Ukrainian News | 27Jun2007 | Olya Odynsky
Page 6

The Ten-Year War

Ten years is a long time to fight a battle that should never have begun.

It started with a surprise visit from the RCMP on Aug. 26, 1997, followed by an letter from Ottawa on Sept. 24, 1997, notifying my father that, as a result of his alleged failure to "divulge to Canadian immigration and citizenship officials [his] collaboration with German authorities and [his] engagement in activities connected with forced labour and concentration camps during the period 1943-1944, as a guard at the Trawniki Training Camp and later at the Poniatowa Labour Camp in Poland", the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration would seek revocation of my father's Canadian citizenship, which could ultimately lead to his deportation from Canada.

By the end of that year, most major Canadian media outlets had branded my father a war criminal, even though to this day, not a shred of evidence demonstrating any wrong-doing by him has ever been produced.

For the next three years, my family struggled to mount a defence to these outrageous charges, being levied more than 50 years after the end of WW II. My elderly father had to laboriously piece together and document every detail of his life, from the time of his birth in 1924, to the time of his immigration to Canada, and eventual naturalization in 1955. This involved endless consultations with our legal counsel, interviewing scores of Canadian immigrants who might have had similar immigration experiences, hours of searching through archival documents and the vast volumes of government-produced documents, engaging historians and researchers to provide the historical and factual context for the defence, a trip to Ukraine in June of 1998 to locate and interview witnesses, another trip to Ukraine in November of 1998 with the Federal Court to hear the evidence of witnesses in our father's village near Ivano-Frankivsk, and throughout this ordeal, I along with my brother and sister attempted to maintain some semblance of a normal life for our aging parents and our families.

The hearing in the Federal Court spanned 23 days in 2000. Finally, in March of 2001, Justice Andrew MacKay found that Wasyl Odynsky had not joined the auxiliary forces voluntarily, that his service was not voluntary, that there was no evidence that he was a 'collaborator' and, more importantly, that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing whatsoever by him, either during the war or after. Justice MacKay noted in particular the evidence as to my father's good character and his standing within the church and the Ukrainian community in Toronto.

To anyone who knows my father, these findings did not come as a surprise. In fact, the government lawyers almost immediately abandoned any suggestion that our father was a criminal, much less a 'war' criminal, and did not even attempt to prove that case against him. For you see, they had been handed a much easier task by then Justice Minister Alan Rock, who abandoned any effort to bring real war criminals to justice in Canada in accordance with Canadian criminal law. Instead, he chose to use the odious Denaturalization and Deportation (D & D) proceedings under the outdated Citizenship Act -- enacted in 1947 before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted -- where all the government had to do to revoke anyone's citizenship, was to prove on a balance of probabilities -- not beyond a reasonable doubt -- that someone obtained their citizenship on the basis of a misrepresentation.

As far as we could tell, the allegations of war criminality served only one purpose -- to create the illusion before the Canadian public that Canada was pursuing Nazi war criminals, which in turn would continue the funding stream for the largely unsuccessful War Crimes Unit, which to date, after expending approximately $60 million over the last 15 years, has not delivered any evidence of war crimes or crimes against humanity in any of these WWII cases.

In the end, Justice MacKay concluded that on a balance of probabilities, Wasyl Odynsky had likely misrepresented his past when immigrating to Canada. This finding was made despite the fact that all immigration documents from this period had been destroyed by the government, and despite the lack of any direct evidence about my father's specific immigration experience.

As a result of this finding, my father's citizenship could now be revoked. For the next six years, we lived in dread of the next knock on the door by the RCMP, who made a mean habit of 'checking up' on our father before major holidays. No Christmas, Easter or long weekend was exempt. Often, the visits by the RCMP would be followed by letters indicating that Cabinet would be reviewing our father's case, leaving us dreading the outcome each time.

The defamation in the media continued unabated, which provided the media with new fodder for further stories about the 'presence' of Nazi war criminals in Canada. By virtue of repeated complaints to the Press Council we managed to curtail the reporting by most outlets, with the exception of the National Post, which conveniently refuses to join the Press Council, thus remaining outside the scrutiny of its journalistic peers.

And so it was with disbelief that Wasyl Odynsky received notification that on May 17, 2007 the Governor in Council decided not to revoke his citizenship. As a result, he remains a Canadian citizen under the Citizenship Act. My family breathed a huge sigh of relief.

We are relieved, we are vindicated, we are grateful.

As we reflect upon the past ten years, we know that we could not have survived this ordeal without the assistance of so very many people.

We had skilled and talented legal counsel, who guided us correctly and steadfastly.

[W.Z. I must respectfully disagree with Ms. Odynsky. In my opinion, the legal counsel for Mr. Odynsky failed to appropriately challenge the prosecution's contention that, during the chaotic immigration period following WWII, a "system was in place requiring that all prospective immigrants be screened by a visa control officer". The prosecution contends that all immigrants underwent such interviews during which they allegedly "lied" about their wartime activities. The witnesses for the prosecution in this area were not appropriately challenged. Evidence to the contrary was not effectively presented. In my opinion, Ukrainian historians, researchers and academics have failed to do appropriate research in this area.

This failure seems to have bedeviled the defence counsels of virtually all the d&d cases, in particular, that of Josef Furman and Yura Skomatchuk. Indeed, the legal profession bears a huge responsibility for allowing the fraudulent d&d process to proceed in the first place.]

Professor Orest Subtelny's research, as well as the discovery of Professor Kubijovich's files in the Archives of Canada will survive as part of the permanent historical record. We are grateful for the assistance of historians and researchers in Canada, Ukraine, Germany and the United States.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to the many people in Canada and Ukraine who offered to be, or actually were, witness during the hearings. In particular, we wish to acknowledge our family in Ukraine for their tireless assistance in locating witnesses.

We are grateful to our personal friends and members of the community for the continuous letters, cards and calls of encouragement and support. Father Taras Dusanowskyj and Father Dvirnik, along with many other members of the Ukrainian clergy always inquired about us, gave us their blessings, offered prayers and enveloped us with their genuine concern and compassion.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) advocated for the abolition of the Denaturalization and Deportation Policy and for the adoption of a new Citizenship Act. Of the 17 cases which were commenced by the War Crimes Unit from 1995 onwards, the majority involved ethnic Ukrainians or those born on what is today Ukrainian territory. We extend our thanks to the members of the UCC Justice Committee, in Toronto and across Canada, who spearheaded many of the lobbying efforts and campaigns.

We are profoundly grateful to Marika Szkambara, who not only lead the various community campaigns, but demonstrated her personal support and compassion by accompanying our family to Court every single day of the 23 day hearing. We are equally grateful to Wasyl Radewych, the late Stefa Radewych and Bohdan Temniuk, as well as the many other friends and community members who attended the hearings and provided much-needed moral support and encouragement.

We are grateful to the veterans of the now disbanded Civil Liberties Commission of the UCC, who shared the vast experience and knowledge they acquired during the hearings of the Deschenes Commission in the 1980's. In particular, John Gregorovich , Lubomyr Luciuk and Alexandra Chyczij were always ready with advice, strategy, encouragement and friendship. It was these individuals who, in the early 1990's, formed the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) which through its national network, regularly landed letters to the editor and editorials in all major Canadian papers. They were -- and continue to be -- vocal critics of the policy of denaturalization and deportation, which is unjust and unwarranted in Canada.

To the Ukrainian News and other Ukrainian community newspapers in Canada and the USA , Kontakt and Svitohliad television programs, radio programs and e-poshta, all of which rallied behind the issue, we thank you for providing an opportunity to get the story "out there" and to get it out there correctly.

Funding this legal battle was daunting. We thank everyone who donated to the Wasyl Odynsky Defence Trust Fund which assisted with legal costs. Thank you to John Schnayder and Wasyl Grod for administrating this fund.

Most of all, we thank everyone who believed that this case was a travesty of justice and signed postcards, wrote letters to Ottawa and to the press and visited their Members of Parliament to express their views. Your effort has been rewarded with this good news.

Today, Wasyl Odynsky is 83 years old and thanks to all of you, he can spend his final years in peace with his family and friends in his chosen country -- Canada.