Ukrainian News | 30May2007 | Editorial

D & D all about politics - not justice

Let's get one thing straight. The select cabinet committee known as the Governor in Council decided on May 17, 2007 not to revoke the citizenship of Wasyl Odynsky and Vladimir Katriuk. That's all. It did not "clear" them. As the decision reads: "Her Excellency the Governor in Council, having considered the report of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration made under section 10 of the Citizenship Act in relation to the person named in the annexed schedule, hereby declines to exercise the power conferred by section 10 of the Citizenship Act in respect to that person." That's the equivalent of a suspended sentence in a criminal court.

What is noteworthy is that this does close the Odynsky and Katriuk files, unlike the Liberal Governor in Council's 2002 decision to simply put Odynsky's revocation on hold, which left his family in limbo. Now, at least, they can be grateful that their 10-year ordeal is finally over.

But there is no acknowledgement that the men were innocent all along and that the government should never have gone after them in the first place.

What's more that same committee decided to revoke Helmut Oberlander's citizenship in direct contradiction to a 2004 Federal Appeals Court ruling specific to that very case which very explicitly tells them: "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'."

After repeated attempts to get a straight answer from Justice Minister Ron Nicholson's office as to how they can revoke Oberlander's citizenship in the face of this ruling this newspaper was finally told to ask that question of the department (meaning bureaucracy) itself.

Well, we're sorry. It wasn't the bureaucracy that made the decision, it was a cabinet committee and it was the minister who announced it. The same question was posed to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Dianne Finley by Kitchener-Waterloo MP Andrew Telegdi at a parliamentary committee meeting, May 29, 2007. She too could not reply. Well if both ministers responsible for the revocation process can't answer that question then something is definitely wrong.

So we have two ethnic Ukrainians allowed to stay, while two ethnic Germans face deportation. That leaves two ethnic Ukrainians hanging in the balance, although the Odynsky case portends well for them since both Jura Skomatchuk and Josef Furman were "found" to have served as Trawniki guards, as was Odynsky. The Furman case is particularly bizarre in that he maintains he served on a farm throughout the war, not as a Trawniki guard, and had the documents to prove it. In a finding that could only happen under the Denaturalization and Deportation process, the judge in his case decided that those documents were faked but some photocopies about a person with another name altogether were the real thing.

What appears to be happening, therefore, is that the government decided to go after Oberlander and Fast in order to make the Canadian Jewish Congress (which had made Oberlander their number one target) happy and drop the Odynsky and Katriuk cases in order to keep the Ukrainians quiet. And since the Germans are unlikely to make much noise -- who cares? And if the Oberlander decision is again overturned by a judicial review, well, at least they tried.

That is not justice and that is not the right thing to do.

The right thing to do would be to admit that the government of the day should never have started D & D proceedings against these people in the first place since there was no evidence of any individual crimes. The right thing to do would be to apologize for putting them and their families through this entire unjust prosecution process and offer to negotiate compensation. And they could justifiably blame the Liberals for everything.

The right thing to do then would be to change the Citizenship Act in order to prevent such abuses in the future, as the Liberals had planned to do before the government fell and as the Conservatives promised to do during the election which followed. Another right thing to do would be to charge self-confessed Soviet war criminals under the Criminal Code of Canada.

But D & D never was about doing the right thing or about justice. It was always about ethnic politics. That's the way it was under the Liberals, and that's the way it remains under the Conservatives.

As the French saying goes: Plus �a change. Plus �a m�me chose.