Ukrainian News | 30May2007 | Marco Levytsky
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Odynsky, Katriuk get to stay

Cabinet revokes citizenship of Oberlander, Fast

A select federal cabinet committee, known as the Governor in Council, decided on May 17, 2007 to revoke the citizenship of two ethnic Germans from Ukraine while allowing two ethnic Ukrainians to remain in Canada.

This effectively closes the Denaturalization and Deportation (D & D) process for Wasyl Odynsky and Vladimir Katriuk, while 83-year-old Helmut Oberlander and 96-year-old Jacob Fast, who is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's Disease, could face deportation if Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley chooses that option.

All four cases had been brought to the Governor in Council for review by Finley.

The fate of two more ethnic Ukrainians targeted by the Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai Brith as "Nazi enablers" -- Jura Skomatchuk of St. Catharines and Edmontonian Josef Furman, another Alzheimer's victim, -- remains up in the air.

The news was greeted as welcome closure by Olya Odynsky, who had been spearheading the campaign to defend her father (who, like the other five men, was never charged with any war crime) for the last 10 years.

"We are all so incredibly pleased with the good news. It has been almost ten years of constant worry and uncertainty," she told Ukrainian News.

"We are very grateful for the strong unwavering support of friends and community who have helped to see us through this issue."

Odynsky received a letter from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration dated May 18, 2007 which tersely stated: "The purpose of this letter is to inform you that on May 17, 2007 the Governor in Council decided not to revoke your citizenship.

"As a result you remain a Canadian citizen under the Citizenship Act."

Katriuk's lawyer, Orest Rudzik, confirmed to Ukrainian News on May 28, 2007 that his client received a similar letter.

The Governor in Council decided to revoke Oberlander's citizenship despite a May 31, 2004 Federal Appeals Court ruling which very explicitly told them they can't do so.

"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'," reads the ruling issued by Justice Robert D�cary, with the concurrence of Justices J. Edgar Sexton and B. Malone in response to an appeal by Oberlander's lawyer Eric Hafemann of the whole citizenship revocation process.

"The (Immigration) Minister's Report does refer to the 'no safe haven' policy but does not analyse why it is that Mr. Oberlander fits within the policy which, the Report fails to mention, applies only to suspected war criminals," adds the ruling, which was never appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"In face of the express finding by Mr. Justice MacKay that no evidence was presented about any personal involvement of Mr. Oberlander in war crimes, one would expect the Governor in Council to at least explain why, in its view, a policy which, by its very - and underlined - words applied only to suspected war criminals, applied to someone who served only as an interpreter in the German army," adds the ruling.

Hafemann told Ukrainian News he will file a notice of judicial review of cabinet's decision within the 30-day limit.

The first step will be a single federal judge and, given the 2004 ruling, he expects that judge to overturn the revocation.

"If necessary, we'll take it to the Supreme Court of Canada, but we'll start with a single judge," he said.

Ukrainian News posed the question of why Oberlander's citizenship was revoked considering the 2004 ruling to spokespersons for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who announced the revocation of Oberlander's citizenship in a May 24, 2007 press release.

After two e-mail responses which dealt with other documents, Nicholson's media spokesperson Darren Eke suggested Ukrainian News contact the Justice Department itself. The same question was posed to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley by Kitchener-Waterloo MP Andrew Telegdi during a parliamentary committee meeting May 29, 2007. She too could not reply.

According to the Globe and Mail, Bernie Farber, Executive Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress met with Nicholson three weeks before his announcement "to lobby him".

Hafemann, who also represents the two remaining D & D respondents, Skomatchuk and Furman, said he has been asked to report about Skomatchuk by July 13, 2007, but told nothing about Furman.

Like Odynsky, both Skomatchuk and Furman were found to have probably lied about their membership in the Trawniki guard unit.

Unlike Odynsky and Skomatchuk, Furman said he never belonged to that unit, which was used as perimeter guards at concentration camps.

At his hearing Hafemann produced documents, attested to as genuine by government witnesses, that showed Furman worked on a farm after being captured as a Soviet prisoner of war.

But Justice Judith Snider decided to accept photocopies of other documents which showed that a person with another name served as a Trawniki guard, stating that on a balance of probabilities she thought Furman's farm worker documents were faked.

Under the Justice department's denaturalization and deportation policy, which claims to go after "Nazi war criminals", the government is under no obligation to prove any war crime whatsoever. All that is necessary is for a federal judge to find (not rule) that the respondents lied about their past upon coming to Canada. The standard used for the finding is "balance of probabilities" as opposed to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" requirement of a criminal court.

However, when the policy was announced in 1995, the Justice Department stated: "The key criterion in all these proceedings is the existence of some evidence of individual criminality. If that cannot be proven, no proceedings will be considered." In none of these cases have any of the individuals been charged with any individual crimes.

In the Odynsky case, Justice MacKay stated that although he found on a balance of probabilities that Odynsky lied about his Trawniki service when coming to Canada, that there was no evidence Odynsky had committed any war crimes and it was clear that he was coerced into serving as a perimeter camp guard under threat of death and imprisonment of his family in a Nazi concentration camp.

Katriuk, who belonged to a Ukrainian Waffen SS Unit which turned on its German officers when transferred to France and joined the Free French resistance and was awarded a medal for his service, was found to have lied upon coming to Canada, because he used a different name.

He did this because he deserted the French army after a Communist commander told him he would not get out of Vietnam alive because of his virulent anti-communist views.

Prior to getting his citizenship, Katriuk applied to have his name changed back to the real one and obtained his citizenship under that name.