.

The changes proposed in the majority report have been opposed by B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress for its "failure to address the need to bring to justice criminals against humanity who have lied their way into Canada."

The majority report was supported by 10 out of the 12 committee members and received unanimous concurrence from the House of Commons, June 16, 2005.

"The House of Commons concurred with the report, in other words it received the report and agreed with the position and the dissenting opinion," said Volpe.

"The House of Commons said this and it also said that, because that's what the report indicates. Now which one do you hold to - this, or that?"

"What baloney!," reacted New Democratic Party Citizenship and Immigration Critic Bill Siksay.

"The minister knows that the committee report is a majority report and that's the report that is concurred to in the House of Commons. The minority report was from the parliamentary secretary, the minister's own spokesperson on the committee, or the representative of the government on the committee. Otherwise the committee spoke with a clear voice on the issue of revocation and I would expect the minister to take our recommendations and the concurrence of the House far more seriously than that comment indicates," he told Ukrainian News.

Ukrainian News also attempted to contact Conservative Critic Dianne Ablonczy, but her constituency office was closed for holidays.

Volpe defended the "balance of probabilities" standard by saying "when citizenship is removed, the same approach is applied as in the granting."

He said that Canada on that day granted citizenship to 90 people and on the assumption that they told the truth about their past.

"We didn't ask them to prove they were honest people beyond a reasonable doubt," he added.

"The issue for the committee was the whole question of how seriously people take their Canadian citizenship," explained Siksay.

"We heard across the country from naturalized Canadians, who became Canadian citizens after moving here from other countries that the possibility of revocation made them feel like they were second class citizens, that somehow at some point their citizenship could be removed, where someone who was born in Canada never had to face that possibility."

For that reason it decided "when any step is taken to question someone's citizenship or to revoke someone's citizenship, that the standards of that process were the highest possible under the Canadian legal system and that means that the burden of proof should be the highest possible and so that's why the committee is recommending that it be beyond a reasonable doubt and not a balance of probabilities."

Volpe also referred to the June 29, 2005 Mugesera v. Canada decision of the Supreme Court which decided to allow the deportation of Leon Mugesera to face criminal charge in Rwanda for a 1992 speech in which he urged 1,000 fellow members of the Hutu party, to kill Tutsis and "dump their bodies into the rivers of Rwanda."

"The court said by 8-0 that the standard of the balance of probabilities was a good standard," said Volpe.

"I think it's an issue of extradition and immigration and not a question of citizenship in Mugesera. There are different issues that come to play in that kind of circumstance. So I don't think it's proper to mix the two," said Siksay.

Later, in a smaller scrum, Ukrainian News asked Volpe:

"Your department is proceeding with revocation procedures against a number of Ukrainian and other East European origin people against whom there is no evidence of criminality, yet there are four individuals in Montreal who have publicly admitted to acts of torture, murder and other criminal acts while serving in Soviet forces. How do you explain this?"

He replied that no one in his department "takes ethnicity into consideration when it moves against anybody. We don't move against anybody, what we do is we enforce the law. And what the law says is that if you acquire permanent residency and/or citizenship as a result of misrepresentation, that we can remove that grant from you. But the issue is whether it is misrepresentation or not, it has nothing do with ethnicity.

When asked about the 1995 statement of the government that unless there is evidence of individual criminality no action will be considered in D & D cases, Volpe replied:

"Let me get back to what I said a moment ago. If you acquire something through misrepresentation or fraudulent means, what would you expect the law to do?"

At that point Danylo Lepki, asked the minister whether its right to apply today's standards in World War II cases that happened over 50 years ago.

"I don't want to make a comment as to what happened during World War II… but I go back to what I said to this gentlemen. If you acquire something by misrepresentation or fraudulent means, what would you expect the law to do? You say that if I don't discover you for four years, five years, 10 years, 20 years. That's ok? What's the date you want me to consider?"

When then asked by Ukrainian News about the Federal Appeals Court ruling that the government had to stick to its own guidelines of evidence of criminality, Volpe replied "you probably read what the Supreme Court had to say", referring to the Mugesera case.