Ukrainian News | 22Aug2007 | Editorial

ICJ demeans the memory of Tarnopolsky

Aug. 09, 2007 B'nai Brith Canada launched a court challenge seeking judicial review of the Federal Government's decision not to revoke the citizenship of Wasyl Odynsky and Vladimir Katriuk.

The press release announcing this is replete with the usual distortions we have grown accustomed to hearing from B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Referring to Odynsky and Katriuk, "whom the courts ruled were guilty of lying about their war-time pasts" the press release continues that "the War Crimes Unit of the Department of Justice found serious grounds for concluding that these individuals were complicit in Nazi war crimes."

What it neglects to mention is the court itself found no evidence that either one of these individuals committed any war crimes, nor that the said unit even bothered laying any charges based upon their "serious grounds for concluding" the individuals were complicit.

The use of the term "the courts ruled were guilty" is extremely misleading as it implies they were tried in a criminal court. Instead they were "found" on a "balance of probabilities" to have misrepresented themselves in a civil procedure that has been found to be a violation of the Charter of Rights, specifically sections 7 to 14.

While cabinet did not give a reason why it chose not to revoke these two men's citizenship, undoubtedly the fact that there was no evidence of any war crime either one had committed and the abuse of civil liberties that the whole citizenship revocation process known as Denaturalization and Deportation entails, played a major role in their decision.

Yet B'nai Brith, led by its Senior Legal Counsel, David Matas, continues to hound these two Ukrainians and attempt to pressure government in a campaign that is a clear violation of their human rights.

Thus, it is not only surprising, but also grossly insulting to the Ukrainian Canadian community that -- only four days after David Matas launched this latest attempt to abuse the civil rights of two aging Ukrainian Canadians -- the International Commission of Jurists, Canadian Section, awarded him with it Walter S. Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award, named after the late Ukrainian Canadian jurist who was one of the key movers behind the Charter of Rights. A leading Canadian scholar on human rights and civil liberties, Justice Tarnopolsky held academic posts in leading Canadian law schools and was president or the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and chairman of the Civil Liberties Section of the Canadian Bar Association. Justice Tarnopolsky was also active in the Ukrainian community in Canada, serving as head of the Canadian Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners and as president of the Canadian Foundation for Ukrainian Studies. He served as adviser on Ukraine's new constitution and on the board of directors of the Ukrainian Legal Foundation in Kyiv. To present an award named after him to a person who continues to conduct a witch-hunt against Ukrainian Canadians using a process that violates the Charter of Rights is an insult to his memory.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress should protest this action of the ICJ, Canadian Section most vehemently. At the same time the UCC should step up its efforts to have the Citizenship Act changed so that the revocation procedure to reflect the June 07, 2005 recommendations of the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that the legal protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- specifically sections 7 to 14 -- must apply. A third action the UCC can take is to ask the Justice Department to initiate criminal investigations into the cases of three men and one woman in Montreal who, through either their own writings or interviews with media outlets, admitted to committing criminal acts while serving with Soviet state terrorist organizations like the NKVD, KGB or SMERSH. If criminal acts were admitted, then criminal charges should be applied. But more about that at a later date.

[W.Z. It is my understanding that Walter Tarnopolsky was born in Gronlid, Saskatchewan and (with his wife of Belarusan origin) was an active participant in the Saskatoon Ukrainian community during the early 1960s.]